Equine Care

Dentistry | Deworming | Vaccinations | Special Procedures | West Nile Virus

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  That saying holds true for horses also.  As part of our routine care we provide vaccinations, de-worming, Coggins testing, and dental care.  At the time of service we can discuss any issues you may have with your horse including nutritional needs, training programs, geriatric care, etc.

  • Time of need care – We offer care for your horse in case of medical colic, sickness, lameness, injury, metabolic problems, or chronic illness.  We are equipped to provide intravenous fluids and most laboratory results are obtained within 24 hours.
  • Geriatric care – Aged horses can have sub-clinical health care issues that can be identified and treated before they become a problem.  If your horse is over 15 years of age we recommend a complete physical examination and blood testing to establish baseline values.
  • Surgery – Standing or recumbent surgery of the horse is performed for castration, biopsy and laceration repair.  More complicated procedures may be referred to a specialist.

Equine Routine Dentistry

Horses need regular preventive dental maintenance every six months to one year.  Unlike people, horses’ teeth have an eruption rate of two-three mm per year.  The teeth should wear in correspondence to yearly eruption rate.  Malocclusions, or improper position of the teeth, can lead to many health issues and behavioral problems.

Identifying dental problems as early as possible is important.  There are several factors that come into play at a young age that might increase treatment needed or make a remedy even possible.

Factors include: loss of food while eating; eats hay before his/her grain; grain in water bucket; difficulty chewing or excess salivation; loss of body condition; large undigested food particles in manure larger than one quarter inch; head tilting or tossing; bit chewing; tongue lolling; tries to rear while bridling; fighting the bit or resisting the bridal; bucking or failing to stop or turn; foul odor from the mouth or nostrils; traces of blood in the mouth; or nasal discharge or swelling of the face.  Other horses may not show noticeable signs, because they just simply adapt to their discomfort.

Your horse’s teeth are one of the most overlooked areas of equine health. Poor tooth condition can cause numerous issues in horses, from general poor condition to serious infections.  What makes the equine tooth different from most is that it never quits growing throughout a horse’s lifetime.  In the wild horses of days gone by, this was a well designed necessity as the average horse then, survived on a diet much different than the average horse of today.

Wild horses eat a diverse mixture of tough grasses, shrubs, bushes, and even trees which consistently wear the ever growing tooth away to an even and natural grinding surface.  While on the other hand our domestic horses of today tend to be fed a mix of some grass pasture, highly palatable soft hays or alfalfa, and grains or pellets.  So as you can imagine this diet will not keep a horse’s teeth ground down to a natural level.

It is highly recommended that you have your horse’s mouth examined by a qualified veterinarian at least once yearly.  This is a great time to combine an annual health check and routine vaccines.  Most horses will need to be sedated for the dental floating (filing down of the sharp hooks and edges on the surface of the tooth) so this is also a great time to do any other procedures that would require sedation.

If left unchecked a horse with teeth that are overgrown can have many different problems or a combination of issues.  Here is a brief list of possibilities:

  • Poor body condition due to improperly chewed forage which cannot be digested as it should be.
  • Mouth pain including the gums, cheeks and tongue caused by sharp hooks and edges.
  • Infection of mouth and sinuses.
  • Resistance to bridling and carrying a bit.
  • Head tossing or tilting.
  • Reluctance to eat.

There are a number of things that will alert you to signs of tooth problems, dropping grain when chewing, weight loss, bad smell of breath and many seemingly behavioral issues.  Pleases don’t wait to see if any of these signs are present, you will do yourself and your equine companion a big favor by getting on a maintenance plan first!

Equine Deworming

There are two methods used for deworming horses. The first method is to administer paste dewormers every 6 to 8 weeks. The second method is to keep the horse on a daily dewormer and paste deworm twice a year.

First Method – Paste Deworming Protocol:

A regular intense deworming schedule for horses not on a continuous program. (i.e. daily Strongid C 2x):

  • January: Ivermectin / Praziquantel combination (Equimax)
  • March: Oxibendazole (Anthelcide)
  • May: Moxidectin (Quest) – Use in horses only.  We do not recommend using in miniature horses or ponies. Ivermectin (Equell) – For use in miature horses and ponies
  • July: Double dose Pyrantel Pamoate (Strongid)
  • September: Ivermectin / Praziquantel combination (Equimax)
  • November: Double dose Fenbendazole (Panacur) – This can be repeated for 4 more days if horse is showing signes of small stongyle infestation (poor coat, chronic colic, diarrhea, unthrifty)

NOTE: Remember to read the active ingredient because there are many different brand names available.  For example:  Fenbeddazole is the active ingredient in Panacur and Safeguard.

Second Method – Daily Deworming Protocol:

Deworm December and June with Ivermectin/Praziquantel combination (Equimax) and keep horse on a daily de-wormer, Pyrantel Pamoate (Strongid 2 x). If you choose this protocol, we recommend enrolling in the Preventicare Program offered by Pfizer.

NOTE:  Before starting the continuous deworming program, it is recommended to deworm with Equimax, Quest or a Panacur Power Pac so your horse starts the program parasite free.

Equine Special Prodedures

  • Ultrasonography – The use of sound waves to evaluate soft tissues like tendons and ligaments, reproductive organs, lumps, and tumors.  It is painless and non-invasive.
  • Endoscopy – The utilization of a fiber optic device for evaluating the upper airway of the horse including the larynx, sinuses, and guttural pouches.  The trachea and upper esophagus can also be examined with this flexible device.  The endoscopy is useful in pre-purchase examinations, pneumonias, or reactive airway disease.
  • Acupuncture – An ancient Chinese practice that utilizes needles to stimulate nerve pathways to heal many problems.
  • Tonometry – A procedure that measures the intraocular pressure of the eyeball and is useful in detecting glaucoma and uveitis.
  • Therapeutic Laser – Our laser is an effective way to decrease healing time that also minimizes scarring.

Equine Vaccinations

Vaccines are preparations of killed microorganisms, living weakened microorganisms, etc. introduced into the body to produce immunity to a specific disease by causing the formation of antibodies.

Vaccines are very delicate compounds, which if handled or administered incorrectly will be ineffective or neutralized.

Vaccines are administered initially as a two-shot series and then annually or semiannually.

  • Vaccine Protocols: The vaccines and vaccine protocols listed below are tailored to our practice and geographic location and follow the guidelines of the AAEP.
  • Eastern & Western Encephalomyelitis:  Encephalomyelitis is caused by a virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes.  The virus causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.  The vaccine is very effective against the disease.  We recommend administrating the vaccine at least once per year.
  • Tetanus Toxoid: Tetanus is a disease caused by a specific toxin of a bacillus (Clostridium tetani) which usually enters the body through wounds. It is characterized by spasmodic contractions and rigidity of some or all of the voluntary muscles (especially of the jaw, face and neck). The bacteria are found in horse manure.  The vaccine is very effective and administered once yearly.  The vaccine is boostered in case of laceration, surgery, or penetrating wounds.
  • Rabies:  Rabies is a viral disease that infects the nervous system of mammals.  It is transmitted through contact with the saliva of infected animals.  It is 100% fatal.  This vaccine is given to horses with an increase in possible rabies exposure.
  • West Nile Virus: West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes.  The virus causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. We recommend that all horses remain current on West Nile Virus Vaccine with at least one booster in late spring, or twice annually.  In 2008, there was a dramatic increase in the prevalence (38 confirmed cases) in our Washington State horse population and in 2009 Washington State leads the country in equine West-Nile cases reported.
  • Rhinopneumonitis:  Rhinopneumonitis is a herpes virus which causes respiratory infections, abortions, and inflammation of the spinal cord.  The vaccine is not 100% effective and the protection only lasts 10-12 weeks.  Pregnant mares should be vaccinated at 3, 5, 7, and 9 months from the breeding date.  Horses that are traveling to shows, races, sales, etc. should be vaccinated every 3 months.  Pleasure horses that do not travel should be vaccinated twice a year. The vaccine does not protect against the neurologic form of the disease.
  • Influenza: Influenza is a virus that causes high fever and respiratory infection.  The vaccine is not 100% effective, and the protection lasts only 10-12 weeks.  Horses traveling to shows, sales, racing events, etc. should be vaccinated every 3 months.  Horses that do not travel should be vaccinated at least twice a year.
  • Potomac Horse Fever (PHF):  Potomac Horse Fever is caused by the parasite Ehrlichia risticii.  Horses are infected through small land snails that carry the parasite.  It is not contagious and occurs more commonly in wet areas.  The disease causes high fever, laminitis, and severe diarrhea.  The vaccine is fairly effective and is administered once a year.  As of right now, this has not been diagnosed in the Skagit Valley and is not recommended.  It is administered 2 to 4 times yearly in problem areas.
  • Strangles: Strangles is a bacterial disease caused by Streptococcus equi.  It is highly contagious and causes the following signs: high fever, abscessed lymph nodes, and respiratory infection.  Horses may develop guttural pouch infections, sinus infections, purpura hemorrhagica, laryngeal paralysis, and bastard strangles.  There is an intranasal vaccine which is more effective than the intramuscular vaccine.  The vaccine is given once a year except in endemic barns (that have frequent outbreaks) where semiannual vaccination is recommended.

West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus (WNV) causes encephalitis in birds, horses, and humans.  The virus is transmitted from infected birds by mosquitoes.  Humans and horses appear to be especially susceptible.  Studies done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that infected horses will not transmit WNV to other horses or to people.  However care should be taken when handling blood from suspect animals. Symptoms of disease caused by WNV may include the following:

  • Flu-like signs (fever and depression)
  • Skin twitching – especially around the muzzle.
  • Hypersensitivity to touch and sound
  • Driving or pushing forward without control
  • Incoordination

Because permanent neurological problems and death can occur, early recognition and initiation of treatment is important.  No specific treatment protocol exists, however most cases will resolve with supportive therapy and anti-inflammatories.

Efforts to prevent disease in horses caused by WNV are through the use of the West Nile Vaccine from Fort Dodge Pharmaceuticals and through actions that will reduce exposure to mosquitoes.  The vaccine is safe and appears to be effective. AAEP vaccination guidelines recommend vaccinating twice a year in some parts of the country.

The most effective way to limit the mosquito population is to destroy the mosquito larval habitat. This is done by reducing the amount of standing water.  Water troughs should be cleaned at least once a week. Keeping weeds trimmed and lawn mowed help eliminate areas where mosquitoes rest. Directly protecting horses from mosquito bites is more difficult.  Fly and mosquito repellents may be helpful.  Products containing pyrethroids are considered safe for horses.  Spray stalls, aisle walls and other areas such as under shade trees where horses congregate.  Fans can also be used to discourage mosquitoes from residing in your barn.