Equine Medicine and Care

Dentistry | Deworming | Special Procedures | Vaccinations

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

  • 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

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.

Horses need regular preventive dental maintenance every six months to one year. Unlike people, horses’ teeth continuously erupt (around 2-3 mm/year). The teeth should wear in correspondence to yearly eruption rate. As teeth wear – even in normal, healthy mouths – ridges and hooks can form due to the natural chewing motion horses exhibit. This can cause discomfort or difficulty eating. Malocclusions, or improper position of the teeth, can lead to many health issues and behavioral problems.

Signs of poor oral health and/or tooth wear are:

  • Poor body condition (due to improperly chewed forage which cannot be digested)
  • Mouth pain including the gums, cheeks and tongue
  • Infection of the mouth and sinuses.
  • Resistance to bridling or carrying a bit.
  • Head tossing or tilting.
  • Reluctance to eat.
  • Bad breath (Halitosis)
  • Dropping of grain or feed when chewing
  • Mild to moderate behavior changes of unknown reason

We highly recommended that you have your horse’s mouth examined by a qualified veterinarian at least yearly. This is a great time to combine an annual health check and routine vaccines. If dental floating is required, most horses will need to be sedated. Sedation is necessary to provide an easier working area for the veterinarian and a more comfortable floating process for the patient.

Equine Deworming

Deworming, or the use of anthelmintics to remove or reduce internal parasites, has evolved since the 1960s, when certain parasites (e.g. Strongylus vulgaris) were highly problematic. Previous deworming protocols have required rotational or frequent use of drugs to remove or reduce the parasite load in the horse.

After changes in the natural gastrointestinal fauna in horses and due to the large challenges of drug resistance, new plans and protocols are now encouraged that are specific to individual farms and individual horses.

“The goal of parasite control is to limit parasite clinical disease, control parasite egg shedding, and to maintain efficacious drugs and avoid further resistance as much as possible.” The goal is not to remove all parasites from the individual animal. (AAEP 2009).

Adult horses’ needs are much different from horses less than three years of age, and therefore require different deworming strategies. Horses less than three years of age are highly susceptible to parasites and have specific deworming needs.

A fecal egg count (FEC) is a measure of the internal parasite load of a horse. FEC tests are now a recommendation for all horses to determine if treatment is needed. Horses with high FEC values are usually treated and then re-evaluated after treatment. FEC values can also help determine which animals can be skipped over for deworming treatment and thus help to reduce possible evolution of drug resistance.

Use of the fecal egg count reduction test (FECRT) is the only method for determining drug resistance and for monitoring the efficacy of a deworming protocol. FECRT is determined by a fecal flotation count before treatment and then another fecal sample two weeks after treatment. Evaluation of the efficacy of the dewormers used on each farm should be performed at least every three years using the FECRT.

Considerations for mature horses:

Control of cyathostomins (a class of parasites) is the general goal. Due to the Pacific Northwest conditions, a treatment in the early spring and another treatment in the fall is recommended. All other treatments will be targeted towards horses with high FECs or towards a specific parasite that is problematic on-farm.

Considerations for foals, weanlings, yearlings:

During the first year of life, foals should receive a minimum of four anthelmintic treatments. The first deworming should be carried out at about 2-3 months of age, and a benzimidazole drug is recommended to ensure efficacy against ascarids.

Second deworming is recommended just before weaning (approximately 4-6 months of age). An extra treatment can be justified before weaning if the time period between the two treatments exceeds 3 months. At weaning, FEC are recommended to determine whether worm burdens are primarily strongyles or ascarids, to facilitate the right choice of drug class.

Third and fourth treatments should be considered at about 9 and 12 months of age, respectively, and treatment should primarily be targeting strongyles. Tapeworm treatment should be included in the 9-month treatment.

Perform FECRT yearly to evaluate the efficacy of anthelmintics against strongyles and ascarids  Recently weaned foals should be turned out onto the “cleanest” pastures with the lowest parasite burdens.  Yearlings and two-year olds should continue to be treated as “high” shedders, and receive about three yearly treatments with efficacious drugs.

More information can be obtained through your veterinarian and by visiting the AAEP’s section on deworming at https://aaep.org/guidelines/parasite-control-guidelines

Information above was summarized from the AAEP “Parasite Control Guidelines,” Nielsen, M.K. et al., 2009.

Equine Vaccinations

Vaccines are used to produce immunity (protection) 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 developed and labeled according to their efficacy. Most equine vaccines are used in the reduction of disease risk or by reducing severity of illness.

Vaccines are administered initially as a two-shot series and then annually or semiannually, depending on the individual risk for each animal.

The core vaccines recommended by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) are: Eastern and Western Enchephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE); Tetanus (lockjaw); West Nile Virus (WNV); and Rabies.

  • Eastern & Western Encephalomyelitis: Encephalomyelitis is caused by a virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. There are two types of virus, Eastern and Western. The virus causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. The vaccine is very effective against the disease. We recommend administering the vaccine at least once per year.
  • Tetanus Toxoid: Tetanus (lockjaw) is a disease caused by a specific toxin of a bacillus (Clostridium tetani) which usually enters the body through wounds. Tetanus is characterized by spasmodic contractions and rigidity of some or all of the voluntary muscles (especially of the jaw, face and neck). The clostridial bacteria are found in horse manure and soil. 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 The rabies virus is transmitted through contact with the saliva of infected animals. It is 100% fatal. This vaccine is recommended for all horses.
  • West Nile Virus: West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. The virus causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Horses can appear drunk, staggering, wobbly, and usually have a fever over 103.0 F. The disease can be fatal. We recommend that all horses remain current on West Nile Virus vaccine with at least one booster in late spring, or twice annually.

Other diseases that are often recommended for vaccination include, but are not limited to: Equine Influenza (Flu); Equine Herpes Rhinopneumonitis (EHV 1 and 4); Strangles; Botulism; Leptospirosis; Potomac Horse Fever (PHF); and more.

More information may be found at: https://aaep.org/guidelines/vaccination-guidelines

Your CVVC veterinarian can help determine what approach to vaccination is best for your horse.

Equine Special Prodedures

  • Ultrasonography – The use of sound waves to evaluate soft tissues like tendons and ligaments, reproductive organs, lumps, and tumors. Ultrasonography is painless and non-invasive.
  • 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.

Other procedures that are determined necessary for your horse may be offered by referral to an equine specialist.