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November 2019 - Equine Welfare

No animal lover wants to hear or see abuse, but it’s a subject that we are often faced. Join us in November as our expert, Dr. Alina Vale answers your questions concerning equine welfare, neglect and abuse.

Click here to read this month's questions and answers.

External Parasites

  1. Can you recommend a deworming program for a Thoroughbred missing 16' of small intestine due to colic surgery?

    (View Answer)

    I would follow a program based on fecal exams and targeted deworming so excessive treatment can be avoided. Environmental control of parasites with dragging or cleanup of the pastures is also very effective. You should also be aware that fecal tests do not reveal the presence of tape worms so treating for them annually for this internal parasite would be a good idea. Carolyn Simmelink, DVM, Redding, CT

  2. I am adopting a Halflinger mare from a Therapeutic riding program. She originally came from Florida, but had to be relocated to the north since she became allergic to a bug in the south. She does much better here, however, she still has an issue with breaking out and becoming sore. Do you know of a product to recommend that would work better than basic fly spray?

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    Equispot is a topical long lasting repellant for use on horses that I find very helpful. I am assuming that the horse has "sweet itch" or allergy to cullicoides. Management changes to keep a horse in during the time around sunrise and sunset and with a fan blowing on them is helpful. Flax, supplemented within the diet, can also help.  Carolyn Simmelink, DVM, Redding, CT

  3. When we get soft blocks (protein/mineral blocks) for our horses, my gelding will eat the entire block if he does not have on a grazing muzzle. Are the soft cattle/horse blocks with fly control safe for horses like him? The block states they are graded for horses but can they ingest too much of the insecticide in the product?

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    The blocks are meant to be eaten slowly so I think you might be in trouble with your horse that chews up the entire block quickly. I think you would have to contact the manufacturer to determine the expected rate of consumption and the potentially toxic level. I am always leary of feeding anything to horses that is made for cattle. Carolyn Simmelink, DVM, Redding, CT

  4. Can a dry lot be sprayed with something that will kill ascarid larvae in order to prevent reinfestation?

    (View Answer)

    I am not aware of a spray that works but dragging the paddock with a harrow in dry weather and sprinkling lime on the favorite defecation and urination areas works well to kill parasites. Carolyn Simmelink, DVM, Redding, CT

  5. Is there a fly spray that lasts more than 6 hours? Even the ones I have paid dearly for that state they last for 14 days do not keep the flies away for a full day.

    (View Answer)

    I have not found a fly spray that lasts more than 3 hours. I use endure and equispot on my personal horses and I turn them out at night to avoid the worst of the bugs. Carolyn Simmelink, DVM, Redding, CT

  6. How well do you feel the feed-through fly pellets work? I have been using them this summer with what appears to be success. I only have two horses and no other livestock. 

    (View Answer)

    The feed-through fly pellets are very effective as they stop the fly reproduction at the source - manure. Carolyn Simmelink, DVM, Redding, CT

  7. I recently moved from a California ranch to an Illinois farm and the flies are a huge difficulty for my horses. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I have already tried fly boots, sheets, commercial fly spray, skin so soft and essential oils.

    (View Answer)

    Controlling flies without having control of the property is very difficult. The fly population in an area is dependent on manure management and weather. Composting manure so that it gets hot enough to kill the fly larva is useful as is dragging and spreading the manure on a sunny day to dry it out. Lime sprinkled on areas where the horses urinate and defecate is also helpful. If you have no control over the manure management, fly traps with attractant can help cut down on the adult fly population. Most commercial fly repellants seem to work for a while, but then lose their effectiveness. Therefore, changing brands can be useful. Carolyn Simmelink, DVM, Redding, CT

  8. SmartPak has a supplement that is supposed to help keep the bugs off of horses called “Bug Off”. Do you know anything about this product and the ingredient(s) that are within that deter the bugs?

    (View Answer)

    I do not remember the ingredient list but I did a trial of a month on my own horses and cannot say that I saw a difference, unfortunately. I have had success with feeding a pound of flax daily to a 1000 lb horse for sweet itch. Carolyn Simmelink, DVM, Redding, CT

  9. Is it safe to use a long lasting topical spot treatment on a horse as well as a pyrethrin based spray when riding? My horse spends a lot of the day in his pasture when I am not riding him.

    (View Answer)

    I use equispot on my horses twice weekly during tick season in the northeast and fly spray daily during the summer for years and have not had any problems but that is my own personal experience. I am not aware of any scientific studies to test this. Carolyn Simmelink, DVM, Redding, CT

  10. I have heard that Vicks Vaporub helps deter flies and pests, and some people swear by it. However, I can't find out exactly how it works as to whether it actually repels or if its greasy nature makes it difficult for the bug to physically bite the horse. If it does work, how? And are there any concerns when using this product on my horse? 

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    I have not tried vicks but I have tried other thick ointments and they do seem to deter the bugs, but they have to be applied faithfully and thickly. That said, they are not a very practical solution in the long run. There is a lot of surface area to cover on a horse. Carolyn Simmelink, DVM, Redding, CT

  11. Insects distract my mare so much that she becomes difficult to ride. Is there anything that would help her cope with bugs?

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    I spray an ear bonnet that goes under the bridle just before I ride in addition to spraying the rest of the horse. I recommend a spray that is labeled to repel mosquitoes and gnats as well as flies. I also carry a tail switch this time of year so that I can shoo the bugs away that the horse cannot reach with its own tail. A fly mask and nose net help some horses that are particularly bothered about bugs near their face. Carolyn Simmelink, DVM, Redding, CT

  12. The mosquitos are horrific this summer making it miserable for our horses. I rub them down with a permethrin based product in the AM and PM but it only gives them temporary relief. Some evenings, the horses' faces and necks are swollen with welts. Is there anything we can do to protect our horses?

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    Mosquito prevention is best achieved by clearing up any standing water. This includes cleaning gutters and dumping buckets and troughs at least twice weekly. There is a product called Mosquito Dunks that can be used as directed in areas where the water cannot be dried up such as drains and low lying ground. Bats and barn swallows are our friends in this battle so encouraging their residence near the barn is helpful. The mosquitos are most active in the evening and avoiding turnout on grass at that time could also help. Deet is the most effective repellant but should not be used on the horses skin directly but it could be applied to blankets or ear bonnets. Carolyn Simmelink, DVM, Redding, CT

  13. My horse is experiencing lots of bites on his neck and back. Does apple cider vinegar in water or feed help to distract bugs?

    (View Answer)

    It might help but that alone is usually not sufficient. Changing the time of day that a horse is turned out or wearing a fly sheet can be helpful. Large welts on the back or neck are usually horse flies and they are most active in the daytime in the sun. Carolyn Simmelink, DVM, Redding, CT

  14. My farrier has been attaching cattle insecticide ear tags to his horses' halters to repel ticks. So far, his horses have had no adverse reactions and the tags appear to be successfully repelling the ticks. I live in a heavily deer tick infested region (southwestern Pennsylvania) and I am concerned about my horse becoming infected with a tick-born infection. I have been using a top quality pyrethrin-based spray. I apply it with a towel to my horses legs and face and spray it on the rest of his body several times a week. What do you think about using the insecticidal cattle ear tags on the horse halters?

    (View Answer)

    I have a veterinary friend  who had great success with the cattle ear tags for tick prevention. I use the equispot topical treatment successfully on my own horses. Carolyn Simmelink, DVM, Redding, CT