Horse Health


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.

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.


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.



Laminitis is a painful inflammatory condition of the tissues (laminae) that bond the hoof wall to the pedal bone in the horses hoof. It can affect any horse, of any age or sex, at any time of the year. Laminitis is caused by weakening of the supporting lamina within the hoof, leading to painful tearing of the support structure suspending the pedal bone within the hoof.



Acknowledgments: Illustrations and format- JamesOrsini, Dvm ACVS. Equine Laminitis in McGraw-Hill yearbook of science and technology. 2008, 114-118.

The level of pain a horse demonstrates does not necessarily indicate either laminitis or founder. Some horses show tremendous pain while they are laminitic, and others show very little.There are many, many different causes of laminitis and it is a common misconception that laminitis is caused by over-eating grass only. We occasionally see laminitis in horses on box rest, or on very limited turnout. There are often a number of factors surrounding the onset and exacerbation of an episode of laminitis.

The type of grazing can be important. Nowadays, many ponies are liveried on land once used for cattle. This type of grazing may have been heavily fertilised and re-sown with particular species of grass which are not ideally suited to horses and ponies. Poor grass which is stressed by such things as an overnight frost or overgrazing will result in the formation of a type of sugar known as fructan in the grass, it is this type of sugar that can directly cause laminitis.
Occasionally, laminitis can develop in one limb where the opposite limb is painful for another reason. This is particularly a problem in heavy horses if they are affected by a foot abscess; the foot abscess causes the opposing limb to take more weight that it is accustomed to, resulting in laminitis.

Equine Cushing’s Disease, also known as PPID, is a very common disease in equine animals from their mid-teens onwards, although it can be seen in animals as young as eight years old. The laminitis which develops secondary to PPID is very difficult to control unless the underlying disease is also treated. Owners with older horses and ponies should be extra careful about their animal’s weight and liaise with us, to discuss blood testing for PPID, and develop a suitable nutritional strategy.

Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), is another disease of overweight ponies and horses that leads to insulin resistance, and therefore an increased risk of laminitis. In cases of laminitis, we will often blood test for signs of EMS as well as Cushings disease.

Delays between foot trimming or shoeing are an important cause of stress and damage to the laminae. Regular visits by the farrier will also pick up the early warning signs of laminitis.

Laminitis usually affects both front feet but can occasionally affect one foot and occasionally hind feet. In most instances the affected animal will shift its weight from one limb to another, will be reluctant to move, may lie down and there is sometimes heat in the hooves with an increased ‘digital pulse’. A digital pulse can be difficult to find, but please ask one of our vets to show you how to find them next time we are with your horse. In milder cases, there may be only a slight change in the animal’s gait, moving in a ‘pottering’ fashion. These animals will go on to deteriorate further, unless they are rested and treated correctly.

It is absolutely essential that you contact your vet should your horse or pony show signs of laminitis. The treatment of this disease is time consuming and can be difficult, with a poor outcome in some cases.

There are a variety of medicines which can be used to help settle the pain, and reduce the ongoing damage. Box rest is extremely essential. The box should be well bedded down, over the entire surface area of the stable. At Shotter and Byers we aim to make as rapid a diagnosis as possible, and get your pony or horse in frog support pads as soon as possible, to reduce the pain and the damage being caused by the laminitis. Over time, It is absolutely crucial that the affected animal loses weight in a controlled fashion and we strive to work closely with our clients, to make this as easy as possible.

Horses or ponies with laminitis should not be forced to walk or be exercised. Affected animals must not have their feet placed in cold baths, streams or ice unless under veterinary direction. Do not starve overweight horses in an attempt at inducing rapid weight loss.

Clearly prevention is preferable to treating the disease, and the key to the prevention of laminitis is weight control. Being overweight is the most important known risk factor for the development of laminitis. Just being fat will not in itself cause the disease, but it puts the animal at such a high risk of succumbing to laminitis that any additional stress (such as transport or inclement weather) could cause the full blown disease. If you are concerned about your animal’s weight, then please speak to us.

Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO)

Recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) is a common condition in many different types of horses. It is a performance limiting problem commonly caused by an allergic respiratory response. Signs include:
– chronic cough
– nasal discharge
– increased respiratory rate (tachypnoea) and effort (dyspnoea)

Episodes of RAO are usually caused by exposure of susceptible animals to common allergens. The most common culprits are organic dusts mwhen horses are stabled, bedded on straw, and fed hay (in particular round bales). Removal of these causal agents will usually result in remission of any signs. It most commonly starts at around 9 years of age, although 12% of mature horses have some degree of allergen induced lower airway inflammation. There is no breed or gender predilection, but there does seem to be a heritable component to susceptibility.

Clinical Signs

Signs of RAO include flared nostrils, increased respiratory rate (tachypnoea), cough and if the problem has been going on for long enough then the horse can have a heave line. Breathing usually includes a prolonged, laboured expiratory phase. Usually a cough is heard when the horse is exercised or being fed. Mildly affected horses may present with minimal signs at rest but coughing and exercise intolerance are noted during increased performance.

Some horses can demonstrate signs during summer, which, usually indicates sensitivity to pollens and certain moulds and this is called summer pasture-associated obstructive pulmonary disease. Management of this is similar to RAO except with the addition of pasture avoidance.


Most commonly diagnosis is made on clinical exam and history alone, routine blood samples are commonly unhelpful in this scenario, x-rays of the chest are also not commonly not beneficial. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) is usually not required in horses with obvious clinical signs and can be contra-indicated in horses with breathing difficulties at rest.


The most important aspect of treating RAO is to limit exposure to the causal agents. Medical treatment will stop the signs and symptoms but these will return as soon as it is stopped if management chenges haven’t been put in place. Medical treatment consists of a combination of drugs to open up the airways (bronchodilators) and steroids to reduce inflammation.

Equine Metabolic Syndrome – Feeding

What should I feed my horse with Equine Metabolic Syndrome

The goals of treatment are:

  • Induce weight loss in obese horses
  • Improve insulin sensitivity through weight loss, diet and exercise
  • Avoid dietary triggers for laminitis

Help your horse lose weight

Main methods of weight loss are:

  1. Calorie control/ reduction
  2. Reduce dietary glucose
  3. Increase exercise if possible

A weight loss of 500-700g a day and a loss of 1-2 Body Condition Score points over 12 weeks can be expected with a reasonable weight loss program.

Firstly, eliminate or greatly reduce pasture access. Turning out horses during early morning, on cloudy days, shady paddocks or using a grazing muzzle can help reduce their carbohydrate intake.  However, access to pasture is risky for metabolic horses so it may be safer to remove all grazing while on a weight loss program.

Without any access to grazing, metabolic horses should be fed no less than 1.2% of their bodyweight of a moderate quality grass hay divided into multiple meals.

Soaking grass hay for 30 minutes in hot water or 60 minutes in cold water can reduce the soluble carbohydrate levels further. However it should be noted that this can also remove other nutrients from the hay which should be replaced with a supplement or small amount of low starch hard feed.

Even without soaking their hay, a mineral supplement or low starch ration balancer may still be of benefit while on a reduced feed ration to ensure all your horses’ nutritional requirements are met. Our Multi Vitamin Supplement was designed with this scenario in mind.

You should monitor their weight loss closely using Body Condition Scoring (BCS) and a weigh tape so you can adjust the diet accordingly. (See BCS post)

For metabolic horses you should aim for a final BCS between 4-5, with the more chronically laminitic horses being maintained closer to 4. Some ponies may never reach a 5 or less making 6 acceptable.

Once this target is reached the forage portion of their diet can increased to 1.5-2 percent of their bodyweight to maintain their weight and prevent any gains or further loses.

Once a metabolic horse has been stabilised they may tolerate some grazing, providing they are monitored closely for signs of EMS.

Gaining Weight

If your metabolic horse needs to gain weight, the extra calories should come from an increase in dietary fibre and fat. This can be done by increasing their hay ration or adding in a low starch hard feed.  The addition of oil (such as canola/corn oil) can be a great way to increase the calories from fat within your horses’ diet, starting with a quarter cup and slowly increasing it to around one cup a day.

If you have any questions regarding your horse and metabolic disease or any other topics please call us today.





Ringworm is one of the top 10 most common skin diseases in the horse and is more common in young horses.  It is a superficial fungal infection effecting the epidermal layer of the skin.

It is highly contagious and caused by both Microsporum and Trichophyton species of fungi, some of these are specific to horses whereas others can be passed to other animals and humans.

The spore stage of the fungi is very resistant and can survive in the environment for months to years if the conditions are favourable


  • Small areas of tufted hair similar to urticaria (hives) initially
  • Circular areas of hair loss usually 1-10cm in diameter
  • Moderate reddening of the skin may be visible in white horses
  • Broken hair shafts around lesions with thick crusting
  • Minimal itching
  • Lesions may spontaneously heal and begin to grow hair from the centre outwards.
  • The mane and tail are usually spared


Diagnosis is made by a fungal culture of hairs sampled from the edges of the lesions.  Fungal culture is hard to perform as there is a high chance of contamination interrupting the culturing process.


Ringworm is a self limiting disease meaning it will eventually resolve itself without treatment. However, the contagious nature of the disease often requires it to be treated to prevent its spread.

The best treatment is usually a full body topical application of a veterinary antifungal lotion or solution (such as enilconazole or 2% lime sulfur) two times a week for at least 3-4 weeks.  Oral antifungal medicine (such as Grisofulvin) is not as effective at treating Ringworm but may be used in addition to a topical treatment.


If you have a confirmed or suspected case of Ringworm it is important to prevent transmission of the disease to other people or animals. A licensed antifungal disinfectant should be used to decontaminate the horses stall and any contaminated grooming or yard equipment.  Diluted bleach water can be used as an alternative disinfectant for equipment if a licensed product is not immediately available.

If you are worried your horse has contracted ringworm, or have questions, please call us to discuss on 01306 627 706.




Pinworms are a common topic for questions from our clients.  They are not harmful to your horse but their lifecycle can cause significant irritation.

Pinworms, Oxyuris equi, are small roundworms that live in your horses large intestine.  The females migrate from here to the anus where they lay their eggs on the skin surrounding it. It is these sticky eggs that irritate your horse and can cause them to rub and itch around the base of their tail and anus.  These eggs can hatch and be infective within a few days or drop off and remain dormant for months in the environment.

How do I know if my horse has pinworms

Unlike many other worms, pinworms cannot be detected using a faecal egg count.

  • Your horse may be itchy around their tail base and anus
  • Eggs are sometimes visible around the anus as a yellow, sticky mass.
  • Your vet can perform and adhesive tape test and identify the pinworm eggs with a microscope.

How do I treat for pinworms?

Pinworms are sensitive to the same drugs that you would use in a regular worming program. Ivermectin, moxidectin, fenbendazole and pyrantel are all usually effective.  If you are treating for pinworm you should also wash your horses perineal region (anus and area under their tail) regularly to remove any existing eggs.


Mud Fever

Mud Fever

It’s that time of year where mud fever is a problem many horse owners will be faced with.  Mud fever or pastern dermatitis is a common bacterial infection usually seen on the heel bulbs and back of the pastern.  There is usually a dominant bacteria such as Dermatophilus congolensis but the condition is frequently a complex mix of different bacterial and fungal species.

What does mud fever look like?

  • Matted hair with crusting and scabs
  • Small, ulcerated, moist lesions
  • Thick, creamy, yellow/white/green discharge
  • Deep cracks in the skin
  • Hair loss (alopecia)
  • Heat, pain, swelling with possible associated lameness

What can cause mud fever?

  • Soil type – some soils can predispose horses to mud fever so outbreaks on yards can be common
  • Prolonged damp – either in the field or from deep, dirty, wet bedding.
  • Feathering – heavy feathering can predispose horses to infestation with Chorioptes mites (feather mites) which can increase the risk of mud fever.
  • Trauma to the skin can provide an entry point for the bacteria
  • White limbs have been suggested to be more susceptible to mud fever

How do you treat mud fever?

  1. Clip the affected area – remove the hair so the skin can dry out. Removing feathers also allows you to better access the skin to treat and inspect it.
  2. Wash with an antimicrobial and antibacterial shampoo or scrub, such as Malaseb or dilute hibiscrub then rinse and dry thoroughly. Continue once daily for 1 week.
  3. Gentle removal of softened scabs can help to decontaminate the area. Do not remove dry or well adhered scabs as this can leave an open wound in the skin and predispose to further infection.
  4. Apply an antibacterial cream such as Flamazine to the affected area twice daily. Our own antibiotic Mud Fever solution is very effective at treating even the worst of mud fever.

When should I call my vet?

  • If your horse becomes lame
  • The condition continues to get worse or does not show any sign of improvement
  • There is swelling of the area or leg
  • You have any other worries

 Please don’t hesitate to call us today if you have any concerns or questions regarding the health of your horse

Gastric Ulcers

Gastric Ulcers

Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) is an incredibly common disease of horses, particularly for those in training.  There are two main classifications, squamous ulcers caused by excess acid exposure and glandular ulcers which are less well understood.

Risk factors for EGUS

  • Transportation
  • Stress
  • Intermittent feeding
  • Racing/ competition
  • Intense training
  • Large amounts of concentrate feed
  • Illness
  • Stable confinement

Symptoms of gastric ulcers

There a large number of possible symptoms of gastric ulcers, these are a few of the more common ones:

  • Poor coat
  • Colic- particularly immediately after eating
  • Poor body condition
  • Poor appetite
  • Poor performance
  • Change in behaviour
  • Girthing pain
  • Chronic diarrhoea


The most accurate and useful method of diagnosis is gastroscopy. Gastroscopy provides a visual assessment of the ulcers, allowing a suitable treatment plan to be designed and for progress to be monitored.

We have a portable gastroscope that we can bring to your horse, saving the stress of transporting them to a clinic.


Omeprazole is currently the only licensed medication for the treatment of ulcers in the UK. Luckily it is usually very effective if a reliable formulation is used.  There are a few other adjunctive treatments available which are discussed in the gastric ulcer blog post on our website.


Recurrence of ulcers is very common, particularly in horses in intensive training or competition. Low doses of omeprazole have shown to help prevent the recurrence of ulcers in these horses.

Proper management can reduce recurrence, constant access to forage, regular turnout, giving a small forage feed 30 minutes prior to exercise and allowing your horse to express normal behaviours have all been shown to help prevent ulcers.

If you have any questions about gastric ulcers or your horses’ health please call us.

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