Day: 7 June 2017


Controlling Parasites in your Horses

There are three groups of internal parasite which can damage the gut and cause disease in the horse. The information below will hopefully explain the importance of developing a good worming regime, using the appropriate products at the correct time:

ROUNDWORMS are grazed of f the pasture as microscopic larvae which bury their way through the gut and over many months migrate around certain organs of the body. They then return in the larval form to the wall of the intestine where they live for a while before bursting out into the gut to form adult worms which produce eggs to contaminate your pasture.

TAPEWORMS have an interesting life cycle which cannot be completed without an ‘intermediate host’ known as the harvest mite found on the pasture during the summer and autumn and to a lesser degree in hay. When the horse ingests the mite, the tapeworm is liberated in an immature form and over many weeks, changes into an adult tapeworm.

BOTS are a bee-like fly. Eggs are laid by the fly on the horse, mainly on the legs, which are ingested when the horse’s mouth comes into contact with the eggs. The eggs hatch by this process, the larvae bury their way through the back of the tongue and all the way down to the stomach, where they erupt and form masses of large grubs which cling to the stomach wall.

There are many different horse worming products on the market. We believe that EQUEST & EQUEST PRAMOX will provide the spectrum of ant parasitic cover necessary to protect your horse’s health.

Your worm control will only be as good as your management. Using the appropriate wormer, picking up droppings in the field, rotating your grazing fields, and ploughing, liming and reseeding every few years will help prevent worm infestation on the pasture. Any new horse introduced to a yard should be wormed with EQUEST and kept in a box or restricted paddock for a couple of days with collection and disposal of droppings prior to any introduction to communally grazed pasture. The following worming protocol is advised:

  • Winter/Summer: EQUEST (Adult and encysted roundworms / Bots)
  • Autumn/Spring: EQUEST PRAMOX (Adult and encysted roundworms / Bots/Tapeworms)

Remember to either keep the horse in for 24hours after worming or to make sure that ALL droppings are picked up ASAP. No worm product kills 100% of worms, hence the necessity to follow the above protocol.

Grass Sickness

Clinical signs are attributable mainly to stasis of the entire alimentary tract, and include depression, inability to swallow, lack of appetite, gastrointestinal distension and impaction, abdominal pain, sweating, elevated heart rate, muscular tremors, weight loss and drooping eyelids. There is no specific treatment for the disease. The majority of affected horses are euthanised on humane grounds, but some horses with mild chronic grass sickness may survive with intensive nursing care.

Acute Grass Sickness

This is the most serious. It is of rapid onset, the horse is severely distressed, has an elevated heart rate, and patchy sweating, may be dull and depressed. Moderate quantities of green fluid may be produced from the nostrils (this should always be considered a serious signs in a horse). There is lack of gut movements, and usually no faeces will be produced. There are often muscle twitches involving the muscle of both fore legs. Horses with acute grass sickness are often confused with colic, but rarely roll or go down. Veterinary attention is required urgently. Often when a stomach tube is passed a vast quantity of grass fluid will flow back. Destruction on humane grounds is the only option.

Subacute Grass Sickness

Affected animals rarely have gastric reflux (green discharge) but will show most of the signs displayed by the acute cases. An inability to swallow is a prominent sign along with drooping of the upper eyelid. Subacute cases are always fatal; the course of the disease is 2 – 7 days.

Chronic grass sickness. These cases are less severely affected than subacute cases and may be able to eat small amounts of food. Some of these horses may survive for considerable periods of time and may respond to treatment.

However many are left permanently damaged, and unfortunately euthanasia is the common outcome. Currently there is no way of treating this disease.

Risk factors include:

  1. Recently introduced to new pasture.
  2. Previous history of grass sickness on pasture.
  3. No hay or conserved feed being fed.
  4. Aged 2 to 7 years.
  5. Highest incidence April – July (but can occur all year

It must be stated however that all horses can be affected by grass sickness. Grass sickness is caused by widespread severe damage to the neurons (nerves) in the autonomic nervous system (this is the part of the nervous system that helps control the intestines).

Patchy sweating is common in all forms of grass sickness.

It is not possible to protect your horse 100% from grass sickness. The following advice may help:

  1. Always feed some conserved forage (hay) even when horses are turned out 24 hours a day.
  2. Don’t put horses in the at risk age group (2-7 years) out onto pasture where there has been previous cases.
  3. Make sure your horse is healthy with regular worming or fecal egg count monitoring.

The cause of grass sickness has remained a mystery for the last ninety years. Research workers have recently made some interesting advances, but there is still much left to find out about
grass sickness. We need to raise awareness and we need more funding for research.

Horse Vaccines: When and Why

We recommend that all horses are vaccinated to protect against Tetanus, Influenza, and the Herpes Virus. Below is a brief description of the diseases and their recommended vaccination regime:


Tetanus is a disease caused by a bacteria, that produces a toxin that attacks the nervous system of the horse leading to neurological signs in the horse which tend to be fatal.

Protection is achieved by two primary vaccinations approximately 1-2 months apart, followed by a third a year later. Boosters are required 18-24 months thereafter.


Influenza is caused by a virus. Signs exhibited by a horse with influenza can be high temperature and respiratory signs. Horses generally required long periods of rest due to the damaging effects on the lungs.

The primary course is 3 vaccinations: The interval between the 1st and 2nd shot are 3 weeks-3months and the interval between the 2nd and 3rd shot is 5-7 months. Boosters are required annually within 12 months. Note: Competitions under FEI regulations requires horses to be vaccinated on a 6 monthly basis.


This infection is caused by the herpes virus. There are several types of herpes virus but the most common type causes respiratory infection. Other types can cause abortion and paralysis in horses.

The recommended regime is 2 vaccinations 4 weeks apart and then a booster every 6 months. A separate protocol is required for pregnant mares.

If you need some more guidance on vaccines, please do give us a call.

Managing Your Pregnant Mare and Her Foal

As the day approaches for your mare to give birth to her foal, preparations should be made to create a warm and healthy environment. About 30 days prior to foaling, introduce the mare to the stall where she will foal, this allows her to produce protective antibodies against the microorganisms in the environment. She will then be able to pass these antibodies on to her foal in the colostrum.

Contacting your veterinarian a few days before your mare is expected to foal is advisable. A few signs that your mare is ready to foal include the following:

  • Enlarging of udder with “waxed beads??? of colostrum.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Swelling and relaxing of the vulva.
  • Relaxed croup muscles, producing a sunken appearance over the hips.
  • Mare can become restless and start to sweat.

Foaling The Mare

In stage one, the mare is restless. This may continue for 12 to 24 hours. During this period, the foetus is positioned for delivery and the cervix is dilated. The water bag ruptures at this stage which lubricates the birth canal and aides in delivery of the foal.

Stage two, the actual birth or hard labour. It is usually rapid, with most foals born in 20 to 30 minutes. Normally the foal’s front feet appear first, with heels pointed down toward the mare’s hocks. The foal’s hind feet usually remain in the mare 5 to 15 minutes after foaling, while the foal and mare lie resting. In a normal delivery, the foal’s nose should be lying on or about the knees. One front leg usually is slightly forward of the other, speeding the foal’s movement through the birth canal. After the head exits the vulva, you may see a clear, transparent membrane, which covers the legs and head. If this membrane does not rupture and free the foal’s head, open it and free the head so the foal can breathe. It’s best not to disturb them while the umbilical cord is still connected.

Premature breaking of the umbilical cord by the mare, foal, or human intervention may result in a loss of very important fetal blood supply.

In stage three, the uterus shrinks and the placenta (afterbirth) is expelled normally without assistance. Never try to remove the placenta. If the placenta is still attached after 2 hours, call your veterinarian because it may result in a medical emergency.

After Foaling Care

It’s advised to monitor the mare and foal closely for the first 72 hours as it’s important that the dam and foal bond. It’s advisable to attend the foaling of all maiden mares to ensure safe delivery and bonding. If the mare does not accept the foal readily, you may need to restrain the mare and ensure that the foal nurses.

Mares are usually thirsty after foaling. Offer your mare slightly warm water; but do not let her drink too much at once. She also may be hungry, a wet mash is advised.

Allow the mare and foal outside for exercise in a small paddock or pasture the day after birth. Exercise may aid the mare in expelling uterine discharge and speeds the return of the uterus to normal condition. If there is a foul-smelling uterine discharge, this indicates a uterine infection, which requires veterinary attention.

A swollen, hot udder is an indication the foal has not nursed or the mare may have mastitis. If the foal has not nursed within the first 2 hours, there may be a problem and veterinary advice should be sought. It is essential the foal gets this first milk, called colostrum, as it contains the antibodies the foal will need to protect it from infectious disease.

It is always a good idea to have the vet check over the mare and foal shortly after foaling. At this time, an injection can be given to the foal to protect it from Tetanus as well as, if necessary, an enema can be given if it has not yet passed the meconium (first faeces).

Foaling is an incredible experience that is worth careful consideration. Allowing your mare to breed requires a strong dedication to the process. By ensuring that you are able to provide your mare with the necessary elements for a healthy pregnancy, you can aid your mare in the foaling process and reduce the risk of complications.

Providing your mare with an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals, exercise, good quality health care and a safe environment will make the process easier and more enjoyable for both you and your mare.

Foal Septicaemia

Septicaemia is one of the most serious conditions in foals, and unfortunately a relatively common occurrence in neonates. It is caused by infection of the bloodstream which causes inflammation all over the body. As soon as a foal is born it is exposed to bacteria. Two of the most vulnerable areas for bacteria to enter a newborn’s system are through its navel area and through its mouth. Therefore it is vital that two things occur shortly after birth: the navel is disinfected with a gentle iodine and the foal must receive the mare’s first milk (colostrum). It is from the mare’s colostrum that the newborn receives vital antibody protection against bacteria.

It is extremely important to observe newborn foals in the first 24 hours as this is when symptoms of Septicaemia will often show up. An unhealthy foal will go downhill very quickly and without veterinary care may die in a matter of hours.

A healthy foal will be exploring it’s surrounding, not be shy about trying out its legs, take frequent naps but be up and alert again after that. The septic foal will just slowly decline, want to sleep all the time, and become less responsive to stimulation.

There are a lot of different clinical signs that can be associated with Septicaemia. Most affected foals will have several of these signs, but not necessarily all of them. Some of these signs can also be caused by other problems, but remember that a newborn foal with problems of virtually any kind is at higher risk for developing Septicaemia. Signs of Septicaemia may include:

  • Depression
  • Lack of suckle reflex (normal foals should try to suck on a person’s fingers or a bottle nipple if placed in the foal’s mouth)
  • Fever (too high a temperature), or hypothermia (too low a temperature)
  • High heart rate (most new born foals have a heart rate between 80-120 beats per minute)
  • High respiratory rate or trouble breathing
  • Gums and lips an abnormal colour (e.g. dark red or purplish)
  • Swollen, painful joint(s)
  • Cloudy eyes (i.e. anterior uveitis)
  • Seizure activity if the brain is inflamed
  • Lack of urine production or renal failure

In most cases, the appropriate action to take if you have a foal with any combination of these signs is to call your veterinarian as soon as possible. A sick neonatal foal is an emergency.


Sarcoids are the most common form of equine skin tumour, they are classified as low grade fibrosarcomas (tumours). Although common, sarcoids vary greatly in appearance and size and the nature in which they grow and the response to treatment. It is this variability which makes them such a challenge for owners and vets to manage and treat. Certain breeds are more commonly affected with thoroughbreds being over represented. Geldings appear to be more commonly affected than mares. Although a tumour, sarcoids do not spread internally. Sarcoids may rise at any site on the skin but most commonly at sites where flies land; chest, groin, sheath, belly and around the face as well as at sites of previous or current wounds. The majority of cases arise between the years 3 to 6 of age, however they may appear later in life. It is thought that flies play a role in the spread of sarcoids between horses.

There are various types:


Appear as hairless grey scaly , rough circular patches of mildly thickened skin. They are the least distinctive and often mistaken for rubs or ringworm.

Verrucous (warty) sarcoids

Wart like in their appearance and often greyish in colour. They are usually slow growing and not aggressive however any interference or trauma may result in these lesions changing to a more aggressive form of sarcoid. They are commonly found around the face, armpit and sheath regions of the body. They may appear singularly or coalesce into groups forming larger lesions.

Nodular sarcoids

Firm and nodular in nature these sarcoids are more common in the eyelid, armpit, inside thigh and groin regions. Often the nodules are freely mobile under the skin although they may be attached to overlying skin. The overlying skin is usually normal but may start to thin and ulcerate. They may remain static in size for many years but can become aggressive if interfered.


Fibroblastic sarcoids are often aggressive and have a fleshy granulomatous appearance.  Sometimes they are pedunculated but can also be firmly attached.  Fibroblastic sarcoids can also develop on wounds and may closely resemble proud flesh.


This is the most aggressive form of sarcoid and most commonly affects the face, elbow and inside thigh regions of the body. Can spread over a wider area and quickly grow in size. They appear like ulcerated nodules but tending to group into larger bundles. This form of sarcoid is more difficult to treat but is rarer.

There may be lesions/sarcoids that display qualities of two or more sarcoid types. It is important to note that no two sarcoids are the same and treatment and response to treatment may vary between sarcoids.


There are a range of treatment options available, dependent on type of tumor, location of the tumor and your budget.  Common treatment methods include the use of creams such as Liverpool Cream, the use of a ring around the tumour, supplements and / or laser treatment and / or a range of alternative therapies.

If you think your horse may be suffering from sarcoids, please give the practice a call so that we can review and consider if treatment is recommended.

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