Saturday, July 24, 2010

Think Before You Dose

By Darlene M. Cox

It is interesting how we horse lovers and owners can equate human-related health incidents into equine-related health issues. Recently, my daughter had a throat infection for which the doctor did not prescribe antibiotics, as he thought the infection was viral. Viral infections, caused by viruses, do not respond to antibiotics as these medications are explicitly used to combat bacterial infections.

While it may seem proactive to treat acute illness with antibiotics, such treatment may be contributing to a greater harm – the development of super germs that are antibiotic resistant. This resistance occurs when the bacteria changes its metabolic form making it impossible for the antibiotic to be effective in weakening or killing the bacteria allowing the horse’s natural immune system to battle it .

Have there been times when you may have self-diagnosed your horse and placed him on antibiotics you had in your tack room medical box? However, is this the right antibiotic to use, and is it the right dose? With the growing misuse and over-prescribing of antibiotics, more resistant strains of bacteria are developing. Such resistant strains can be very difficult to treat as the majority of antibiotics are not effective against them; therefore, it is important that antibiotics be prescribed by a veterinarian who has examined your horse and can determine which specific drug, if any, is best suited to treat the infection. The best way to determine what organism is the culprit in an infection is to culture it.

Antibiotic use can also cause problems of their own: pain, swelling, and abscess at an injection site, diarrhea in young horses, and allergic reactions to certain drugs are the most obvious problems that come to my mind. While these medications are greatly effective, it is best they be prescribed by your veterinarian.

Proper use of antibiotics will ensure effective and successful treatment of many bacterial infections and will most importantly abate the creation of additional super germs that are threatening not only our horses, but also we humans.

Happy trails!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Leading a Horse To Water: Prevention of Dehydration while Trail Riding

By Darlene Cox

One of the most important requirements of your horse during trail riding is keeping him hydrated. Dehydration may lead to your horse to a bout of colic, tying-up (azoturia), or heat stroke. Dehydration severities can range from mild to life threatening, or even death. Maintaining the proper balance of water and electrolytes for your horse is imperative to his health and your peace of mind. There is no fear greater to any horseman than to be miles out on a trail and have your horse in peril of dying.

Hydration needs of your horse while trail riding are different than when he is at home relaxing in his pasture. Traveling and trail riding are stressful and you may find your horse refusing to drink while on the road, on the trail, or in camp. There may be many factors in the equation that keeps your horse from drinking: the water may not taste the same; he horse is too excited with his new surroundings and will not be calm enough to drink; he may be overheated; or he may have an imbalance in electrolytes.

While riding, we should be ever vigilant of our horse's hydration, and there are several ways that you can test to make sure he is hydrated:

  • Skin pinch test - Pinch the skin over the point of the shoulder. If your horse if fully hydrated, his skin will pop back immediately. However, the skin will remain tented (pinched up) the more dehydrated a horse becomes.
  • Capillary refill test - Press your thumb against your horse's upper gums. Once you remove it, count the seconds it takes for the area to return to the same color (the depressed area will appear white right after you remove your thumb). It is best to have a baseline number in mind taken at a time when you knew your horse to be fully hydrated. The longer it takes for the capillaries to refill, the more dehydrated your horse is.
  • Mucous membrane test of inner eye lid and gums - Observe a baseline color of gums and inner eye lid. This can probably range from pink to a pinkish-yellowish color. Gums should be moist. If the color is dark red, then your horse is dehydrated. Again, you are looking for a deviation in color from the baseline.
  • Jugular vein refill test - Squeeze off the jugular vein for a moment before allowing it to refill. Count the elapsed time before refill. Again, having a baseline reading is important.
  • Gut sounds - If you are proficient with the use of a stethoscope, you can listen to the upper and lower gut sounds to determine hydration. Obtain a baseline reading first. Reduced gut sounds are indicative of dehydration.

There are several steps that we as responsible horse owners can take to insure that our horse is adequately hydrated during trail riding.

  • Introduce your horse to electrolytes or other flavorings (Kool-aid, Gatorade, etc.) in his water several days prior to trail riding. This will get your horse used to the taste of the electrolytes and/or flavoring additives, and he will not hesitate to drink them while on the trail ride. Electrolytes will generally stimulate a horse to drink because they are salty. If your horse does not like the taste of the electrolytes or flavorings, bring along a small salt block or add salt to his feed while in camp to encourage drinking.
  • If possible, bring water from home and offer to your horse during rest breaks while trailering. Some horses will not drink water from different sources, because it tastes different. However, bringing along the water that he is used to may prompt him to drink. Offer water several times during each stop.
  • As soon as you get to camp and off-load your horse, fill up his water bucket and get him settled in before moving off to other things. Keep in mind that your horse will be stressed from the drive, being in different surroundings, and around other horses.
  • While on the trail the cardinal rule to remember is to NEVER PASS UP WATER! Each time you need to stop and allow your horse an opportunity to drink. If you are riding in a group of horses, it is important that all riders understand they must remain close at hand to allow every horse an opportunity to drink. If the first riders water their horses and then move on down the trail, those horses left behind will not want to drink for fear of being left behind. Be courteous and thoughtful; always make sure that all horses drink their fill before leaving the watering source.

Some younger horses that are not used to drinking from trail water sources (creeks, ponds, lakes, rivers) may not initially venture to the water because of their uncertainty. Having a been-there-done-that horse in the group go into or to the water first will show the more timid horse that it is okay. This actually mimics horse herd dynamic behavior as often one horse will drink first before the others follow.

Bring along a tube of electrolyte paste in your saddle bags to use in an emergency while on the trail. The tube I always brought along was often time needed either for my own horse or someone else's horse.

Incorporating the above steps will keep your horse happy and well throughout the trail riding season.

Happy trails!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sarcoids in Horses

By Darlene M. Cox

When I purchased my appaloosa gelding five years ago, he had a warty-like blemish under his eye. At the pre-purchase exam, my vet told me this was a sarcoid, which is the most highly diagnosed type of benign (non-cancerous) tumor a horse can have. A second sarcoid later appeared on his canthus. Some breeds of horses are more prone to sarcoids, and of course, appaloosa was amongst that list. My vet advised me to keep an eye on it and that we wouldn’t need to do anything to it unless it started to grow.

I researched the equine sarcoid and learned that while the cause is not necessarily known, although it is suspected to be a papillomavirus most likely akin to bovines, it can be a very tenacious tumor to get rid of. There are four types of sarcoid: flat (occult) that looks like a flat, scaley lesion; verrucous (warty), appearing like a raised wart; fibrablastic, appearing as an easily irritated mass, subjected to bleeding; and a mixed form, one with two or more of the four types. The flat and sometimes verrucous types of sarcoid may not grow bigger or evolve into the fibroblastic type; they may remain statis or may even regress. The fibroblastic type, however, is the most aggressive type, and the one less likely to respond well to treatment. Skin that has received some type of trauma (cuts, injuries, incisions) may be prime sites for the formation of sarcoids. Many geldings present with sarcoids on their scrotal sac after having been gelded. The prime areas for sarcoids to appear are anywhere on the head, on the belly, or legs.

Since my gelding’s sarcoid was increasing in size, I decided it was time to investigate the types of treatment available for them. I was greatly concerned that even with treatment the sarcoid may come back. Treatment options range from surgical removal, cryotherapy, and immunotherapy. I found all of these options very pricey and equated through research that they may have to be repeated several times before the sarcoid was completely removed.

Luckily, my research and digging around led me to a product called Xxterra, which is an all natural, herbal remedy for equine sarcoids. I phoned the Colorado-based veterinarian who developed the product and discussed this treatment option with him. I purchased a jar of the Xxterra ($110) and began applying it over the sarcoid for five days straight. After the five days, I applied it every other day for a total of 10 treatments. After the fourth day, you could see the sarcoid and surrounding skin react to the topical dressing. After the 6th treatment, the skin was beginning to slough away and was hard and dry to the touch. After the 10 treatments, the old skin had completely sloughed off, but I could still see the ‘base’ of the sarcoid.

I bought a second jar of the compound and applied it as I did the first. At the end of this treatment session, the sarcoid was completely gone.

After the treatments had ended, I placed another call to the vet in Colorado and discussed the treatment plan.. I provided him with some positive feedback that I felt the application process should be modified to discontinuing the applications until the old, dead skin sloughed off, and treatments resumed with the product being placed on the base of the sarcoid after the first sloughing period ended. Doing it this way would possibly require less usage of the product and a reduction in expense.

While I don’t know if my treatment recommendation, why appreciated by the vet, was actually placed on the jar (there is a loss of revenue to be realized here, right?), I do know that others to whom I have referred use of this product and who subsequently used my treatment regimen, were able to rid their horses of sarcoids with only one jar of Xxterra.

Regardless, this product and treatment is much less expensive and invasive than the other options available.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ugly Photo

We recently became official dealers for Alamo Saddlery. We're excited. Yet we knew that photos like the one below were not going to cut it for our customers. This saddle in person is very beautiful, with unique conchos and elegant styling. This cut and paste, low resolution shot was all we were able to scrounge up before we got our saddle in to get professional pictures:

Please, don't zoom in; we beg you. We get excited about new, high quality saddles in our stock, so whenever we get one in and are forced to put a low-quality show on the website, there's a general rush to get pictures. Sometimes the photos we have to put up in the meantime are just...embarassing! Here is one of our shots of the same model:

That's what we're talkin' about!! Feel free to check out the other shots of this saddle, as well as see what other Alamo's we've got stocked, over at the saddle shop.