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  • Are You and Your Horse Prepared for the Unexpected?

    Emergencies can happen when you least expect them. As responsible horse owners, it's crucial to plan ahead with some common-sense strategies. Make Sure Your Horse Has Identification If your equine companion manages to wander off through a broken fence, race away if you “unexpectedly dismount” on a trail, or get lost during a natural disaster, s/he can’t tell anyone their name or where they live. Halter/Bridle Tags: It’s a great idea to put a tag on your equine’s  trailering halter and, if you do a lot of trail riding, on their bridle, as well, with important information including at least the following: Horse’s name Owner’s name and phone number Veterinarian’s phone number We suggest getting weather-proof/water-proof metal tags — like these customizable tags available through Amazon (or search on the web for “military tag metal dog tag” to find options through a variety of sellers) Micro-chipping: Your small animal companions are probably micro-chipped, and if you have not already done so, it’s a good idea to have your horses, minis, mules, and donkeys micro-chipped, too. If you are not sure whether your equines are chipped, your equine veterinarian can scan for a chip — just be sure to let us know to bring one of our scanners along to your next appointment. And your equine veterinarian can also provide your animal with a new micro-chip at — just let us know to have the necessary materials on hand when you schedule your next appointment. Make Sure Your Horse Has Trailer Access Having access to a trailer or a trusted friend with one can make all the difference in ensuring the safety and well-being of your beloved equine companions. Here are a few key reasons why having a trailer or a friend with a trailer is essential for your emergency preparedness arsenal: Rapid Evacuation: In the event of a natural disaster or unforeseen circumstance, time is of the essence. With a horse trailer readily available, you can swiftly transport your horses to a safe location away from any potential danger. Veterinary Emergencies: A sudden health crisis can arise at any moment, and having a trailer nearby can facilitate transportation to a veterinary clinic or hospital. This quick response can make a significant difference in your horse's recovery. Local Emergencies: Even within your local area, there may be situations that require immediate relocation. Whether it's due to fire, flooding, or other emergencies, being prepared with a trailer or knowing someone who has one can be a lifesaver. Peace of Mind: By having a well-thought-out emergency plan in place, you'll feel more at ease. Knowing that you can swiftly transport your horses if needed allows you to focus on other critical aspects during challenging times. It’s vital to make sure your horse can be safely loaded into a trailer! Practice! Practice! Practice! Remember, emergencies can happen to anyone at any time. That's why we encourage every horse owner to invest in preparedness by either owning their own trailer or fostering strong relationships with fellow horse enthusiasts who have one. Let's prioritize the safety and well-being of our horses together. Take the time to review your emergency plan, ensure your trailer is in good condition, and reach out to friends or local horse communities to extend your support network. Together, we can weather any storm and keep our equine companions safe.

  • Professional Horse Haulers Based in Central and Northern California

    Whether you need to transport your horse across the county or across the country — to a new home, to a show, or for medical care — it’s good to know that there are several professional horse haulers and equine transport experts you can call upon who are headquartered in the Steinbeck Peninsula Equine Clinics service areas in Northern California and near the Central Coast. The list below includes experienced horse haulers who have reported that they carry liability insurance. Photo: Light Star Horse Transportation This is not a comprehensive list. If we missed you and you would like your professional horse transport business included on this list, please email our web team and provide your phone number so we can contact you for details. Please note that Steinbeck Peninsula Equine Clinics is not affiliated with, does not endorse, nor has any business relationships with the individuals, companies, and groups on this list. Also note that descriptions of listed haulers’ services and equipment may not be complete or up to date so please inquire for specifics when you contact them. John Algire — (831) 262-8440 Based in Prunedale; goes anywhere as far as LA and up into the SF Bay Area 24/7 service; will take emergencies Equipment: 4-star 3-horse slant with living quarters / 2-horse slant bumper pull Light Star Horse Transportation (Terry Konkle) — (877) 254-5112 Hubs in Gilroy, CA and Lexington, KY; specializes in long-distance hauling covering U.S. and Canada Equipment: Ranges from multiple semis for long distances to goosenecks for local/regional trips to smaller pickup trucks with trailers for local deliveries or emergencies Stacie McGrady — (831 )455-5098 Based in Hollister, primarily goes to South Santa Clara County, San Benito County, Monterey County but will go as far north as SF Peninsula (but prefers not to go to East Bay or further north) May be available for night hauling for local emergencies; offers emergency boarding and layovers; worked at SPCA Equipment: Multiple 4-wheel drive trucks and trailers including 3-horse gooseneck and 4-horse bumper pull — both slant load; 2 livestock trailers Alisha Robinson Horse Transport — (707) 292-5153 Based in Cotati; primarily does long hauls in CA, OR, WA and works with JetPets (international equine transport services) Primarily does horse show hauling; does not do short or emergency hauling to clinics Equipment: Head-to-head 7-horse makes 3 boxes / 2 more 7-horses that are reverse slants and make 4 boxes / 8-horse / 6-horse Turchet Transport (Giselle Turchet) — (650) 303-9940 Hubs in Woodside, CA; Los Angeles; Medford, OR; covers all of U.S. and Canada Equipment: 2 semis, 3 4-horse head-to-heads, 8-horse head-to-head — all with ramps; plus 2-horse (or single horse box stall) for emergencies or local deliveries — step-up (no ramp) West Coast Vista, LLC (Mark Vanover) — (831) 234-5930 Based in Watsonville; multiple drivers cover all of California, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho Can call any time; contracts with Santa Cruz SPCA; will do trips to UC Davis to do necropsies Equipment: 6 various sized slant-loads with ramps Ray Woods — (831) 245-5050 Based in Hollister, goes as far east as Sacramento and south to LA Would prefer a call ahead of time, but will take emergencies when able to, and offers night services Equipment: 6-horse Sooner / 4-horse Exiss / 4-horse Hart / 18' livestock / 2-horse slant There are several Facebook Groups (discussion groups) that can also serve as resources regarding horse transport — just a few are listed below, and you can search Facebook for others. These are private groups that you will need to join to read or post reviews, learn about available transport opportunities or post your own needs, and check out other posts. Note that these groups offer services from both professionals and non-professional resources so please do your own careful research: Central and Northern California Horse Transport West Coast Equine Hauling Horse Transport Connect - Hauling, Shipping, Transportation Horse Transport (Verified Animal Transport Businesses) Equine Transportation

  • Equine Medical and Mortality Insurance

    Pros and Cons of Equine Medical and Mortality Insurance Pros: Alleviates the stress of unanticipated medical expenses — may allow you to make healthcare decisions without as much financial worry Can allow the owner more freedom of choice when having a problem or condition diagnosed, including advanced imaging Cost of insurance can be paid quarterly vs. medical expenses which are due at the time of service For investment horses, can help offset cost of medical expenses that could detract from profitability when the horse is sold Cost effective if you cannot afford to replace your horse in the event of mortality Cons: Ongoing expense of insurance Once a claim is made on a certain part of the horse that region or the condition may be excluded from coverage thereafter Picking the Right Insurance Every insurance plan has specifications as to deductibles, percentages of procedures or diagnostic imaging covered, requirements for mortality coverage, etc. Each plan should be fully investigated by the horse owner to determine if it is an appropriate fit. To find equine insurance plans to consider, we recommend an online search for “horse medical insurance California” and contacting several companies to compare coverages and costs. Major Medical: May cover major medical and surgical expenses. There is often a deductible and a maximum coverage per year allowed by the policy. Surgical: Will cover only surgical procedures for your horse. Mortality Insurance: Can typically be added to major medical insurance or can be independently purchased for a horse and will cover a certain amount of money in the case of the horse’s death. Supplemental Plans: Some policies allow you to add supplemental surgical coverage to a major medical plan. Colic Plans: If you feed your horse SmartPak or Platinum Performance supplements, both companies offer coverage for colic surgery if your horse is enrolled in their program and meets certain requirements (both companies require specific criteria be met yearly). These plans can be in place in conjunction with major medical insurance. Learn more: SmartPak Colic Care Program Platinum Colic Coverage An Alternative Way to Be Prepared If you do not want to incur the ongoing cost of medical insurance for your horse but want to be prepared in case of unanticipated or emergency medical expenses for your horse, you might want to establish a CareCredit account. Designed specifically to pay for out-of-pocket health and wellness expenses for both humans and their animal companions, CareCredit basically works like a credit card — you make convenient monthly payments and, assuming you qualify for promotional financing, you can use it to pay over an extended period of time with 0% interest. Learn more: CareCredit Image by Freepik

  • Routine Blood Work Promotes Horse Health

    Why we believe in routine blood work enough to discount it with annual vaccinations: 1️⃣ Early Detection of Health Issues: Annual, routine blood work serves as an essential preventive measure, enabling veterinarians to keep a close eye on your horse's overall health. It helps detect subtle changes in key parameters like red blood cell count, white blood cell count, and organ function. Catching any potential issues early on can prevent them from developing into more serious conditions. Prevention is always better than cure! 2️⃣ Tailored Health Monitoring: Each horse is unique and may have different health requirements. Regular blood work allows veterinarians to customize health management strategies based on the individual needs of your horse. By analyzing blood chemistry, they can identify specific imbalances or deficiencies and develop targeted treatment plans or dietary adjustments. This tailored approach ensures optimized health and well-being! 3️⃣ Performance Optimization: For those involved in equestrian sports or activities, annual blood work becomes even more crucial. It helps evaluate the horse's performance potential by assessing factors like oxygen-carrying capacity, plasma protein levels, and electrolyte balance. This data can guide trainers and riders, helping them fine-tune training, nutrition, and supplementation to enhance the horse's athletic abilities. 4️⃣ Disease Prevention: Blood work aids in early disease detection and prevention. Testing for diseases such as equine infectious anemia (EIA) and tick-borne illnesses becomes possible through regular screenings. By catching infectious or parasitic diseases in their early stages, appropriate treatments can be administered swiftly, minimizing discomfort and promoting a speedy recovery. 5️⃣ Peace of Mind: Lastly, annual blood work brings peace of mind to horse owners. Knowing that your horse is in good health and free from any underlying conditions can alleviate concerns and foster a strong bond between you and your equine companion. Your trusty veterinarian is an invaluable ally in ensuring the long-term health and happiness of your cherished horse! So, fellow horse enthusiasts, let's prioritize the health of our majestic friends by scheduling routine blood work with our horses’ Spring or Fall. It's an investment in their well-being that can provide invaluable insights and contribute to a lifetime of vitality!

  • AAEP Vaccination Guidelines

    The AAEP Vaccination Guidelines are intended to be a reference for veterinarians who utilize vaccines in their respective practices. They are neither regulations nor directives and should not be interpreted as such. It is the responsibility of attending veterinarians, through an appropriate veterinarian-client-patient relationship, to utilize relevant information coupled with product availability to determine optimal health care programs for their patients. Based on the professional judgment of those involved with the development of these guidelines, the recommendations for vaccine administration in this document may differ from the manufacturer’s recommendation. However, it is incumbent on each individual practitioner to reach a decision on vaccine usage based on the circumstances of each unique situation and his or her professional experience. Information provided in these guidelines addresses only those products licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for use in horses (including draft and pony breeds). There are limited data regarding the use of vaccines in other equidae (i.e. asses, donkeys, mules, miniature horses, and zebra); vaccination of these animals is at the discretion of the attending veterinarian.

  • Which Vaccinations Should My Horse Get?

    The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) provides guidelines on equine vaccines to assist veterinarians and horse owners in making informed decisions regarding their horses' health. These recommendations are based on the risk of disease, prevalence, geographic location, and the horse's individual circumstances. Here are some commonly recommended vaccines and their rationale: Core Vaccines: The AAEP recommends core vaccines for all horses regardless of their geographical location or exposure risk. These vaccines protect against diseases that pose significant health risks and have a high potential for transmission. Core vaccines include: Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE): These viral diseases spread via mosquitoes and can be life-threatening. Vaccination reduces the risk of neurological damage or death. Tetanus: Caused by bacteria found in soil, tetanus can be contracted through wounds or punctures. Vaccination is crucial as the disease is often fatal. Rabies: Rabies is a fatal neurological disease that affects all mammals, including horses. Vaccination helps prevent transmission and is important from both an equine and human health perspective. Risk-Based Vaccines: These vaccines are recommended based on factors such as regional prevalence, exposure risk, or horse management practices. Some commonly recommended risk-based vaccines include: Equine Herpesvirus (EHV): EHV-1 and EHV-4 are viral diseases that can cause respiratory illness, neurological disorders, and abortions. Vaccination is particularly important for horses that travel, compete, or are kept in high-density environments. Equine Influenza (Flu): Flu is highly contagious and can spread rapidly among horses, causing respiratory illness and impacting performance. Vaccination is recommended, especially for horses involved in activities that involve contact with other horses. West Nile Virus (WNV): Transmitted by mosquitoes, WNV can cause neurological disease in horses. Vaccination is important, particularly in areas where the virus is prevalent. Strangles (Streptococcus equi): Strangles is a bacterial infection that causes respiratory problems and swollen lymph nodes. Vaccination is recommended for at-risk horses or horses within high-risk environments. Potomac Horse Fever (PHF): PHF is caused by bacteria and often associated with water sources. Vaccination is recommended in areas where the disease is prevalent, as well as for horse traveling to or through those areas. It's important to note that these recommendations may vary based on geographic location, horse age, use, and exposure risk. Regular consultation with a veterinarian is essential to develop an appropriate vaccination plan tailored to your horse's needs. Remember, vaccination not only protects individual horses but also helps reduce the risk of disease transmission across the equine population, promoting overall equine health and welfare.

  • Optimizing Equine Health with Annual Dental Care

    Professional equine dental care plays a critical role in maintaining the health and overall well-being of our beloved horses. Let's explore the importance of annual equine dental care and how it benefits our horses. 1️⃣ Optimal Dental Health: Just like us, proper dental care is essential for horses. Regular equine dentals performed by veterinarians help maintain oral hygiene, reducing the risk of dental issues that can lead to discomfort, pain, and difficulty in eating and performing. These procedures ensure healthy teeth, gums, and a balanced bite, allowing horses to enjoy their meals and live comfortably. 2️⃣ Prevention of Dental Problems: Equine dentals allow veterinarians to detect and address dental issues before they escalate. Sharp points, uneven wear, hooks, and other abnormalities can be effectively identified and corrected during routine exams. By addressing these problems early on, equine dentals help prevent more severe issues such as periodontal disease, tooth decay, and even sinus infections. Prevention is the key to avoiding unnecessary pain and complications! 3️⃣ Improved Digestion and Nutrient Absorption: Efficient chewing is crucial for proper digestion in horses. Irregularities in dental alignment or damaged teeth can hinder the chewing process, resulting in inadequate breakdown of feed and nutrient absorption. Equine dentals ensure a well-aligned bite, enabling horses to adequately grind their food, improving digestion, and maximizing nutrient utilization. This leads to better overall health and performance. 4️⃣ Enhanced Performance and Comfort: Horses with dental issues may experience discomfort, pain, or behavioral problems while being ridden or performing various tasks. Equine dentals help eliminate these issues, allowing horses to focus on their training and perform to their full potential. By ensuring dental comfort and well-being, we contribute to their happiness, trainability, and overall performance. 5️⃣ Collaborative Care: Equine dentals provide an excellent opportunity for collaboration between horse owners, trainers, and veterinarians. Through regular dental exams and treatments, veterinarians can educate horse owners on proper dental care practices, offering recommendations on diet, feeding strategies, and dental hygiene that can complement the professional dental procedures. A team effort ensures the best possible dental care for our equine friends! Let's prioritize the dental health of our horses by scheduling regular equine dentals performed by qualified veterinarians. By doing so, we ensure their long-term well-being, comfort, and performance. Healthy teeth, happy horses!

  • The Blanketing Dilemma

    The question of whether horses need to be blanketed is a common one, and the answer depends on various factors. Let's explore the considerations that can help you make an informed decision about whether to blanket your horse or not during colder weather. 1️⃣ Natural Adaptability: Horses are remarkably adaptable animals and have evolved to withstand different weather conditions. Their thick winter coats provide insulation, which helps them regulate body temperature and stay warm in cold weather. In general, healthy horses are capable of coping with cold temperatures without the need for extra blankets. 2️⃣ Climate and Environmental Factors: The climate and environment in which your horse lives should be taken into account. Horses living in areas with extremely cold, wet, or windy climates might benefit from a blanket to provide that extra layer of protection. Similarly, horses with limited access to shelter, especially older or thin-skinned horses, may benefit from added warmth during inclement weather. Assessing your horse's living conditions is vital. 3️⃣ Individual Horse Considerations: Each horse is unique, and their individual characteristics and health conditions should be considered. Factors such as age, body condition, breed, workload, and overall health can influence whether a horse requires blanketing. Young, elderly, underweight, or sick horses may need extra protection to maintain their body temperature and prevent unnecessary stress. You may also want to blanket horses that are clipped and have a vigorous workload, once they have been cooled out and are no longer sweaty. Consultation with your veterinarian is valuable for evaluating your horse's specific needs. 4️⃣ Blanket Fit and Safety: If you decide to blanket your horse, it's crucial to ensure that the blanket fits properly and doesn't impede their movement. Ill-fitting blankets can lead to discomfort, chafing, or even accidents. Regularly check the blanket's condition and adjust it as necessary. Additionally, remember that blanketing may require additional care, such as daily removal and proper drying to prevent skin issues and overheating in changing weather conditions. Safety is paramount! 5️⃣ Monitoring and Flexibility: Continuously monitor your horse for signs of discomfort or overheating while blanketed. Sweating excessively or appearing restless can indicate that the horse is too warm and may warrant adjustments to the blanketing routine. It's essential to remain flexible and responsive to your horse's individual needs throughout the season. Observation and adaptation are key! Ultimately, the decision to blanket your horse depends on multiple factors including climate, living conditions, individual needs, and monitoring their well-being. Consider the overall health and comfort of your horse, and consult with professionals such as your veterinarian or equine specialist for personalized advice. By doing so, you can make the best choice to keep your equine friend happy, healthy, and comfortable throughout the year!

  • Equine Allergies (Article)

    By Amanda Hedges, DVM, cVA, CVSMT, published in the San Mateo County Horsemen’s Association (SMCHA) Newsletter, Q1 2021 An Immune System Gone Awry Molecules that irritate our horse’s bodies are all around. One of the jobs of the immune system is to protect us from the harmful effects of these irritants, maintaining the balance between stimulus and an appropriate response that keeps a horse healthy. Equine allergies can occur when an irritant or combination of irritants disrupts or overwhelms the immune system’s balance. An allergic reaction may be severe and life-threatening (anaphylaxis), sudden (acute), or more slow/insidious in onset (chronic). Signs of an Allergic Reaction Signs of allergies often appear as an immune system overreaction, resulting in local or systemic inflammation. We see hives, itching, oozing, scabs, hair loss, tearing, coughing, breathing changes, nasal discharge, hair loss, poor performance, and even gastrointestinal upset. Anaphylaxis is a severe acute allergic reaction characterized by increased respiratory effort, rate, or noise, recumbency, and/or shock. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency necessitating immediate veterinary intervention. Sometimes an allergic episode (e.g., hives) is a one-off and other times a horse has developed allergies to something in his/her environment. Restoring Balance To restore balance to the immune system in non-life threatening cases, we need a two-fold approach: 1) decrease the irritants 2) calm down the immune system. Let’s look at some common equine allergens and what we can do about them. Common Allergens Changes in the environment and the horse’s immune system can make it difficult to identify the cause of a horse’s allergic response. Some common equine allergens include: Insects: The most common culprit of chronic skin allergies is the saliva of the Culicoides fly (a.k.a. gnats, no-see-’ums). Other fly species, other insects, and even arachnids (spiders) can cause an allergic response. Environmental: Components of dust, different molds and mildews, different plants and pollens, and even some topical products can all cause allergies. Note that food allergies are not common or well-understood; it is more common for a horse to be allergic to the components of dust on hay than the hay itself. Treatment Strategies for Equine Allergies Treatment strategies focus on minimizing the presence of the allergen and influencing the immune system to restore balance. Common treatments include: Environmental management: if you know what your horse is allergic to from an allergy testing profile (see “Desensitization Injections” below), then you can minimize his/her exposure to specific irritants. General recommendations to decrease irritants revolve around fly control and dust control, both of which will add fuel to the fire of an overactive immune system. Fly control: Remove manure from the living area at least once daily. Make sure that your horse is stabled far from the manure collection area. Consider feed-through fly products, fly traps, automatic fly spray systems that use permethrin, overhead fans, fly sheets including belly coverage, fly masks including ears, fly boots, natural predators (bats, birds, wasps), and other fly control strategies. Dust: Consider wetting down your horse’s hay at each feeding. Stable your horse away from dusty arenas, and avoid riding during times of peak arena use. Good ventilation is also good. Diet change: While food allergies are not common, it is even more challenging to diagnose allergies due to dusts, molds, and contaminants in hay. A trial diet can help assess the contribution of diet to an allergy response. A novel food source, for example timothy pellets, is fed for 3 months, and the horse’s allergy signs are monitored. If allergy signs improve, then a food allergy is suspected. Other feeds can then be added to further identify the allergen. Often wetting down the feed is helpful to minimize the amount of inhaled aerosolized allergens. Medications: Steroids: Short- or long-acting steroids may be used to help suppress the immune system. Steroids can have some unwanted side effects, so use the lowest dose needed for the shortest amount of time. Combine with environmental management, antihistamine, and omega3 fatty acid supplementation for better effects. Antihistamines: A key molecule in the allergic response is histamine. Oral antihistamines, such as hydroxyzine, cetirizine, or diphenhydramine, can suppress the histamine response. Unlike steroids, these drugs are safer for long-term use though they can make some horses a bit sleepy. Your vet can advise on which drug may be the best for your horse, and the ideal duration of treatment. In horses these medications are better at preventing an allergic reaction than at treating a current one. Supplements: Some supplement ingredients can help support the body’s immune system. In addition to good quality hay or pellets and a vitamin/mineral supplement, horses with allergies may benefit from: Omega3 fatty acids: Research supports that horses fed a high dose of omega-3 fatty acids may have a decrease in allergy signs, possibly by decreasing the inflammatory response. This should be used long term as effects are not immediate. Equine-specific research is poor or lacking for other compounds reported to help with allergic reactions such as ashwagandha (found in some plants in the nightshade family), American ginseng (plant in the ivy family), astragalas (herb in the legume family), MSM (an organosulfur compound), quercetin (a plant flavanol), spirulina (a biomass of cyanobacteria), and turmeric (in the ginger family). Combinations of these ingredients can be found in brand-name supplements and in traditional Chinese herbal medicine formulations. Immunotherapy (aka allergy shots): For a personalized treatment, consider requesting an allergy test. Two test protocols are available to identify the specific allergens to which your horse is reacting. The most precise test for skin allergies is called intra-dermal skin testing. To perform this test, a veterinary dermatologist injects a small amount of different environmental irritants under the skin and then monitors the strength of the horse’s immune response at 30 min, 4 hours, and 24 hours. The second option is blood sample, while this is a more convenient way to test for allergens, it is thought to be less specific than intra-dermal testing. Following testing, a personalized allergy shot protocol is developed for your horse, with a dosing regimen to slowly introduce the allergens to your horse’s immune system without overwhelming it, resulting in a more appropriate response. Environmental management is again key to maximizing the success of this treatment plan. While the frequency of injection decreases over time, most horses require life-long treatment to keep allergy signs at bay. Allergy desensitization is a great way to manage skin allergies long-term; it greatly reduces the allergic response in most horses (though give it up to a year to work fully). There’s not much proof that allergy desensitization shots work very well for respiratory allergies. Allergies and Aging With time, both the environment and your horse’s immune system will change. New irritants can come in the form of new landscaping, new products, changes in air quality, etc. As horses age, there is some evidence that they can experience immunosenescence, or the gradual weakening of the immune system over time. Both of these factors may mean that your horse’s allergy status and immune system needs may change with time. If you notice any allergy signs, contact your veterinarian to discuss further options! Setting Expectations It may take weeks, months, or even years to find the perfect combination of immune-support and environmental control to rebalance your horse’s body. This plan may need to be regularly adjusted depending on the season. After establishing a treatment plan with your veterinarian, it may take weeks to see results. Complete resolution of all clinical signs may not be possible. With patience and persistence, almost every horse can find some degree of relief from allergies.

  • Equine Allergies (Video)

    Watch this video of a presentation on equine allergies by Dr. Amanda Hedges. (Be sure to turn up your sound!) Related resources you may also be interested in: “Equine Allergies” (Article) by Amanda Hedges, DVM, cVA, CVSMT “Maximizing the Golden Years: Care for the Aging Horse” by Amanda Hedges, DVM, cVA, CVSMT and Nora Grenager, VMD, DACVIM

  • The Itchy Horse: Insect Bite Hypersensitivity

    By Zoe Davidson, DVM, MRCVS While we are all still reveling in the glorious months of summer, this time of year can bring a number of health issues to our equine friends. One of the most common conditions is Insect Bite Hypersensitivity. Insect Bite Hypersensitivity (IBH, Queensland itch, sweet itch, equine summer eczema) is the most common pruritic ( itchy) disease of horses. Definitely a common topic of discussion within the equine world, but yet not fully understood and frequently mismanaged. The goal of this article is to provide a quick simple run down of the cause, classic symptoms, and what we can do as vets and owners to keep our horses happy and healthy! Cause Allergic sensitivity to the saliva of Culicoides spp., biting midges; and a variety of insect species. There is a genetic component that does predispose some breeds to a more severe reaction than others. Your horse can develop hypersensitivity and associated symptoms even if you do not see your horse being actively bitten. There is much more than meets the eye going on below the skin surface. Simply put, the severity of the clinical signs is not always correlated with the number and frequency of insect bites, but rather the severity of their individual immune mediated reaction. Certain horses develop a much stronger reaction to the saliva than others, and once their system is primed, worse the clinical signs are. Classic Itchy Horse Symptoms IBH can look different in each horse. Most commonly the symptoms include urticaria “hives”, generalized pruritis (“itchiness”) leading to lesions associated with self trauma (e.g skin thickening, lesions, scaling, crusting, hives, and hair loss, which can result in extreme discomfort.) In severe cases the secondary lesions induced by self -mutilation cause open sores and become infected. Lesions in horses are usually found on the trunk, face, mane, tail, and ears, with locations varying depending on the biting characteristics of the particular insect(s). The external signs can be accompanied by a dull, depressed, lethargic temperament. Luckily, it is one of the most well understood of the allergic skin diseases of the horse which means we have developed very effective management practices to help keep our horses happy and healthy this season! TOP MANAGEMENT TIPS: 1. Catch Early - prevention is always the best cure! Monitor your horse twice daily for the signs mentioned above! 2. Fly Control - prevent the flies from biting! Effective fly spray applied 2X/day Routine sheath cleanings Comprehensive fly mask and fly sheet Clean out stalls 2X/day; place manure piles far from barn Place a fan on your horse's stall door! Fun Fact: Flies are actually pretty weak fliers! 3. Supplements: Platinum Performance Skin and Allergy as well as Kinetic Vet Equishield (Skin and Allergy) have been proven to be effective! Omega-3 fatty acids can aid in reducing skin inflammation. When to call a Vet? Hives accompanied by agitation, elevated respiratory rate, effort and/ or depressed lethargic demeanor, Lesions on the head, neck, mane, tail and or belly (ventral midline) that are being rubbed raw, swollen, runny eyes cough. Sometimes your horse may be reacting to a variety of different stimuli, and in this case a thorough examination and further testing is indicated in order to diagnose and effectively treat. Medical Treatments At this time, there are only a few effective treatments once your horse has developed more extensive IBHS. Our options include antihistamines and corticosteroids, both of which are variably effective and do not come without their own potential side effects. In more severe cases, your vet may discuss drawing your horse's blood for an allergy panel. Subsequently, the exact cause of the allergy can be identified, and a specific immunomodulator developed to help reduce their symptoms. A pricey, length and often not always effective option! With this in view, prevention and management are by far the best methods of keeping your horse comfortable, happy and healthy! If you are concerned about your horse, and eager to discuss any of the above information further, please do not hesitate to reach out. We would love to hear from you! Download a PDF of this article... Related resources you may also be interested in: “Equine Allergies” (Video) by Amanda Hedges, DVM, cVA, CVSMT “Equine Allergies” (Article) by Amanda Hedges, DVM, cVA, CVSMT

  • 10 Signs Your Horse Needs a Dental Exam

    Equine dentistry is more than just floating teeth. It's much broader and examines the horse’s health more systemically, which is why it’s important to have your veterinarian perform annual dental exams. The general goals of equine dentistry include: Improving the chewing of food Relieving pain and treating or curing infection and disease Promoting general health, productivity, and longevity Preventing more painful and costly problems later According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), these 10 signs suggest that your horse needs a dental exam:

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