Horse Health

It’s an Emergency

July 29, 2010

Five problems you should always call the vet for.

While mild colic can just be sand in the gut, if it isn’t and is allowed to go on, the result can be lethal.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Most horse owners don’t call a veterinarian for every little scrape on their horses. Most horse owners can handle cuts, bruises and bumps with supplies they have on hand.

Dr. Julie Dechant, an assistant professor in the clinical equine surgical emergency and critical care portion of the University of California-Davis, offers five examples of injuries that need immediate veterinary care. Don’t try to handle these on your own. Get help right away.

No. 1 – Nail In the Hoof

A nail in the hoof might be mild or it could hit something important – the coffin bone or the navicular bone; synovial fluid structures; the navicular bursa; coffin joint; or the digital tendon sheath. The danger in hitting any of these internal structures of the hoof is that infection can occur, which can lead to chronic lameness or even severe disability, which can lead to euthanasia.

Dr. Dechant advises owners not to pull the nail out, as instinct would tell them to, but to instead stabilize the foot in a way that would not allow the nail to go any deeper and call the vet. Ideally, the vet would take an X-ray to determine just what the nail has encountered, if anything. The vet would then remove the nail.

If the nail is in danger of being further pushed into the hoof and cannot be stabilized, Dr. Dechant recommends marking the hoof where the nail entered, marking the nail to show how deep it went in, and the direction of how the nail went into the hoof, before you remove it and then call the vet.

No. 2 – Eye Injury or Abnormality

Even though eye boogers might not look dangerous, Dr. Dechant says they can be a sign of something more serious. Any discharge is cause for concern and something you should call the vet about. Some things that could be indicated by eye discharge or injury are corneal ulcer and uveitis (moon blindness), both of which can lead to blindness. More rarely, glaucoma might be in the works, and the discharge is giving you a heads-up. All of these conditions can be mild, but it’s safer to never assume. For the cost of a veterinary visit, you can ensure that your horse will stay sighted.

Keep in mind, earlier treatments can control the inflammation and keep the horse from developing cataracts. Also, these eye conditions can also be very painful, so it’s best to get them taken care of as soon as possible.

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No. 3 – Colic: Severe or Mild

Horses in California have a serious tendency to develop endoliths (rock-like growths inside their abdomen that can block their intestines). Other parts of the country see this condition as well, but California seems to have an abundance of cases.

While mild colic can just be sand in the gut, if it isn’t and is allowed to go on, the result can be a ruptured intestine that would require an owner to put a horse down. Unfortunately for horse owners, you have no way of knowing if the problem is mild or on its way to severe.

Signs of mild colic can just be lying down often, Dr. Dechant says, or not eating as usual, not passing as much manure, being restless, repeatedly getting up and down and/or isolating themselves from the herd. The signs aren’t huge, flagship signs, so it’s best to know what is normal for your horse and what isn’t. Of course, the more severe signs of colic are a bit easier to spot.

No. 4 – Horses That Trip or Stumble

Uncoordinated horses aren’t funny if they’re yours. And they are even less funny if the condition turns out to be a neurological condition.

Dr. Dechant says that suddenly uncoordinated horses, whether from an injury or not, should be looked at right away. A horse that is having neurological problems needs to be seen as soon as possible. These horses can include wobblers or horses that trip or catch their feet funny repeatedly. These signs can indicate an infectious disease such as equine herpes virus, which is very contagious to other horses, or even a spinal injury.

Often the changes are very dramatic, Dr. Dechant says, and by the time a horse with those symptoms makes it to the veterinary hospital, there is little that the vet can do for him. If a trauma occurs, even if the horse seems all right, it’s important to get the horse looked at.

If a horse has flipped over, run his head into a solid object or had fractures, he needs to be evaluated.

“We can often do something at the actual time of trauma,” Dr. Dechant says. “But if a horse owner waits, thinking it will go away, often it just gets worse, and you are just more or less left with the horse you have at that point. There is not always a chance to fix something, but if there is a chance to fix it, earlier is better.”

No. 5 – Gums of a Different Color

The color of your horses’ gums can tell you quite a bit about his health. Dr. Dechant has seen gums that are white, pink, red, yellow and even blue.

Bright red gums usually indicate endotoxemia. Basically the horse with bright red gums is very, very sick and in shock. Really pale to white gums can indicate anemia or shock from being sick or even internal bleeding. Yellow gums are a classic sign of liver disease but can also indicate other conditions. And blue gums (cyanotic) indicate your horse is not getting enough oxygen in the blood, usually due to lung disease.

Ulcers on the gums can be a sign of a variety of diseases, such as bute toxicity, abrasive feeds, toxins (blister beetles), and/or viral diseases (vesicular stomatitis). Other small signs in the mouth to look for are little wounds, little hemorrhages, little paint brushes of red and bleeding under gums, which can indicate a clotting disorder.

Know What You’re Getting

When your horse’s health – and your dollar – are on the line, using products that carry the Food and Drug Administration stamp is a surefire way to ensure it has been tested for safety and effectiveness.

“Taking chances with products that aren’t FDA-approved means you may have to go back to the drawing board for a real solution. Or worse, you could even be putting your horse’s health at risk,” says Dr. Hoyt Cheramie, manager of AQHA Corporate Partner Merial Veterinary Services. “Some horse owners may even believe that they are receiving FDA-approved products when, in fact, they may be paying for an illegally compounded product.”

This includes products claiming to treat or prevent equine stomach ulcers, Dr. Cheramie says. Because there are FDA-approved products, compounding pharmacies that offer stomach ulcer treatment or prevention may be producing an illegal product.

The FDA has noted that the availability of FDA-approved products greatly reduces the need for compounding, which may be reserved for specific patients requiring a strength or dosage form not available.

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Compounded omeprazoles may lack the consistency and effectiveness of FDA-approved products, and, therefore, owners using compounded omeprazole may not be addressing their horse’s health concern, Dr. Cheramie says.

Stomach ulcers can develop in a range of situations – from competition, to changes in routine – but the heart of the problem is acid production, and there are only two FDA-approved products proven to consistently and effectively suppress acid production at the acid pump for either prevention or treatment of stomach ulcers,” Dr. Cheramie says.

UlcerGard is the only FDA-approved product to prevent stomach ulcers, and GastroGard is the only FDA-approved product to heal stomach ulcers. The unique, patented formulation of the products helps ensure the omeprazole is stabilized to work effectively. While the products are dosed differently to either provide prevention or healing, both offer convenient once-daily administration that is well accepted by horses.

“Choosing products that are FDA-approved helps ensure that you’re not only providing the best medicine for your horses, but that you’re also making the most of every equine healthcare dollar,” Dr. Cheramie says. “Don’t take chances with horses’ health. Look for FDA-approved products that are proven safe and effective.”