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Disease Recognition and Tips for Prevention
Preventing Colic
The number one killer of horses is colic.  Colic is not a disease, but rather a combination of signs that alert us to abdominal pain in the horse.  Colic can range from mild to severe, but it should never be ignored.  Many of the conditions that cause colic can become life threatening in a relatively short period of time.  Only by quickly and accurately recognizing colic – and seeking qualified veterinary help – can the chance for recovery be maximized.

             While horses seem predisposed to colic due to the anatomy and function of their digestive tracts, management can play a key role in prevention.  Although not every case is avoidable, the following guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) can maximize the horse’s health and reduce the risk of colic:
1. Establish a daily routine – include feeding and exercise schedules – and stick to it.
2. Feed a high quality diet comprised primarily of roughage.
3. Avoid feeding excessive grain and energy-dense supplements. (At least half the horse’s energy should be supplied through hay or forage.  A better guide is that twice as much energy should be supplied from a roughage source than from concentrates.)
4. Divide daily concentrate rations into two or more smaller feedings rather than one large one to avoid overloading the horse’s digestive tract.  Hay is best fed free-choice.
5. Set up a regular parasite control program with the help of your equine practitioner.
6. Provide exercise and/or turnout on a daily basis.  Change the intensity and duration of an exercise regimen gradually.
7. Provide fresh, clean water at all times.  (The only exception is when the horse is excessively hot, and then it should be given small sips of luke-warm water until it has recovered.)
8. Avoid putting feed on the ground, especially in sandy soils.
9. Check hay, bedding, pasture, and environment for potentially toxic substances, such as blister beetles, noxious weeds, and other ingestible foreign matter.
Reduce stress.  Horses experiencing changes in environment or workloads are at high risk of intestinal dysfunction.  Pay special attention to horses when transporting them or changing their surroundings, such as at shows.

Virtually any horse is susceptible to colic.  Age, sex, and breed differences in susceptibility seem to be relatively minor.  The type of colic seen appears to relate to geographic or regional differences, probably due to environmental factors such as sandy soil or climatic stress.  Importantly, what this tells us is that, with conscientious care and management, we have the potential to reduce and control colic, the number one killer of horses.
Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
Laminitis
Every day veterinarians across the country see hundreds of cases of laminitis, a painful disease that affects the feet of horses.  Laminitis results from the disruption of blood flow to the sensitive and insensitive laminae within the foot, which secure the coffin bone to the hoof wall.  While the exact mechanisms by which the feet are damaged remain a mystery, certain precipitating events can produce laminitis.  Although laminitis occurs in the feet, the underlying cause is often a disturbance elsewhere in the horse’s body.
As a horse owner, it is important to recognize the signs of laminitis and seek veterinary help immediately. 
Signs of acute laminitis include the following:
· Lameness, especially when a horse is turning in circles; shifting lameness when standing.
· Heat in the feet. 
· Increased digital pulse in the feet. 
· Pain in the toe region when pressure is applied with hoof testers.
· Reluctant or hesitant gait, as if “walking on eggshells”. 
· A “sawhorse stance,” with the front feet stretched out in front to alleviate pressure on the toes and the hind feet “camped out” or positioned farther back than normal to bear more weight
        Signs of chronic laminitis may include the following:
· Rings in hoof wall that become wider as they are followed from toe to heel
· Bruised soles or “stone bruises”
· Widened white line, commonly called “seedy toe,” with occurrence of blood pockets
and/or abscesses
· Dropped soles or flat feet
· Thick, “cresty” neck
· Dished hooves, which are the result of unequal rates of hoof growth
If you suspect laminitis, consider it a medical emergency and notify your veterinarian immediately.  The sooner treatment begins, the better the chance for recovery. 
Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Reducing Your Horse’s West Nile Risk
Since first being recognized in the United States in 1999, West Nile virus (WNV) has posed a serious threat to horses and humans alike.   In the equine population, the virus is transmitted when a mosquito takes a blood meal from a bird infected with WNV, then feeds on a horse.  While many horses exposed to WNV experience no signs of illness, the virus can cause inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.  In some cases, especially in older horses, WNV can be fatal.

             As a horse owner, prevention is the key to reducing your horse’s risk of contracting WNV.  Follow these guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to protect your horse against WNV:
1. Consider vaccinating your horse against the disease.  In February 2003, a vaccine was licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Center for Veterinary Biologics for use in healthy horses as an aid in the prevention of the disease.  Talk with your veterinarian about the most appropriate vaccination schedule for your horse.
2. Eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites.  Dispose of old receptacles, tires and containers and eliminate areas of standing water.
3. Thoroughly clean livestock watering troughs at least monthly.
4. Use larvicides to control mosquito populations when it is not possible to eliminate particular breeding sites.  Such action should only be taken, however, in consultation with your local mosquito control authority.
5. Keep your horse indoors during the peak mosquito activity periods of dusk to dawn.
6. Screen stalls if possible or at least install fans over your horse to help deter mosquitoes.
7. Avoid turning on lights inside the stable during the evening or overnight.
8. Using insect repellants on your horse that are designed to repel mosquitoes can help reduce the chance of being bitten.
9. Remove any birds, including chickens, located in or close to a stable.
10. Don’t forget to protect yourself as well.  When outdoors in the evening, wear clothing that covers your skin and apply plenty of mosquito repellent.     
Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
Recognize your Horse’s Dental Problems
Horses with dental problems may show obvious signs, such as pain or irritation, or they may show no noticeable signs at all.  This is because some horses simply adapt to their discomfort.  For this reason, periodic dental examinations are essential to your horse’s health. 
             It is important to catch dental problems early.  If a horse starts behaving abnormally, dental problems should be considered as a potential cause.  Waiting too long may increase the difficulty of remedying certain conditions or may even make remedy impossible.  Look for the following indicators of dental problems from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to know when to seek veterinary attention for your horse:
1. Loss of feed from mouth while eating, difficulty with chewing, or excessive salivation.
2. Loss of body condition.
3. Large or undigested feed particles (long stems or whole grain) in manure.
4. Head tilting or tossing, bit chewing, tongue lolling, fighting the bit, or resisting bridling.
5. Poor performance, such as lugging on the bridle, failing to turn or stop, even bucking.
6. Foul odor from mouth or nostrils, or traces of blood from the mouth.
Nasal discharge or swelling of the face, jaw or mouth tissues.
Oral exams should be an essential part of an annual physical examination by a veterinarian.  Every dental exam provides the opportunity to perform routine preventative dental maintenance. Mature horses should get a thorough dental exam at least once a year, and horses 2 –5 years old should be examined twice yearly.
Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

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