Equine Infectious Anemia – is your horse safe ?

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Horses are beautiful and strong creatures, but they still depend on their owners to keep them healthy. One disease horse owners should be aware of is Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), a virus that can destroy red blood cells, causing weakness, anemia, and death.

Michelle Coleman, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained how the disease is spread.

“EIA is an infectious viral disease,” Coleman said. “The most common mode of transmission of EIA is by the transfer of virus-infected blood-feeding insects, such as horse flies. It can also be transmitted through the use of blood-contaminated syringes, surgical equipment, or the transfusion of infected blood or blood products. Although uncommon, transmission can also occur through the placenta in infected mares.”

There is no treatment, or safe and effective vaccine, available for this disease, so horses that are positive for EIA should be isolated from other horses. Most horses infected with EIA also do not show any signs of illness or disease, so it is important to constantly maintain good hygiene and disinfection principles, such as controlling insects in the horse’s environment.

If you plan on traveling with your horse, all horses shipped across state lines must be tested for EIA and have a negative result within 12 months of transport. Furthermore, all horses sold, traded, donated, or entering a sale or auction must test negative for the disease. Fortunately, regulatory control of EIA has made this disease relatively uncommon in the United States. read more

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5 sound tips on wrapping and bandaging a #horse’s leg

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At some point, nearly every horse will need a leg wrap or bandage. But an inappropriate bandage can cause as many problems as a well-applied one can prevent, warns Jeff Hall, senior equine technical services veterinarian at Zoetis animal health. So, before you reach for the nearest roll of VetRap, review these basics:

1. Evaluate the need. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, situations where leg bandages are beneficial to your horse include:
 providing support for tendons and ligaments during strenuous workouts
 preventing or reducing swelling after exercise or injury
 protecting legs from impact
 shielding wounds from contamination and assisting in healing

For more severe cases or if you are in doubt, it’s always wise to consult your veterinarian.

2. Keep your horse and yourself calm. If your horse is nervous, frightened or won’t cooperate, you’re not as likely to be cool and calm either. Your horse — not you — may need a little help to calm down.

That’s why Hall advises using a mild sedative. Dormosedan gel is a safe, effective product available by prescription from your veterinarian. It’s an FDA-approved oral sedative to be administered underneath the horse’s tongue via an easy-to-use dosing syringe. Note, however, it’s not labeled for use in a number of situations and equine health issues.

3. Now that all parties are “cool,” clean. “Its best if the leg is clean and dry prior to applying the bandage,” notes Hall. Shavings, straw, dirt and moisture can irritate the skin and increase the risk of a wound becoming infected.

4. Now comes the wrap. Wrap the leg evenly and firmly, but not too tightly. Use uniform pressure, as you want an even distribution of compression along the leg. Uneven tension in a bandage’s securing layers can potentially cause tendon damage.

Avoid incorporating frayed bits of padding that contain wrinkles or bunches. These can cause pressure points under a bandage. Overlap layers of bandage by 50% to avoid having edges of the wrap digging into the leg.

5. Be ready to quickly back off. For safety, avoid kneeling or sitting on the ground while bandaging and wrapping. Instead, crouch and always be ready to move out of the way if necessary. read more…

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A graceful horse finds her health

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If you want to understand how animals flow in and out of the place where I live, you have to pay close attention.

In the past few months, our entourage has expanded, which puts us up to nine four-footed beings under the care of four humans, not always a great ratio.

The newest addition is a matronly Tennessee walking horse named Anna Grace.

She’s tall and proud and moves with that elegant gait that sets apart her breed. She is almost entirely black, with some small white spots on her back that I wouldn’t swear aren’t age-generated rather than genetics.

She is, after all, about 26 years old — or pretty darned old in human years.

When she arrived at Little Bit O’ Farm this spring, Anna Grace didn’t seem so tall and proud.

She was emaciated, her ribs showing in that manner that indicates sad neglect, and she seemed to drag along with a sadness that made you wonder if her next step might be into a grave.

Anna Grace was placed with us by those kind miracle workers at Red Dog Farm in Summerfield. They had rescued her from the neglectful owners, and she needed to be nursed to health.

Where better than at a home where adopted animals roam?

So she arrived with a regimen. We put her in a 2-acre paddock that gave her lots of grass and room to roam, and she was put on a diet that contained enough vitamins and calories to propel a race horse or an Olympic weight lifter.

Twice a day, in addition to all she grass she wanted to eat, Anna Grace was served a concoction of high-protein grain geared for senior horses mixed with something called beet pulp, about 5 pounds in all, and then that was saturated with fresh water before being served to her.

And she quickly became used to that diet.

Each morning and evening she made it a habit when she saw humans around to jog up the fence along the driveway to just across from the garage. She would neigh loudly and sometimes even sprint back and forth like a dog wanting his bowl refilled.

When she saw the mixing bucket come out and her personal caterer headed for the hose and feed bucket, she would sprint back in that direction, then spin and sprint back and forth a couple of times, again bucking and sometimes expelling some gas. Did I say she acted like a dog?

Now Anna Grace is a sweet and lovable horse who is used to being around humans, but don’t you go trying to pet her head while she is starting to eat. She wants to concentrate on her primary role in life, and if you touch her, she yanks up her head as if to rid it of marauding horse flies. Read more…

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Vaccinate horses against Hendra

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EQUINE Veterinarians Australia is urging horse owners to vaccinate their horses against the deadly Hendra virus following three new confirmed cases in just four weeks.

President of EVA, Dr Ben Poole, said it’s critical that horses located in and around high-risk Hendra areas are vaccinated against Hendra virus.

“Another three horses in NSW have died from this preventable disease, which poses serious health risks not just to horses, but humans as well,” Dr Poole said.

From 1994, when the virus was first identified, to August 2017, there have been 60 known Hendra incidents resulting in the death of 102 horses.

During this period, Queensland has recorded 40 incidents and NSW has had 20.

“Every one of these horses that has died because of Hendra represents one more compelling reason for horse owners to vaccinate their horses,” Dr Poole said.

“The risk this disease poses to human health is also very real and it is important that the equine community remains vigilant in protecting horses and people from Hendra,” Dr Poole said.

Since the first outbreak was recorded in 1994, there have been seven confirmed cases in people, all of whom had significant contact with horse body fluids.

Of those who tested positive for Hendra, four sadly died from the disease, including two veterinarians.

Dr Poole said the vaccine is the most effective way to minimise the risk of Hendra virus. The vaccine is fully registered by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.

“Vaccination is the most effective way to ensure high standards of horse health and welfare while also protecting veterinarians, horse handlers and owners from contracting this deadly virus.

“Hendra virus is impossible to diagnose without laboratory testing. The signs of this disease can be extremely variable. When your horse is vaccinated against Hendra virus, the probability of your horse having the disease is extremely low and therefore is more likely to receive timely and appropriate therapies.

“We need to remember that right across the country, there are thousands of equine events every year. These events bring together a large number of horses from a wide range of geographical locations, and this compounds the risks associated with Hendra virus infection if horses have not been vaccinated,” Dr Poole said. read more…

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Trailering horses correctly for healthier, happier horse

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Trailering of horses has dramatically increased in frequency over the last decade with horses travelling to and from sales, competitions, shows, trail riding, equine vacations, breeding and more. Some travel may be as short as an hour while other trips may involve many hours, perhaps even a few days of trailering.

Considerable physical, psychological, and emotional pressure is placed upon the “trailered” horse and many horses experience significant stress associated with transport. Their immune, digestive, musculoskeletal and hormonal systems are affected not only during transport but for hours, or even days after the trailering event.

Trailer loading of horses is the subject of many articles, forums, chapters and books. Perhaps rather than asking, “how to load the horse into the trailer,” it would be prudent to consider that the horse’s protest to enter the trailer may be its only means of communicating a problem which has nothing to do with “loading up.” The horse may actually have a good reason to protest entry into the trailer even if we cannot clearly connect to its reasoning.

The trailer ride itself is an “experience and/or environment” in which he/she is not used to.” If the horse feels uncomfortable or unsafe in the trailer it will resist entry and re-entry. After the horse loads into the trailer for the first time it will be the trailer environment which will establish his/her future comfort with loading.

The best way for a person to empathize with the horse’s experience of trailering is to ride inside the trailer while it is in motion — just as the horse does. A trailer in motion has many dynamics — accelerating, decelerating, stopping, and turning corners. Each dynamic places unique musculoskeletal demands upon the horse to balance itself. Abrupt accelerations, decelerations and sharp turns are particularly demanding as the horse often scrambles to keep its balance. The more frequent and abrupt the movements the more likely the horse is to feel unsafe and anxious. Therefore, driver technique has a significant impact on the horse’s experience while in transport.

The horse needs ample room and secure footing to be sure footed during travel. Poor footing and slippery surfaces quickly unsettle even the most seasoned of horses. A bed of shavings on the floor of a trailer offers the horse a clean and secure footing surface. Shavings also sponge urine and fecal matter expressed during travel which in turn improves air quality inside the trailer.

Horses travelling untethered in an open-concept trailer will quickly assume a rearward position once the trailer sets in motion. Research has shown that horses travelling in this manner are less physically stressed, better able to balance and brace themselves and vocalized less than forward-facing horses. In addition, horses moved in open stalls without head restraint were less likely to suffer from dehydration and immune system dysfunction during and after travel.

Horses are tied during trailering for a number of reasons — style of trailer, number and compatibility of animals travelling together, duration of haul, etc. Yet whenever possible allow the horses to take advantage of whatever room there is to carry their heads in a natural posture. If necessary, long-tie the horse enabling it to rest its head at a comfortably low-hanging level facilitating sinus clearing and airway drainage. Ties with quick-release snaps are a valuable safety consideration in case of an emergency.

Any covering placed upon the horse during transport, whether it be blankets, sheets, shipping boots or tack compromises the horse’s ability to dissipate heat and can add to the horse’s discomfort. The muscular activity associated with maintaining balance during transport produces considerable internal heat which the horse must dissipate in order to thermoregulate properly. Warm temperatures will markedly amplify the risk of heat stress to the horse. Heat stress contributes to dehydration, weakens the immune system, and fatigues the horse. Heat stress is a significant concern for horses travelling during the summer months leading to dehydration, colic, and exhaustion. Be sure to stop frequently to allow horses a break from the trailer and to offer water.

Bell boots are a simple, inexpensive and effective means of protecting the vulnerable coronary band from hoof strike and/or a misstep that may incur during loading, travel and unloading.

Vigilant attention to air quality inside the trailer offsets the risks associated with stagnant air, accumulating exhaust fumes and excessive heat. Keeping the trailer as clean as possible minimizes the risk of pathogens overwhelming a respiratory system weakened by trailer stress.

Provide ample water, adequate hay and no grain to the travelling horse.

Dehydration is a common side-effect of shipping that can lead to other more serious problems. Offering hay for the horse during travel helps retain water in the gut during transit and adds to the hospitality and comfort quotient of the trailer. Grain feeds, on the other hand, stress gut function and increase the possibility of colic.

Periodically stop and unload horses every four to six hours in a secure area. This allows the horse not only a physical but a mental break. Remember, the horse has no concept that the trailer ride will end, especially during the initial few experiences. Even stopping for 15-20 minutes will give the horse a rest from the balancing necessary when the trailer is in motion. read more…

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Vaccinate Horses against West Nile Virus

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It’s that time of year again. West Nile virus (WNV) has been detected in mosquitoes in Salt Lake County, Utah. Now is the time for area horse owners to call their veterinarian for appropriate vaccinations for your work, pleasure, and companion equine partners.

West Nile is transmitted to horses via bites from infected mosquitoes. Clinical signs for WNV include flulike signs, where the horse seems mildly anorexic and depressed; fine and coarse muscle and skin fasciculation; hyperesthesia (hypersensitivity to touch and sound); changes in mentation (mentality), when horses look like they are daydreaming or “just not with it”; occasional somnolence (drowsiness); propulsive walking (driving or pushing forward, often without control); and “spinal” signs, including asymmetrical weakness. Some horses show asymmetrical or symmetrical ataxia. Equine mortality rate can be as high as 30-40%.

There are a multitude of vaccinations available for equids, but that doesn’t mean your horse needs all of them. It is best to develop a program or plan with your local veterinarian that reflects what your animals’ specific needs are based on risk of disease even if you vaccinate them yourself. Some basic parameters to consider are the animal’s use, location, age, and lifestyle, such whether they travel to shows and other venues or remain on the ranch or farm.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) considers several vaccines “core,” meaning nearly all horses should receive them each year. These vaccines include those that protect against tetanus, Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, WNV, and rabies. The AAEP considers other vaccines “risk-based.” Veterinarians recommend risk-based vaccines depending on the horse’s region, population, and disease risk. These include: anthrax, botulism, equine herpesvirus type 1 and 4, equine viral arteritis, equine influenza, Potomac horse fever, rotaviral diarrhea, snakebite, and strangles.

If your animal has never had a particular vaccination, he or she might require more than one shot to build the proper immune response and then receive periodic boosters after the initial series. The vaccinations should be given at least two weeks before exposed to an anticipated risk. It is important to remember vaccines are designed to reduce disease but not necessarily eliminate them. They should be used as “one tool in the toolbox” to accompany good management strategies and biosecurity practices. read more…

EQUI-NILE WITH HAVLOGEN WNV SYRINGE - IML
EQUI-NILE WITH HAVLOGEN WNV SYRINGE – IML

How Equine Diets Affect the Immune System in Horses?

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The role of diet in general health is fairly obvious; you eat well, you exercise enough, and hopefully your body has the fuel it needs to help protect you into a long life.

Christina Inserillo says, “The same basic principle, unsurprisingly, applies to animals. Horses, in particular, are known for their susceptibility to certain illnesses; things like tetanus, sleeping sickness, influenza, rhino-pneumonitis, West Nile Virus, rabies, strangles, and arthritis are unfortunately not as uncommon as we would like.”

However, it is thought that by supplementing the diet of healthy horses with the appropriate foods they need to source the nutrients required for a functioning immune system, you can help protect them in the long-term.

One student currently working towards her graduate degree in animal health has been looking into the subject as part of her studies. Now an expert in the area, Christina Inserillo has been riding horses for years and competed in many competitions. Her childhood love for the animals has led her on to her current path, where she hopes to make a significant positive impact in helping horses around the globe stay healthy.

While it’s less clear whether horses suffering from illness can make a recovery thanks to a good diet, science over the last three decades has allowed equine nutritionists to expand on their knowledge of how horses digest food and use it to stay healthy.

At the 15th Annual Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Conference in Hunt Valley, Maryland in April this year, one nutritionist presented on the topic. Lori Warren, PHd, PAS, who is an Equine Nutritionist at the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Florida, spoke at length about how food affects horses.

“The processes of digestion and immunity are interwoven,” said Warren. “Over 70% of immunity is associated with the digestive system.”

To simplify, she explained how the immune system works on a fundamental level. First, it has two main components: one is the innate immune system, and the other is the adaptive immune system.

The innate system provides the first line of defense in fighting pathogens (organisms which cause disease) and is kind of an “umbrella” or “catch-all” system; more of a jack-of-all-trades than a specialist. All of us are born with this innate system, and it continues to work – more or less – the same way for as long as we exist.

The adaptive system, on the other hand, is trained by its own experiences. It starts to store and recall information on pathogens it interacts with so that it can fight them faster the next time they’re encountered.

While it does do a lot of work on its own, it is possible to boost the adaptive system by using what we know as vaccinations. These can be a quick way to boost the immune system, but – of course – can only be used to protect against certain illnesses.

In this way, the innate and adaptive systems coordinate an effort to help protect a horse’s health.

In recent years, though, it has become particularly common for horse owners to purchase nutritional supplements in the hope that they’ll boost the immune systems of their pets. Whether or not these supplements are genuinely as effective as it would seem, it’s still unclear.

Warren herself has said that more research needs to be done on foods which treat digestive health, specifically on probiotics in horses.

The ambiguity in the topic stems from the fact that researchers are not yet able to properly analyze the immune system of horses to determine what effects the food they eat have. One possible solution to this is for them to compromise the health – or challenge the needs of – the immune system of healthy horses.

An alternative proposal is to test particularly nutritional foods and nutritional supplements on horses which may already have compromised health (which is often a consequence of stress caused during transport, weaning stress, or exposure to inflammatory agents).

However, as basic as their current understanding may be, it has been established that there are several nutrients which will – to some extent – benefit the health of equine animals. This list is relatively broad, and includes things like fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Researchers have also documented the results of fat and fiber in the immune systems of horses, and Omega-3 fatty acids have already exhibited positive effects, most notably when it comes to their anti-inflammatory properties with respect to osteoarthritis and inflammatory airway disease.

Similarly, functional fibers (found in probiotic-rich foods such as beet pulp and oat hulls) can help to battle pathogenic bacteria in the gut by assisting bacteria to produce significant volumes of volatile fatty acids. Read more…

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