How safe is your arena surface…?

image001The Animal Health Trust in Newmarket is looking for volunteers to allow their arenas to be assessed for a research project into the effects of arena surfaces on injury. They will be investigating what effect different surfaces and maintenance have upon the injury rates with the aim of producing recommendations for future arena design. To participate in this trial or for further information, please follow the link to the AHT website http://www.aht.org.uk/cms-display/equine_oras.html

Howard & Ruben nominated for Petplan Vet of the Year.

Milbourn Equine are proud to announce that two of our Equine vets

Have been nominated for the prestigious Petplan Veterinary Awards in the Vet of the Year category.

HN Petplan cert Rueben 011

Like us I am sure you would agree that their handwork and dedication to your horses’ health should be recognised. Our sister practice, Cinque Ports Veterinary Group hasalso been nominated in the Vet Practice of the Year category along with Barbara Watson one of our small animal vets for Vet of the Year. Please show your support and vote for them by completing the online nomination form. Please ensure they are sent back to Petplan by the closing date of 31st JANUARY 2014.

CHOKE by Howard Newitt BVetMed, CertEP, MRCVS

If this was your horse in the picture, would you know what was wrong and what to do…?


 The horse in the picture is displaying signs of choke otherwise known as oesophageal obstruction which is usually caused by food becoming stuck in the oesophagus which is the tube that connect the back of the mouth with the stomach.

What causes choke?

Choke is usually caused by swallowing food or other material which becomes stuck in the oesophagus either because the horse takes in too much with one mouthful or that the food is too dry (e.g. unsoaked sugar beet). In the case of unsoaked sugar beet, this starts to expand upon contact with saliva as it passes down the oesophagus and swells to the point that it becomes stuck before reaching the stomach. Greedy or bullied horses that eat too quickly are at risk of choke because the food is improperly chewed before being swallowed and tends to ball up in the oesophagus as are horse with sharp teeth. Other conditions that affect swallowing including sedation, botulism & grass sickness can predispose to choke.

What are the symptoms of choke?

The most obvious signs of choke are a green/brown nasal discharge from both nostrils containing food material and saliva, repeated attempts at swallowing & pain if the left side of the neck is pressed. In most cases, the diagnosis is obvious and a stomach tube is often passed to determine the level of the obstruction. In cases that do not respond to initial treatment endoscopy and X-rays of the neck may be needed to determine the cause and site of the obstruction.

How is choke treated?

Many cases of choke will resolve spontaneously without any treatment over the course of 30 minutes or so but please contact the practice if you suspect your horse is choking so that we can advise on the best course of action. If the choke fails to clear then a muscle relaxing injection and/or sedative are often given to relax the oesophagus and allow the obstruction to be passed into the stomach. In some cases, the obstruction can be washed out using a stomach tube passed up the nose into the oesophagus under sedation. Small volumes of water are the pumped into the tube and allowed to drain out again bringing some of the food material with it. This can be a laborious process! In some cases, the horse may need to be hospitalised and given intravenous fluids to soften the obstruction.

What are the possible complications?

The most common problem is if food material or saliva becomes aspirated into the airways. The can set up a respiratory infection and lead to pneumonia. For this reason, many cases of choke are given antibiotics. The other serious complication is rupture of the oesophagus if the choke is left untreated which can be a very difficult condition to resolve.

How do I prevent choke?

  1. Take extra care to ensure that horses don’t have access to unsoaked sugar beet pulp.
  2. Regular dental care prevents sharp edges and encourages proper chewing.
  3. Greedy horses can have a large smooth flat rocks placed in the feed bowl to slow down their eating.
  4. Ensure that horse have sufficient room to eat individually to prevent “bolting” of food.
  5. Feed chaff or chopped alfalfa with nuts or mix to slow down chewing time.

Mud Fever by Katie Preston BVSc, MRCVS

Given the weather last winter many of you will have had experience with ‘Mud Fever’. It is caused by a mixture of bacterium, primarily Dermatophilus congolensis which is present in the soil. In some instances there can also be a fungal component. Under normal circumstance the skin has a protective layer preventing micro-organisms from penetrating but constant wetting of the skin and soil abrasion damages this layer and allows the bacteria to enter. Lesions often start as small red, hairless areas and can progress rapidly to extensive crusty/scabbed areas that ooze serum and can cause quite significant swelling up the leg.

mud-feverWhen treating mud fever it is essential that you remove the scabs as early as possible as the bacteria live directly underneath them, you may be able to do this simply by clipping the area and then washing well with hibiscrub (leave the hibiscrub in contact with the skin for 5 minutes). If the scabs are persistent it can help to cover the area with sudocream or KY jelly and then wrap lightly with clingfilm for a couple of hours, this helps to soften the scabs and make them easier to remove when washing the leg afterwards. Once the scabs have all been removed dry the area thoroughly using a different towel for each leg to avoid spreading the infection. Once clean and dry apply an anti-bacterial cream such as flamazine sparingly to the area. In some circumstances the horse may need systemic antibiotics, but usually only in the most severe cases.  It is essential to keep your horse in a dry stable/barn whilst treating the lesions. Also avoid putting any boots/bandages over the area as this creates a more hospitable environment for the bacteria. As it is a potentially contagious condition do not share grooming kit/tack between horses.

Once healed try to avoid your horses legs getting excessively wet/muddy and if they do be sure to wash and dry them well afterwards. Barrier creams such as udder cream or vaseline/liquid paraffin can help to protect from the mud but should be well washed off regularly or can cause irritation. If the above treatment doesn’t seem to be working or the lesions are getting worse then contact your vet as it may need additional treatment or may in fact not be mud fever!

Euthanasia – Cherry Tree Pet Crematorium

Visit to Cherry Tree Pet Crematorium – November 2013

On a rainy November morning Marian, Rita and Louise visited Cherry Tree Pet Crematorium in Bethersden. We were welcomed by David and Sheila Funnell,  into a very cosy and comfortable reception room with a fire, many photos and a large display of available caskets.  This is where owners are taken to discuss their needs for  pets who have sadly died.   The adjacent room is set aside for a quiet time and this allows owners to say their last goodbyes to their pets (there was background music playing, comfortable chairs and a large box of tissues) and owners can stay there for as long as they need to.

In David and Sheila’s office, there is a state of the art computer system, which tracks all cremations from collection to the ashes being handed over to either the veterinary surgery or the owner. It also allows them to see which one of the four drivers is closest to any necessary  destination or emergency to avoid any delay in responding to calls.

David & Sheila have been operating for 20 years, the first seven years they  worked from their home in Kingsnorth, collecting horses and ponies in vans and delivering them to crematoriums in Kent and Essex. Then 13 years ago they were fortunate enough to purchase a field in Bethersden and started putting plans in place for the crematorium. They had a lot of opposition from local people, planners and environmental agents who all assumed the worst but eventually with their perseverance and determination they have overcome the problems. When the crematorium was opened David & Sheila then extended all of their services to include small animals as well as horses and ponies.

David took us into the barn where the cremations  are carried out, there is a large cremator which is used for horses and two smaller ones used for dogs, cats, and small furries. The barn was spotlessly clean and extremely well organised, the whole procedure right up to the ashes being put into a casket is carried out in there including the engraving of the plaques.  Whether the owner opts for an individual or a communal cremation the pet is treated with the greatest respect.  They even save some of the ashes from a communal cremation in case the owner feels they have made a mistake by not asking for anything back, at a later date. The ashes from communal cremations are scattered on David’s paddocks at the property.

We all came to the same conclusion following our visit which was that David and Sheila Funnell’s main aim is to reassure owners their pets are of great importance and are treated with respect at all times., Their attention to detail and owner’s individuality is paramount and it was obvious they have a strong passion for what they do and get a great deal of satisfaction from giving a first class service.  By coincidence Rita’s daughter’s dog Rusty had to be put down that day and an individual cremation was requested.  Having visited the crematorium, Rita was able to reassure her daughter of the care and attention that Rusty would receive while in David and Sheila’s hands.

This article follows on from are recent article on Euthanasia.

Winter Health Check

Winter health check 2013/2014

FIT FOR 2014?


Untitled1Milbourn Equine can offer a Winter Health Check for your horse.  This covers a full clinical examination of heart, lungs, skin, eyes and action, a blood sample is taken to test your horse’s internal organs and a faecal sample is also taken and tested for worms (lab fees included in price).  Whilst there the vet can also take a look inside your horse’s mouth and check to see if any dental work is needed. This is also a great opportunity to discuss any queries you have about your horse’s health or performance.  Our winter health checks are especially useful if you have a veteran horse who may struggle with the changing weather and are also advisable for competition horses to resolve any issues quickly and ensure they are in peak condition ready for the competition season ahead.  Only £95.00 including VAT, + visit (can be done on a Zone Visit).  Call now to book an appointment…

Weight loss!! Is your horse the correct weight???

Seeing as the lovely tilly has done insanely well on her diet that we drew up for her, and Megan kindly gave me permission to use her photos, I thought I would try to tackle my current bug bear with horses!!! Weight loss!!
I have attached the before and after pics of tilly….think its obvious which is which….the one where she is stuffing her face with grass is before! 😛 Cheers x

DSC_1209DSC_1369Our animals are facing a problem of massive proportions. The general population of horses are getting fatter and fatter! It can be exceptionally difficult to notice whether your horse is overweight as we have been conditioned to see the overweight horse as “show condition”, and “normal”. It can be even more difficult to accept that they are overweight when someone tells you. 

Having previously been the owner of an exceptionally overweight Thoroughbred x hackney pony, I know all too well the pitfalls that we all fall into; “he needs that hard feed all through the summer, he looks hungry without it”, “if I give him any less hay then he goes hungry”, “he loves his carrots…how bad can they be?”…..I’m sure that some, if not all of these ring true with most of the horse owning public.
We are all aware of the potential for serious and life threatening diseases associated with obesity in man, but seem to ignore the risks when it comes to our beloved horses. Next time your vet sees your horse, ask them for an honest opinion on your horses weight! We don’t tell people their horses are overweight to upset or offend, but purely because we, as a profession, will always have the health and wellbeing of our patients at the centre of every piece of advice we give.
Tilly, a 12 year old 14hand dales cross pony, owned by our very own Megan and her mum Marion who work at our Hawkhurst and Ashford branches respectively. Tilly is an eventer, who at the end of the season came down with a virus. As a result, she was pampered, and had time off of work. Megan became concerned about her weight and asked for our help. We estimated that tilly currently weighed 500kg, and would potentially have up to 100kg to loose. A daunting prospect for any owner. After bloods revealed that there were no concerns for her health, a very strict diet and exercise regime was carefully drawn up for her, including box confinement, daily exercise (sometimes even twice daily), carefully weighed quantities of hay and various techniques to slow down her eating time. After approximately 2 weeks, the results are already showing! Tilly has lost a very healthy 30-40kg and Megan is delighted with how much life and energy she has again! She still has some way to go, but we are delighted with her results so far!
If you are concerned about your horses weight, then please contact your local branch of Milbourn where we will be more than happy to advise. It may be necessary to come and visit your horse or pony (or donkey) to enable us to be sure that there are no underlying medical issues that could prevent us recommending certain products, this will also help us tailor make your diet plan to suit your situation.
I hope Tilly’s story serves as inspiration to those of us who see helping our horse losing weight as an impossible task