Summer Hazards

Beautiful horse in Summer

Our vets have put together some useful information on things to look out for during the summer months

Sunburn

Just like humans, horses are susceptible to sunburn – particularly in depigmented areas and those covered by less hair such as the nose and region around the eyes.

Sunburn will typically cause discomfort, redness and peeling of the skin but in some cases can result in blistering and oozing of serum from the skin.  Repeated episodes of sunburn can, rarely, cause skin cancer and also predispose to infections most commonly of the lower limbs (e.g.’ mud fever’).

If your horse is affected by sunburn, they should be moved to a shaded area.  If extensive blistering and serum exudation, a veterinary examination should be requested in order that appropriate treatment can be administered.

Sunburn can be minimised by ensuring your horse always has access to shade and using barrier creams along with masks and rugs.

Occasionally horses appear to suffer from sunburn that appears disproportionate to the weather conditions or colouring. In these cases, veterinary advice should be sought since your horse could be suffering from photosensitisation, where the skin reacts to UV light, rather than sunburn.

Heat stroke

Heatstroke is most commonly encountered when horses are exercised strenuously in hot, humid conditions though can rarely be seen when travelling horses in poorly ventilated boxes during warm weather.

Horses suffering from heatstroke will have a raised rectal temperature along with an elevated heart rate and respiratory rate.  Appetite will often be reduced, and the horse may be weak processing to ataxia (becoming unsteady when moving) and possibly collapse.  Often these horses that are affected severely will become distressed and might display symptoms similar to colic.

The horse should be cooled using copious amounts of cold water over the entire body.  Do not place wet towels or rugs on the horse as this will actually heat the horse further.  A veterinary examination should be requested immediately in order that drugs used to reduce the high temperature can be administered.

Insect bites & stings

Most insect bites and stings will result in a localised swelling that will reduce without treatment, but occasionally, especially if numerous stings are encountered, severe swelling and discomfort can be observed, presenting similarly to colic.  In these severe cases, a veterinary examination is indicated to allow appropriate treatment that will help relieve symptoms.

Ticks

Ticks are commonly found on horses, normally as individual parasites that should be removed with a ‘tick hook’ in order to minimise the risk of leaving the tick head biting the skin.  If this happens, an infection can occur, requiring appropriate treatment.

In some cases, severe disease can be caused by ticks either because a large number have attached to the horse or due to transmission of microbial diseases.

Certain areas of the country are more prone to ticks than others, and regular use of an insecticidal wash can help minimise infection.

Generalities in equine nutrition and weight management

To better understand the equine nutrition and the role each organ has, we are going to first do a quick review of the physiology of the gastrointestinal tract.

Mouth In the mouth is where chewing and saliva production take place. Saliva acts as an important lubricant and gastric buffer (stabilises the pH of the stomach making it less acid). In horses it is only produced when they chew. This is a complex cycle that helps to reduce particle size and releases soluble components to the stomach, which will allow optimal digestion. A proper chewing movement is achieved when dentition is healthy, so this is one of the reasons why dental health must be kept up to date.

Stomach. The stomach of a 500kg horse has a volume of 8-15L and it has two types of mucosa (which is the inner layer of the stomach wall) a squamous superior mucosa and a glandular bottom portion. Secretion of hydrochloric acid, pepsin (they act in the initial digestion of proteins) and gastrin (enzyme that stimulates secretion of HCl) participate in the breakdown and initial digestion of food particles. Acid production (that can continue even in empty stomach) and the rate of food passage to the small intestine play a role in the appearance of gastric ulcers. For this, small regular forage meals are advised.

Small intestine (Duodenum, jejunum and ileum). Horses have approx. 20 metres of small intestine, which is quite short in length compared to its body size. It is the primary site of digestion and absorption of fats, proteins and non-structural carbohydrates (molecules with simple bonds like starch and sugar that can be digested by horse’s enzymes) as well as the majority of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins. This is achieved thanks to the secretion of different enzymes and the absorption that is made by the cells of the intestine.

The food transit is quite fast and all the nutrients that are not absorbed here will pass to the large intestine. However, this can have a bad impact in the intestinal health if high quantities of food are given at once. That is one reason why big amounts of food are not recommended.

Large Intestine (cecum, colon and rectum). As with any other domestic animal, horses don’t have enzymes capable of breaking down structural carbohydrates (complex molecules of fibre) and making them suitable for absorption. This is made by bacteria and protozoa in the large intestine. These microorganisms will digest fibre and other products coming from the small intestine by fermentation. The end products are different volatile fatty acids (VFA) that provide a source of energy to the horse. Bacteria are adapted to a certain pH maintained by the concentration of the VFA, so big amounts of starch and sudden changes on diets could alter it causing bacterial sufferance. This could lead to different conditions such as colic, laminitis and diarrhoea. Horses that might need high sugar inputs should have them in low quantities and frequently. In addition, as with any change in the diet, it should be introduced gradually over 2-3 weeks.

How much should I feed my horse? Remember that there is an important variability between horses and therefore there is not one single way to feed horses appropriately; feeding management needs to be tailored to each horse and his circumstances. However, forage/roughage (structural carbohydrates) should be the basis in a horse’s diet.  This can be given in the form of grass, hay, haylage, chaff and other forms. Many horses don’t need any other source of energy.

To understand the contribution of each type of feedstuff in fibre quantity we use the term dry matter (DM). General recommendations are that horses should receive a minimum of 1.5-2% of their body weight in dry matter, which means that a 500kg horse with no dietary restrictions should have 7-11Kg of hay daily. But this is not going to be the same amount in grass or haylage, as they contain more water. Another very important thing to take into account is that roughage is not nutritionally complete so even if your horse does not need any other form of energy you should always provide him with additional proteins, minerals and vitamins that can be achieved with forage balancers.

The physiology of the horse has always been well adapted to feral conditions, in which horses used to maintain a regular and balanced weight variation between summer and winter. However, our domestic horses do not have the same conditions anymore and together with the predisposition of certain breeds and ponies this has led to a continuous weight gain where the last consequence is the big increase in obesity.

Why is it a problem? Obesity can entail several conditions that affect horse well-being, such as mechanical and thermal stress, poor reproductive efficacy, predisposition to colic and laminitis, insulin resistance, lipid disorders…

What can you do? First of all, analyse your general situation and see if your horse is overweight. You can use the body condition score (BCS) system, which is based on the fat deposit of your horse’s body, in conjunction with the weight tape to monitor weight changes. Once you have categorized your horse as being overweight, have a look at your horse’s routine, food consumption, which type is it, level of exercise, how long is he grazing…

Regarding food management you can consider avoiding hard feed, changing the type of forage or reducing its amount, soaking the hay for 6-8 hours, slowing the intake of forage using double-netted hay, splitting it and placing it in different areas, using toys as hay balls. Reductions to less than 1.5% of the body weight in DM should be overseen by a vet and regular access to small quantities of forage and water must be assured to avoid colic and gastric ulcers.

Reduce grazing is another important but challenging measure: limit paddock size (strip graze), limited or short grass paddocks (they may need supplementary forage, don’t forget to ensure poo picking, appropriate worming), sand paddocks, reduce grazing time (consider that horses can be very fast eaters and ingest a big amount in less time), use a grazing muzzle. Keep in mind that some ponies are very clever and manage to take it off, some horses can develop sores with it or get nervous, so make sure not only that your horse is not stressed, but also that he is able to drink with it. You should also remove and check it regularly!

Exercise: this is also very important. Start with light exercise and increase gradually the intensity, duration and frequency per week. Try whatever is easier for you, ridding, longing, horse-walker but keep a track of it so see your progress.

Winter weight loss: it is a natural process so let’s take advantage of it. Let your horse out without rugs, consider hunter clip.

**Don’t forget that not all the measures are suitable for every horse and that all changes should be introduced slowly. Remember that food restrictions must be taken with caution and make sure your horse has regular access to water. It is essential to know that weight loss is a slow process that requires a lot of patience, so don’t give up. We also encourage you to contact us for any questions you may have or to seek for advice**

Worms in Horses; What They Are and How to Treat Them

For as long as horses have existed, there have been parasites specifically evolved to take advantage of them. Frequently-heard questions in veterinary practices include: ‘which wormer do I need this time?’, ‘how do I do a worm egg count?’ and, our favourite, ‘will you look at this disgusting photo of a mangled worm on my stable floor?’.

In this article we will discuss common UK worm species, the problems they can cause and how we can safely keep them in check.

Types of Worms    

Tapeworm– Tapeworm have round disk-like bodies made up of segments. They range from 4-20cm in length and attach themselves to the walls of the small intestine and caecum. They rarely cause disease in horses, although in very large numbers they have been associated with colic.

Roundworm– Roundworms can reach an impressive 40cm long. Thankfully equines develop good natural immunity between 6-12 months, so adults are rarely infected. Once ingested, the larvae migrate through the lungs and liver before arriving at their final destination, the small intestine. Infected horses generally show ill-thrift and occasionally colic.

Large redworm– Don’t let the name fool you, these worms are actually only 2.5 – 5cm long. The adults live in the large intestine and the larvae migrate through the bloodstream as they mature. One subspecies, Strongylus Vulgaris, settles in the large mesenteric arteries within the abdomen, damaging the vessels. This can result in anaemia, gut necrosis and even sudden death. Thankfully, infections are rare.

Small redworm– Despite measuring less than 2.5cm, these guys are not to be trifled with. When a larvae is ingested, it reaches the gut and has two options. In warmer months they mature quickly and begin producing eggs. However when temperatures drop in autumn, the larvae change tactic. They ‘encyst’ in the walls of the gut, becoming inactive until temperatures start to climb in spring. The encysted larvae then emerge from the gut walls en masse, causing widespread gut damage, colic, diarrhoea and collapse. Mortality rates are as high as 50%.

Now that we have identified the baddies, let’s move on to control measures. Wormers contain chemicals which kill internal parasites. They can be divided into those that treat tapeworm, those that treat roundworms and redworms and combination wormers that treat all three types.                

In addition, some wormers are uniquely able to target specific worm lifecycle stages – such as the encysted stage of redworms. Your vets are always happy to advise you and most tack shops employ an SQP (Suitably Qualified Person), who is trained to offer advice on routine treatments such as wormers.

So why don’t we just use a combined wormer every time we want to treat our horses? The answer is that worms can develop the ability to survive exposure to wormers. Resistance has been reported since the 1970s, and likely developed due to the widespread blanket use of wormers. It is impossible to reverse resistance, but we can select our treatments more carefully to reduce the spread. If we fail to do this, then we could end up with certain species of worms that simply cannot be treated.

Only worm horses that require worming. 20% of the equine population carries 80% of the worm burden, as some horses are just more susceptible than others. Therefore most horses shouldn’t need treating for much of the year.

Leave some worms behind. Our goal is not to eliminate every worm – if we tried to achieve this then all we would be left with would be resistant worms. They would have no competition, allowing them to reproduce faster. Instead, the ideal situation is a small population of non-resistant worms which, while posing no risk to our horses, keep the resistant worms outnumbered.

Do not “dose and move”. When we worm our horses, we risk killing off all but the resistant worms. If we then immediately place that horse onto a clean pasture, then the only eggs and larvae on that pasture will have inherited the genes for resistance. The pasture’s worm population will now be made up of 100% resistant worms!

Dose correctly. It is vital to dose your horse to their weight accurately. If horses are under-dosed, then any non-resistant worms in their gut can develop the ability to resist that wormer in future.

Worm egg counting- Microscopically examining faecal samples enables us to calculate the number of roundworm and redworm eggs per gram (epg) of faeces. We can then decide whether treatment is required. Worm burdens below 250epg generally do not need treating, as small burdens pose no risk, whereas burdens above 250epg require treatment to avoid disease. Worm egg counting is widely available and cost-effective. Your vets may offer their own service, or you could use one of the many online laboratories. It is recommended to perform worm egg counts quarterly.

Tapeworm saliva test Historically, testing for tapeworm was challenging and expensive, so most horses were treated routinely every six months – But since 2014 a new saliva-based test, called Equisal, has been available from your vet. You simply use the applicator supplied to collect some saliva, before packaging it up and sending to the lab. The results are sent to your vet, and burdens are classed as low, borderline or high. Low results don’t need treatment, and these account for approximately 75% of test results.It is recommended to test for tapeworm twice a year.      

Encysted small redworm blood test- As encysted redworm cannot be identified on a worm egg count, it is currently advised that all equines are treated with an appropriate wormer each winter to prevent disease in spring. However a new blood test which detects the encysted stage is due to be released next year, and development of a saliva-based test is also underway. These tests should hopefully reduce our reliance on wormers even further, aiding in the battle against resistance.  

In conclusion, modern wormers have been hugely successful in reducing equine worm burdens. However this success has also been a curse, introducing widespread resistance and threatening a resurgence of parasite-related disease. By utilizing lab tests we can accurately assess worm burdens, and select the most appropriate wormer and dosing schedule. This way we will keep our horses disease free, while preserving the effectiveness of our wormers for the future.      

The Importance Of Dental Checks

Dental health is very important for your horse. It is often underestimated how it can have a negative effect on their well-being. Horses’ teeth are hard wearing and continue to erupt in the mouth for most of their life. In nature, the animals would be chewing rough fibre for over 18 hours a day which helps to wear their teeth evenly, but we have modified our horses’ life by keeping them in stables and replacing part of their daily food ration with concentrate, which in turn reduces their normal chewing activity. These factors can result in abnormal wearing of the teeth and sharp edges forming, causing discomfort and eating problems.

Prevention is better than cure! Equine dentistry has historically been undertaken in a reactive manner when there are advanced problems, rather than trying to identify early disease and prevent progression. It is, therefore essential that we guarantee our horses an adequate diet containing enough long fibre, monitor for any signs of dental discomfort and, as for humans, have regular dental checks to prevent disease and make sure they are comfortable when ridden.

How often should dental checks be done?

For youngsters, dental checks should start in the first year and be repeated every year, unless recommended differently due to abnormal dental conformation. Once your horse reaches 12-years of age it is sensible to have routine dental checks every 6 months. If dental disease is diagnosed, it may require more frequent examinations and treatment over a period of time

How to monitor your horse for dental problems?

As the horse’s mouth is inaccessible for owners, this can often mean that sores and ulcers cannot easily be observed. It is important to bear in mind that horses can eat normally and most will tolerate severe dental abnormalities and pain without showing many clinical symptoms. If you notice signs such as bad smelling breath, quidding (dropping partially chewed food), weight loss, swelling on face or mandible, nasal discharge, difficulty eating, food packing in the cheeks or discomfort when ridden, then contact your veterinary surgeon immediately.

The dental examination

The dental examination can be done by your veterinary surgeon or alternatively by a qualified equine dental technician (EDT), but make sure they are professionally regulated to provide adequate dental care for your horse. The owner of the horse will be asked questions about the general health of the animal, their eating habits and if they are manifesting any problems when chewing and riding. The vet or EDT will check for any swelling or asymmetry on the head before starting the examination of the incisors and canine and applying a gag to hold the mouth open. The use of a head torch, dental mirrors and picks will allow a full visualisation and manual examination of the mouth; including teeth, palate, tongue, cheeks, bars and the lips before carrying out a routine rasping to remove sharp edges. This can be done with hand rasps or motorised equipment.

It is also good practice for your vet or EDT to complete a dental chart of your horse’s mouth at each examination. This can then be referred back to in future dental examinations.

Sedation or no sedation?

Although some horses tolerate a dental examination well, the vet or the EDT might recommend sedation. This can be done by the vet administering an injection directly into the vein, or with an oral paste which can be administered by the owner 30-40 minutes beforehand. Only a vet can administer intravenous sedation, so if you chose to use an EDT for your horse’s dental treatment and they require sedation, then the vet will also need to attend. The sedation allows your horse to relax without associating the dental check with a negative experience, as well as ensuring that the procedure can be carried out safely for the animal and the people around them. The dental examination in this condition allows for a better visualisation of the horse’s mouth by reducing movement that could compromise the examination, and allow for the diagnosis of disease in the early stages when it is easier and less traumatic to treat.

Castration

Castration is a routine procedure most commonly performed in young colts in order to prevent unwanted breeding and aid management.

There are three main methods of castration, the decision as to which is most
appropriate should be discussed with your vet as the choice is dependent upon a number of factors including age and size of animal, temperament and previous history:
• Open castration which is usually performed standing with the incisions left open.
• Open castration which is performed under a short acting general anaesthetic in a field setting. (This is usually reserved for smaller ponies or unhandled colts who cannot be castrated standing.)
• Closed castration under general anaesthetic which is performed in an operating theatre.

Open Castration

Open castration is the most commonly performed method of castration and can be performed either standing, under heavy sedation and local anaesthetic, or under a short general anaesthetic.
Standing castration is only possible in quiet, well handled horses, and is not safe to undertake in small ponies or horses that are difficult to handle. Guddling around between the hind limbs of a colt who is reluctant to give up his manhood can be quite a dangerous job!
Open castration under general anaesthesia is most commonly undertaken in ponies. Although all anaesthetics carry a small risk, this is minimal in healthy horses.
In most cases two incisions are made, one over each testicle, and these are left open post operatively. This allows free drainage of blood and serum that normally forms at the surgery site.

Closed Castration

This involves a general anaesthetic and the procedure can only be performed under sterile conditions in our operating theatre. The skin incisions are closed (stitched) following surgery. This method is generally recommended in older horses whose testicles and cord are more mature/larger. The closed method reduces the risk of haemorrhage.
As the incisions are sutured closed they are unable to drain as well as open castrations and as a result these horses often develop significant swelling of the castration site.

Tetanus prevention

If the horse has not already been vaccinated for tetanus, he will need to be given temporary cover at the time of the castration. Check with the vet before the operation is performed as to what is required.

Paperwork

It is helpful if you have your horse’s passport or breeding papers available at the time of castration, so that they can be modified to confirm that he has been gelded.

Aftercare

Exercise:
Gentle exercise should be encouraged to promote drainage and prevent swelling of the scrotum. Ideally, this should be achieved by turning the horse/pony out into a small dry paddock where he can move around quietly for at least a week. If your horse/pony is stabled then he should be walked out at least 3-4 times daily for 10-15 minutes to decrease swelling and improve drainage.

Woundcare:
With open castrations, the wound will be left open to allow drainage. Dripping of blood from the wound is normal, and this may continue for several hours after surgery. The legs should be washed or hosed down as necessary but it is usually not necessary to clean the wounds themselves. If blood streams from the wound or there is bleeding for more than 24 hours please contact us. The scrotum may remain swollen for up to a week; again this is normal and the swelling should start to decrease after this time.

Medication:
All horses are given a dose of antibiotics and pain relief for the procedure. Your vet may or may not consider it necessary to prescribe a longer course of antibiotics. Further painkillers (usually ‘bute’ powders) can be beneficial to help the horse or pony feel better after the operation, and move more freely; these may be prescribed by the vet who performs the surgery for a few days.

Complications

Castration (gelding) is one of the most common operations we perform and like any surgical procedure, complications may occur in spite of the procedure going smoothly.

Bleeding
This is the most immediate and common complication and can be life-threatening depending on the extent and duration of bleeding. Bleeding after surgery is often minimal with intermittent drops of blood which spontaneously stop within minutes. However, if the drops cannot be counted then prompt veterinary attention should be sought. The bleeding may come from the testicular artery (which may have been ligated during the castration procedure) or from one of the blood vessels in the scrotum which are not ligated during surgery. Depending
upon the level of haemorrhage, either the scrotum will be packed with sterile swabs or the bleeding blood vessel will require ligating (tying off).

Swelling
A degree of post operative swelling is normal and is not considered a complication however excessive swelling accompanied with stiffness
should arouse suspicion of infection. We normally recommend a course of anti-inflammatories (bute) which would help to control post operative swelling and pain. Modest exercise in the form of paddock turnout will help to minimise swelling post operatively. Excessive swelling or stiffness may indicate infection (see below).

Infection
Open castration is often termed a clean rather than sterile procedure as it is performed in field conditions where it is hard to reproduce the
sterility of an operating theatre. Antibiotics are commonly administered following castration to reduce the risk of infection. The placement of a
ligature (stitch) around the testicular artery during surgery has the advantage of reducing the likelihood of haemorrhage but this does increase the infection risk due to the presence of a foreign material within the body which can act as a focus for infection. Infection causes swelling and discharge from the surgical site and a stiff gait indicative of pain. The temperature may be raised and appetite may be reduced. For minor infections, antibiotics combined with manual opening of the incisions usually resolves the infection. More serious infections can need a further surgical procedure to remove infected tissues.

Hydrocoele
Occasionally a soft, fluid swelling may be noticed within the scrotum of a gelding which is termed a Hydrocoele. This is essentially an accumulation of fluid within the vaginal tunic (the membrane that covered the testicle) which is more common following open castration.
These do not normally cause any problems but can be corrected surgically if desired. Hydrocoeles may be detected at pre-purchase examinations when a blood test may be required to confirm that no testicular tissue remains.

Herniation/Eventration
Occasionally a small amount of fascia/fat may protrude from the incision particularly if there is post operative swelling. Unless the amount of tissue is very small, this will probably need trimming under sedation. The more serious form of herniation occurs if small intestine is able to pass through the inguinal ring (a small gap in the body wall through which the testicle descended). This normally occurs following a standing castration and is associated with an abnormally large inguinal ring. Treatment of this is an emergency and involves replacing the intestines within the abdomen within an operating theatre. Correction of this problem can be diffcult and may prove fatal but thankfully is rare.

Sedating Your Horse

Sedation is something that is often needed in the autumn for clipping but also for the farrier, travelling or for rasping teeth.
There are 3 main ways in which horses can be sedated – 2 of these are via an oral syringe that the owner can administer themselves (Domosedan and Sedalin/Relaquin) and the third is through intravenous sedation administered by the vet.

Sedalin or Relaquin
The active ingredient of sedalin is ACP, which is a mild sedative and reduces anxiety. For this reason, sedalin is often used for horses that do not require as deep a level of sedation. Sedalin has the huge advantage in that it can be can be administered by the owner with a prescription from your vet. The only caveat is that the vet must have seen the horse in the last 6 months to comply with DEFRA medicine dispensing regulations. An additional advantage of sedalin is that it is given orally like a wormer. The sedation will take approximately 30 – 40 minutes to fully develop, and last for up to a couple of hours, so it is key that you enable enough time for the sedation to take effect before any procedure is initiated.

Domosedan Gel
The active ingredient in domosedan is detomidine, which gives a higher level of sedation than ACP. Therefore, we recommend domosedan for those horses that require a medium level of sedation. Domosedan is very advantageous in that it can be can be administered by the owner with a prescription from your vet. The only caveat is that the vet must have seen the horse in the last 6 months to comply with DEFRA medicine dispensing regulations. One difficulty in giving Domosedan is that it must be given under the tongue on the gum / oral mucosa – not just into the mouth like a wormer, therefore this can be difficult in horses that are difficult to worm. The sedation will take approximately 30 – 40 minutes to fully develop, so it is key that you enable enough time for the sedation to take effect before any procedure is initiated. Sedation would typically last for an hour or so.

I/V sedation
I/V sedation is sedation given into the vein and is used in those horses that require a high level of sedation to enable procedures to be performed, when oral sedation is not adequate. The dose / type of sedation used depends on many different things – including duration of sedation required, procedure being completed, depth of sedation of required, how sensitive the horse is to sedation. I/V sedation requires a visit from the vet, and can be done on our zone visit scheme. The advantages of I/V sedation is that it gives a much greater depth of sedation, therefore it is very useful in horses that are exceptionally sensitive to procedures being performed. Additionally, with I/V sedation the vet will wait for up to 15 minutes to enable a ‘top up’ if the horse starts to come round from sedation. I/V sedation typically uses a mixture of a sedative drug and a opioid which usually produces a more profound sedation with less sensitivity to touch.

Worming

Small Redworms (Cyathostomes)

These are the most common worms in horses and they are infected from pasture contaminated by eggs passed out in faeces of infected horses. Although these worms are more prevalent in the summer they can be present all year round.

The eggs can develop into adults in the gut within 5 weeks, they can either attach to the gut wall or be absorbed into it and reduce the ability of the gut to absorb nutrients leading to weight loss, diarrhoea and general ill thrift. These worms can also encyst into the gut wall as larvae and delay their development to adults.  Emergence of these encysted larvae can cause major gut damage leading to severe diarrhoea, weight loss, colic and even death.

The adult stages are readily detected by faecal worm egg counts (WEC) and it is sensible to worm your horse based on the results of this. The encysted larvae will not be shown up by WECs so it is important to treat for these once a year (usually in the autumn).

You can reduce pasture contamination by avoiding overgrazing/overstocking of pasture, regular poo picking and cross grazing with sheep/cattle.

Encysted Small Redworm –  Owners Leaflet

Tapeworms (Anoplocephala spp.)

These worms tend to attach to the gut walls and can interfere with gut motility and cause irritation, they are a major cause of colic (research suggests up to 20% of spasmodic colic can be attributed to tapeworms). It is spread by an intermediate host (the forage mite) and infections occur all year round. Infection can be detected via a blood or saliva test but will not be shown on a WEC. Equisal Saliva test kits are available from Milbourn Equine which you can do yourself and your vet will analyse the results and advise you.

Pinworms

Pinworms are becoming increasingly common due to their location at the end of the digestive tract as ‘newer’ wormers tend to be absorbed before they reach this point. The female lays eggs around the anus and this can lead to perineal irritation and tail rubbing. They are generally not harmful and are more of a nuisance/ irritant to the horse. The adults are readily killed with a double dose of a ‘pyrantel’ based wormer but it is important to also disinfect any area the horse has rubbed on (fences/haynets/rugs etc)as otherwise the horse can become re-infected by ingesting the eggs.

Bots

Bots are actually flies that have part of their lifecycle within the horse. Eggs are laid on the hair by a fly, they are consumed by the horse and migrate to the stomach where they attach and can cause some inflammation/ulceration before being passed out in the dung. However they are not a major health concern unless present in very large quantities.

Lungworms 

Lungworms are very rare in horses unless they are immune-compromised or are grazing alongside donkeys who are relatively commonly infected.

Large Redworms

Large redworms migrate to the blood vessels causing damage to major organs, historically they caused very serious illness but due to regular use of wormers nowadays they are less of a concern.

It is our advice to worm once yearly with a wormer containing moxidectin that kills encysted redworm larvae (ie Equest Pramox) which do not show up on worm egg counts.

In between times we recommend worm egg counts are performed and only to worm if these show a high level of adult redworms. This avoids unnecessary worming, reduces the risks of worms becoming resistant to wormers and is likely to reduce your costs!

We offer a worming programme for an annual fee which provides worm egg counts throughout the year. Please note tapeworm testing is at an additional cost.

Alternatively join our Equine Healthcare Plan, to help you save money on tapeworm testing and other additional preventative healthcare costs.

Dentistry

Routine dental examinations are an essential part of your horse’s health care but is unfortunately often overlooked by owners for the following reasons:

  • The mouth is inaccessible meaning sores and ulcers cannot easily be observed.
  • Horses will tolerate severe dental abnormalities and pain without showing many clinical symptoms.
  • Many horses receive dental work performed by unqualified people who do not have adequate education or training.
  • Equine dentistry has historically been undertaken in a reactive manner when there is advanced problem rather than trying to identify early disease and prevent progression.

By undertaking regular examinations, severe, painful dental related problems can be minimised or prevented.

How frequently should my horse’s mouth be examined?

We recommend that all horses undergo a dental examination at least once a year.  Some horses such as those expected to perform at a high level and those with specific dental abnormalities might benefit from more frequent examinations.

Who should rasp my horses teeth?

Vets 

  • Have received dentistry training during their time at University and are fully qualified to examine and rasp horse’s teeth.
  • Undertake further dental training with Chris Pearce (www.equinedentalclinic.co.uk) – one of the worlds most experienced equine veterinary dental practitioners.
  • Can administer prescription drugs such as sedatives, local anaesthetics and pain killer drugs allowing safer more comfortable treatment.

Dental Technicians

  • Provide equine dental care but may have no formal training or qualifications. 
  • No legally recognised qualification for Equine Dental technicians. The British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT) administrate an exam to prove competency and should you decide to use the services of an Equine dental technician we advise that one that has undertaken this examination and is a member of BAEDT is used.
  • Cannot sedate or administer drugs.
What should you expect?
  • Thorough oral and dental examination – assessment of teeth and soft tissues – using head torch, probes and mirrors.
  • Controlled reduction of sharp points and balancing dental arcades (using hand rasps or modern lightweight motorised instruments)
  • Dental charts to record findings and work performed.
  • More advanced techniques such as wolf tooth removal and tooth extraction can be undertaken along with the use of a dental endoscope to help visualise the mouth and teeth.
Sedation

In order to allow a proper examination we advise that all horses receive a little sedation.  Not only does this allow thorough, controlled examination, it also increases the safety for both horse and owner.  We understand that some owners prefer their horses not to be sedated and we are happy to examine your horse without sedation if requested to do so.

We will sedate horses for work to be performed by BAEDT members if requested in advance and an appropriate consent form is completed.

Body Condition Score (BCS)

When it’s time to talk about body weight it’s never easy. The health of our horses is strictly linked to their body condition.

Fat and obese animals are much more prone to develop diseases such as Laminitis, Equine metabolic syndrome, Lameness etc.

Emaciated animals are in danger of developing anaemia, protein loss and, in the worst case scenario, death.

Weight scales are great instruments that we can use to keep weight monitored and record improvements, we have scales at the clinic which is very useful, pop in and try it next time you come to visit us with your friend or book an appointment to weigh your pony.

Weight tapes are useful but not very accurate, ask one of our vets if you would like your pony to be measured.

We have to keep in mind that one horse may weigh more than another but it can overall be fatter, in fact we have to consider height and muscle-fat ratio (muscle is heavier than fat!).

Body condition score is a simple way to judge if your horse is emaciated, thin, fat, obese or hopefully in its best shape!

Refer to this website from Animal Health Trust for how the BCS works:

www.aht.org.uk/skins/Default/pdfs/cal_bcs.pdf

What can we do for you?

Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like a professional opinion regarding your horse, pony or donkey BCS. We can discuss dietary management and advise you on how to control weight and reduce body fat.