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April 2018 - Amputations & Neurological Conditions

Join us this month as our expert, Dr. Barrie Grant, joins the forum to answer your questions concerning neurological conditions in the horse. Dr. Grant will also be available to answer any questions related to amputations.

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

General Equine Health

  1. We live in southern California and have total sand pasture. I use to give psyllium on the 1 week on/3 weeks off schedule. All three of my miniature donkeys have gotten sand accumulation with one hospitalized for nine days. Our veterinarian, who lives in the same area, gives his own donkeys and horses a daily low dose of psyllium. Others say that daily dosing causes the digestive system to recognize psyllium as a food and chemically breaks it down as such thus making the psyllium inactive. As an owner, I feel stuck in the middle, especially when the veterinarians cannot agree.

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    I know that is frustrating when you have so much information. Usually that means that there are several answers. that said, I consulted with a nutritional expert myself, who is board certified in nutrition to answer your question.

    Of course, psyllium is digested. Daily dosage is suggested, which is one tablespoon twice a day in your case.

    One other thing that I like to add because I'm in the eastern sand Capitol, Florida, is aloe Vera juice at 60 cc or 2 oz twice daily. This can help with the abrasive sand effect on the gut. Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  2. I have a 14-year-old gelding. He hasn't been used hard at all but is lame in his front left. I have had him radiographed by two different veterinarians and they can't seem to find anything. However, when they blocked it, it definitely showed in the foot. Now what as it's been going on two years? He feels good as he still continues to jump and buck but at the trot, you can definitely see the lameness. 

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    If you have successfully blocked the lameness to the foot, that is good. Did your veterinarian do a peripheral nerve block or were joint blocks added?

    Depending on this you could determine if the problem is in the joint or a ligament issue. Was the navicular bursa blocked? All of these other blocks could possibly give more information.

    Veterinary medicine has great advances now in diagnostics for horses. We now have MRI and ultrasound available to further diagnose lameness in the foot. Ask your vet if this is something available in your area. If not, possibly your vet could do other blocks to see if the lameness can be further localized. 

    The other thought is to make sure the shoeing is correct. Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  3. My 13-year-old mare has dry gray, scaly, flakey ears and small knots or hives on both of her ears. She constantly scratches her ears on anything she can find. It started about a month ago and is getting worse. What is it and how do I help her?

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    Are you in a particularly "buggy" area? 

    First, you will have to treat the itch with a good over the counter steroid cream. One with hydrocortisone is the best to use if you don't want to call your veterinarian.

    You will also have to get a bug repellent. The best one is SWAT ointment. You can mix this with the hydrocortisone cream and put it in the ears. Also you should look into getting a fly mask with ears. 

    If you just use repellent and a mask, she will rub it off, so remember to treat the itching. Otherwise, you can call your veterinarian and have them prescribe a more personalized medical treatment. Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  4. We have no veterinarians who do farm calls in our remote country area. I would like for my 21-year-old Appaloosa to have the three shots to prevent colic since he is blind and eats hay from bales in a small pasture. Can I order the shots on-line? The nearest veterinarian said he does not carry them. I do have a friend who is a vet tech who could give the shots.

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    I'm not sure where you heard this information but there is no shot to prevent colic. There are shots to help treat colic if your horse becomes sick. Colic prevention comes with a good diet and good deworming program.

    I know it's hard when you are far from a veterinarian to help you. Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  5. My horse broke his front leg above the knee. The veterinarian said it could heal itself as long as we keep him in a small pen immobilized.... Is there any kind of supplement available that promotes faster bone healing? 

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    So sorry to hear that! The only supplements I know of that could possibly help is not conventional -- it is a homeopathic substance. It has no negative side effects, but there is no research to prove it.

    It is called symphytum. If you feel you want to choose this type of therapy, consultation with a homeopathic practitioner would be a good choice. 

    There are also chinese herbal formulas that stimulate bone growth and to find a vet that practices this you can go Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  6. I am moving to Ocala and want to know how often to deworm my mare and 7-month-old miniature horse. Also, what kinds of dewormers are best to use, and can I give the dewormer in their feed?

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    The best thing to do is get a fecal egg floatation --a test done on your horse  at least one time per year. Twice a year would be better especially if you're moving to the new pasture.

    Tapeworms do not show up in the fecal flotation on a regular basis or at all therefore, you will have to deworm one time per year for tapeworms. It is not recommended any longer to randomly give a daily Dewormer. Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  7. Can any of the over the counter joint supplements have a negative long-term effect on horses?

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    There is such a long list of OTC products. It is important to read the labels. Most products are harmless. If you are using a product that only has glucosamine and chondroitin with nothing added, then you should be fine for long-term use. Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  8. I live in Taiwan and am doing some research on the veterinary or therapeutic use of horse serum albumin. It was suggested in some literature as fluid therapy, especially in cases of dehydration or post-shock. Have you had the chance to use this or could you please recommend a research direction to find out more about this?

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    Horse serum would be used in cases of hypoproteinemia. This would occur with blood loss. Blood loss could be from trauma and/or internal medical conditions. 

    You could try a search on PubMed.Com or contact the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association or the Equine Veterinary Medical Journal. Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  9. Do horses get bone cancer? If so, what bones are most likely affected?

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    All cancer in horses is not common and in my 28 years, I have never seen bone cancer in a horse. In an article in The Horse magazine (May 2004) it was reported that "Osteosarcoma" Malignant bone cancer occurs rarely (although benign bone tumors of the skull, ribs, cartilage, long bones, or flat bones are occasionally seen).

    Osteosarcoma--which is rarely seen in horses--presents with a painful, hard, enlarged mass. Radiographs can also pick up the abnormality. "Most of the time, bone cancer is pretty distinctive in what it looks like radiographically," says Hendrickson. "Once we see that and are suspicious, we do a bone biopsy to try to determine definitively what's going on." Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  10. To put my mares under artificial lighting, can I use solar powered LED light in my paddock when the weather is nice? 

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    If you can measure the amount of light that is emitted and the distance it is from your horses OR If you stand in the paddock at midnight with the lights behind you and can read a newspaper then the lights are bright enough. 

    If you need more accurate and exact information then please let me know. But I think with solar power and LED you can only predict a range of light! Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  11. Occasionally I will notice what looks like a blood vessel that runs along the bottom of my horse's eye, look full and protruding. I have a picture, which I took for my vet to see since it is so unpredictable as to what, when, why. He had never seen it before and couldn't offer any advise on the matter. I can't believe I have the only horse to ever have this problem and I would like to know if it is something that may cause harm later or that finding treatment could prevent a later problem.

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    Is the blood vessel in the eye or the lid or the skin below the eye? I am a little confused. Is it always in the same location ?

    If it is truly a vessel, then if it is not there all the time it is floating. Sometimes pieces of the iris become finger like and usually don't cause a problem.

    I can only think that it would be a random anomaly or an even crazier thought would be a filaria -- or a worm. Are you able to get a blood sample on your horse and look at the white blood cell (WBC)? 

    Sometimes, rarely, eosinophils are elevated with unusual worms. Most of the time, the eye problems don't show up in a blood count. So, my suggestion is to find a Vet school or an opthomologist for horses and have them evaluate him. Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  12. I have a 14-year-old horse that I rescued at age 9, (left in the desert to die and was bones with skin). Up to this summer I have ridden him everywhere on the trail. He has been sound, till this summer when an Arabian bully cornered and attacked him in close quarters, causing muscle and tendon tears in his hip and stifle along with some bone chips around the acetabulum. It has been four months of pasture rest, banamine 500 mg BID and bute 1 gm BID along with BioVigor, Vit C,HA and chondroitin/MSM. I give him Gut FactorX BID and free pasture and alfalfa/bermuda prn. If I cut back on bute, his opposite rear leg bears too much stress/weight from the other leg being painful. So far he shows no sign of gastric issues. Is it possible for a horse to tolerate these meds without problems? I'm hoping he will heal though don't expect to ride him as I once did.

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    I'm so sorry to hear about your horse's injury but it sounds like you've really helped him out a lot and he's lucky to have you!

    I think that giving him bute long-term might be okay but most would recommend that you stop, and why risk colic if you can try other methods. Certainly it is almost guaranteed that ulcers will develop with the combination of two NSAIDs --bute and banamine.

    There  are many alternatives to pain medication and pain management other than bute. Have you tried Previcox? It is another nonsteroidal that sometimes is not so damaging on the stomach. You may also try it alone or with alternative pain relievers.

    Also, a series of acupuncture treatments would work wonders!

    Another option is for you to rent a laser and you can do therapy yourself! The Respond company allows clients to do three month rentals and they are very helpful with advice.

    Also there are some herbal pain relievers that cause no harm to the stomach. They are much milder in potency than NSAIDs, but they might help. Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  13. My 10-year-old gelding keeps getting ulcers. As soon as he finishes the meds from the veterinarian, the ulcers return. He currently is a barrel horse so there is some stress. He is fed Bermuda hay free choice with rice bran and soy pellets during the am and pm feedings. He also gets soaked beet pulp at night and formula one. I am at a loss of what to do as I cannot keep him on meds forever. I have also had him on ulcerguard in which didn’t work. Any suggestions would certainly be appreciated. 

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    If you have done this and can't get him scoped, there are herbal alternatives, Aloe vera juice, at 60 cc twice daily (brand name Georges if you can find it) for 60 days, and there is a great herbal product from Jing Tang herbal called Stomach Happy that you could do at 30g twice daily for a month.

    Sounds like your diet is not hurting the ulcers, so I would definitely check your dosages, get scoped and then add in the herbals --- which are ok to add with the medicines.

    In a study done on ulcers, the two most common horses to get ulcers are Thoroughbred race horses and Quarter horses that competed in rodeos and barrel racing. The surprise in this was not the Thoroughbred but the easy going Quarter horse, and the assumption was that the travelling and withholding food could add to the ulcer problem. So, make sure he always has hay in from of him and you always give ulcergard and /or aloe vera juice before you trailer him anywhere. Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  14. Hello from New Zealand. My 6-year-old mare was initially presented with a swollen hindlimb fetlock and some minor lameness. No visible injury site seen. Initial treatment included anitbiotics and bandaging. This helped but now six weeks later, there is still lumpy firm fluid-filled swellings around the joint. It has been scanned - no soft tissue injury seen, no windgalls either, and x-rayed with no bone abnormality seen. There is minute improvement taking place I think (or hope). The vets were puzzled as to what was going on other than something had iritated the joint to cause it to produce this squishy substance around the joint capsule. They put it down as a "strain" or "sprain". I would appreciate your thoughts.

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    Is your mare showing lameness now?

    Occasionally, soft tissue swelling can take a long time to reduce. Did they ultrasound the collateral ligaments around the ankle? Those ligaments around at 10 and 2 if you are comparing to a clock and attach at an oblique angle.

    The other idea I would have without seeing her would be just a thickening of the joint capsule internally and the joint needs to be injected intra articularly? Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  15. I am location in Maryland and wondered if I should administer the West Nile virus and equine encephalitis vaccines? or are they the same thing?

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    Both of those vaccines protect against mosquito borne disease. Maryland most likely has mosquitoes and it is recommended to vaccinate against both.

    West Nile encephalitis is a different disease than Eastern and Western encephalitis which is included in a different vaccine. I recommend both if you are vaccinating! Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  16. I am looking to buy a horse and am wondering how I should consider some of the horse's previous health problems. The horse I am considering is an 18-year-old Arabian that I've ridden and am being given for free. I would like to retire the horse to trails and pasture. However, 10 years ago, the horse had a sarcoid on its chest. The sarcoid has been removed, and the owner hasn't seen any complications and doesn't think it will come back. Should I be worried? Also, the horse gets scratches on its legs in damp weather. The owner said its fairly easy to manage. I have had several horses and am comfortable managing care of scratches, but I would like your opinion. Should I be wary of an 18-year-old horse with a sarcoid (now gone; occurred 10 years ago) and scratches?

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    With any 18-year-old horse, I always suggest a complete blood test in addition to anything else you might do, even if he is "free".

    The sarcoid could always come back but it is a good sign that it has not come back in all those years.

    For "scratches", this is usually a management issue, or if you live in the southeast or wet moist areas, then a chronic problem. I would not take him until the scratches are completely healed and you know that he can be successfully healed. Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  17. I have a 9-year-old AQHA mare that was just diagnosed with a blood test coming back with a 1.5 tider for EPM. She was also tested for Lyme and Vitamin E/Selenium defeciency. She was tested as part of a lameness exam for an on again off again lameness. After 30 days on medication gave us a 90% change for the better in her gaits. I was told I could put her back to work, staying on another 30 days of medication. What is the chance she will be able to be shown successfully in the future?

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    As a vet, I always like to see if conservative treatment, such as anti-inflammatories can help in a lameness. So, the response to that with your horse is encouraging. I would first see 1- how she does going back to work on meds, and 2- if she improves with work and medication, then slowly wean her off the medication while in work. If at that time, -- which can be anytime period you want 5-30 days on meds then off,-- she is still lame, then you will have to do further exam with your vet such as imaging or detailed lameness exams.

    You can also show on certain medications if she is improved on that.

    I would have to see the lab report on the 1.5 titer to know what that means as all labs are different. Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.

  18. I have a 9-year-old Arabian/Quarter horse mare. I recently spoke with my veterinarian and he said that she would be fine without grain. I have been trying to research nutrition and have found that most Arabians don't require much feed. What is your opinion? I ride her maybe 3 or 4 times a week and we do not show.

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    Some horses are ok without grain. However, to get an accurate feeding program, you should get a weight on your horse and know the quality and be able to measure the quantity of your feeds. A simple bathroom scale is good and you can get a weight tape from your feed store usually for free. 

    Grain is 'quick energy' carbohydrates with protein and fat added. There are all different kinds of "grain" from your feed store. If you feed only hay, then know the quality of your hay and weigh a flake. your horse should eat about 2.5% of her body weight in hay per day to maintain her weight. If she is too thin, then you can add more. 

    Since your vet knows you and your horse, then he/she probably was right on with the suggestion based on individual care they would provide for you. Carole Holland, DVM, Juno Beach, Fla.