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Hello All,

I hope everyone enjoyed our beautiful fall. I know I did and then I realized that the holidays are around the corner. And after the holidays, the equine breeding season begins.

With the breeding season approaching, I thought I would share some personal thoughts regarding breeding horses. I am not a theriogenologist which is specialist in reproduction and my goal is not to provide specific information regarding how to breed but more to give any horse owners, who may be considering breeding this season, some food for thought.

For owners of stallions, I have several questions. Does he meet breed standards and expectations? Does he have health concerns that may have a genetic component? Does he come from a line with known genetic problems? Does he have a good temperament? Was he trainable? I also recommend that a breeding soundness exam be performed by a qualified veterinarian. The owner of a stallion will also need to consider if they will offer live cover breeding or semen collection services.

When clients approach me about breeding their mares, I always ask the same questions. First, I generally question the owner’s motivation for breeding. Does the owner want one foal from this specific mare? Is the owner planning to sell or to keep the foal? Once I understand why an owner wants to breed a mare, I have more questions regarding the mare. Does she meet the breed standards and expectations? Does she have personality worthy of passing on? Does she have any health concerns that may have a genetic component? Is she easy to work with and around?

The next considerations concern the actual process of breeding her. Has the owner researched potential sires? Is she going to be bred via artificial insemination and if so, will it be cooled or frozen semen? Is she going to be sent to a breeding farm or to a veterinary clinic that specializes in reproduction? Is she going to be placed under lights to help induce estrus earlier in the season? Is the owner familiar with her estrus cycle?

Once she is bred, there is another set of concerns. The first is who will confirm pregnancy and the method? The most reliable method of pregnancy detection is a transrectal ultrasound exam. A veterinarian can perform this either at the mare’s home farm or on the breeding facility before she goes home. Once pregnancy is confirmed, the mare will require specific vaccinations throughout her pregnancy. She will also need vaccinations and deworming prior to foaling. Also, changes in feeding will need to be considered as her foaling date approaches.

Foaling itself is yet another aspect of breeding that I discuss with clients prior to them breeding their mares. Owners need to be dedicated to checking on their mares multiple times a night around the time of the mare’s due date and when physical signs indicate that foaling is approaching. Most mares deliver over night or in the very early morning. There are a lot of things that can go wrong during foaling which is why owners must be aware of what is going on with their animals. An owner must be educated as to what to monitor and be prepared to help the mare. Many veterinarians are willing to be woken and to head out to the farm. However, the farm may not be very close to the veterinarian and the veterinarian may need to start talking owners through a problem on the phone while they are on route. Some owners opt to have their mares foal out at farms that specialize in foaling mares.

Owners also need to be aware of problems that can arise once the foal is born. There are situations where the mare and foal may need to be referred to an equine hospital. New born or young foals are very sensitive and fragile; often, treating problems on the farm is not enough. They frequently require the level of care that can only be provided by a fully equipped equine hospital.

Once the foal is born and is healthy, the next steps involve raising the foal. Owners must be willing and able to provide routine veterinary care for the foal such as vaccinations. Whether the owner intends on keeping or selling the foal, they will be responsible for the foal’s initial handling and training. This is a huge responsibility and requires significant time and effort. If the owner is intending on selling the foal, is the market there? Would the foal be sold at weaning or as a yearling? What if the foal did not sell; could the owner afford to keep, feed, train and provide veterinary care for the animal?

These are only the main issues involved with breeding horses. Another factor that must be taken into consideration is the financial one. The costs can add up quickly—stud fees, boarding if at a breeding facility or foaling facility, and routine veterinary care. Of course, if there are problems, the costs can very quickly add up. I always caution owners “to plan for the worst and hope for the best”.

I always enjoy watching newborn foals learn to stand and nurse. I love watching them learn to run and buck the first times that they are let out with their mares. My intentions are to help horse owners offer any foals that they may bring into this world the best possible start in life.

 

Erin M. Dahill, DVM
Post Road Veterinary Clinic
746 Post Road Wells, ME 04090
Phone: 207-646-7200
Post Road Veterinary Clinic


Hi Again!

 

Over the past few days, I have found myself swatting at more and more insects, particularly mosquitoes.  This made me think that it would be a good time to review vaccination protocols and recommendations. 

 

In the horse world, we typically think of “spring shots” and “fall shots”.   The main reason we routinely vaccinate our horses in the spring is because mosquitoes spread the some of the diseases from which we are trying to protect our horses.  The mosquito-born diseases that we routinely vaccinate our horses against are Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis, and West Nile virus.  In the fall, we are vaccinating against diseases that are spread from horse to horse, like equine influenza and equine rhinopneumonitis.  The reason we typically vaccinate for certain diseases in the fall is that horse shows, clinics, and other events typically move to indoor arenas.  This brings the horses into closer contact with each other and allows disease to be easily spread.  It is also important to remember that vaccinations do not prevent a horse from contracting disease.  Vaccines are designed to lessen the severity and shorten the duration of clinical symptoms.

 

In southern Maine, the core spring vaccinations are EWT, rabies, and West Nile virus.  For horses that travel and come into contact with other horses, EHV1 and 4 and influenza vaccinations may also be recommended.  For horses the travel extensively, your veterinarian may recommend vaccinating against Potomac Horse Fever.  Other vaccines that are available include strangles and botulism.  Also pregnant mares and foals have very specific vaccine requirements.  I would recommend you consult your veterinarian for core vaccine and risk-based recommendations.

 

EWT is short for Eastern Equine encephalitis (EEE), Western Equine encephalitis (WEE), and tetanus; it also referred to as a 3-Way vaccine.   EEE, WEE, and WNV are all mosquito born viral diseases which cause neurological disease.  A horse must be bitten by a mosquito carrying the disease to become infected.  Once a horse is affect by one of these diseases, no specific treatment exists.  This is because these are viral diseases; treatment involves intensive supportive care.  The vaccines are designed to prime the immune response to recognize the virus and kill it before it can cause clinical disease; they do not prevent an individual from becoming infected.  Horses that have been vaccinated against these diseases and get infected by one of these viruses may have a transient fever and be “off” for a couple of days.  The symptoms typically go unnoticed or quickly resolve.  However, non- vaccinated horses will quickly progress through each disease's specific progression.  Generally speaking, a non- vaccinated horse that becomes infected will develop a fever, become lethargic, and then develop progressive neurological symptoms.  Ultimately, clinically affected animals will no longer be able to stand or get up on their own.  Due to a poor prognosis, many horses are humanely euthanized if the disease progresses to recumbency. 

 

Rabies is another viral disease for which there is no cure.  However, rabies can be spread from an affected animal to people.  This makes rabies a significant public health concern.  Horses are legally required to be vaccinated annually.  Rabies virus is spread through saliva so it is easily spread to any person examining or treating the animal.  Early symptoms of the disease can be very non-specific such as fever, not themselves, anorexia, or may resemble colic.  Because of the severity of rabies disease, many veterinarians will not treat a sick horse that has not been vaccinated against rabies.

 

Tetanus is a disease that is caused by a toxin produced by a Clostridium tetani.  Cl. tetani is ubiquitous in the environment as well as the gastrointestinal tract and feces of horses and humans.   The main route of exposure is through a wound, just like people.   However surgical sites, the umbilicus of a foal, or other exposed soft tissues can also lead to disease.  Tetanus can be treated but no treatment is guaranteed and prevention is certainly a better option. 

 

For horses traveling, most veterinarians will recommend vaccinating against EHV 1, EHV 4, and influenza viruses.  Most people know this vaccine as flu/rhino.  The “flu” refers to the influenza virus.  “Rhino” refers to rhinopneumonitis which is caused by equine herpes virus strains 1 and 4.  The most common clinical symptoms of these viruses are respiratory symptoms and high fevers.   Theses viruses are spread through respiratory secretions which is why only horses that are coming into contact with other horses are most at risk.  There are multiple options for vaccinating against influenza and EHV 1 and 4.  The two are combined into a “flu/rhino” vaccine.  There is also a “5-Way” vaccine available which combines EHV 1 and 4, influenza, EEE, WEE, and tetanus into one vaccine.  Another consideration is that some show venues will require this vaccine to be booster every 6 months.

 

Most owners have already had their horses vaccinated for the season.  However, if you have not, I would strongly recommend discussing vaccines with your veterinarian.  Last year Maine did have multiple cases of EEE so the risk of disease is very real.  Also, rabies is present in the wildlife population of Maine and remains a continual threat.  The manufacturers have worked diligently to make vaccines as safe and effective as possible.  If your horse has had a negative reaction to a vaccine in the past, your veterinarian may be able to find a solution.  It always saddens me to see horses lose their lives to a disease that could have been prevented. 

 

For recommendations for your horse's particular situation, please talk to your veterinarian.  Another source to obtain information regarding vaccination guidelines and recommendations is the American Association of Equine Practitioners website (www.aaep.org).


Have a great summer everyone. 

Erin M. Dahill, DVM
Post Road Veterinary Clinic
746 Post Road Wells, ME 04090
Phone: 207-646-7200
Post Road Veterinary Clinic



Hi Everyone!

As we all know, emergencies never happen at a good time. I thought a quick review of what could be an emergency and how to handle them would be a great reminder for all. I am sure that all horse owners are away that there are only a few large animal veterinarians in the area. This means that your veterinarian may be at another farm call or emergency and could very easily be at least an hour away. Another thing to keep in the back of your mind is the weather. Some storms may prevent a vet getting to your farm immediately.

The most common emergencies are colic, wounds, fever, lameness, fevers, eye injuries, choke, respiratory distress, neurological signs and down horses. Any of these situations can range in severity. Colic can range from a gas bubble to intestines twisted on themselves. Times that wounds should involve your veterinarin are when wounds involve a joint, tendon sheath, a foreign body, or causes the horse to have a fever or go off feed. Eye injuries can progress very quickly so anytime your horse’s eye is swollen, cloudy, or has any unusual drainage should be considered a potential emergency. Any sudden lameness or fever may also be an emergency. A horse that is stumbling, swaying or leaning against a wall would be neurological symptoms. Respiratory distress would be seen has your horse breathing with it’s sides moving in and out, nostrils flaring; additionally they may stretch their necks out. And of course, a horse that is down and cannot get up is an emergency. After four hours of lying on one side, serious side-effects can begin to occur. I always suggest that you contact your vet with any questions or concerns. They will be able to some triage over the phone and determine if the owner can initiate treatment or if the horse should be seen immediately.

I recommend that you touch base with your vet earlier rather than later. He/She may be able to talk you through minor emergencies or may just want to know that something may be brewing. Many factors will determine if your vet jumps in the truck immediately: severity and duration of symptoms and response to any attempted treatments. Other factors would be the horse’s medical history and, of course, the client’s desire to have their horse seen. Weather could also be another factor; if a winter storm is anticipated, the sooner the horse is seen the better for all involved.

It is also a good idea to keep an equine first aid kit handy. I recommend one in the barn and on the trailer. Things to have on hand: sterile gauze, vet wrap, antibacterial soap, and sterile eye flush. Some veterinarians are comfortable dispensing medications for owners to have on hand in case of emergency. The two main ones are phenylbutazone (“bute”) and Ban amine (flunixin melamine). Phenylbutazone is primarily used for musculoskeletal injuries/pain. Banamine is typically used for soft tissue pain-- like eye injuries and colic. Some owners like having a triple antibiotic eye ointment on hand. Always consult your veterinarian prior to administering any medications.

Erin M. Dahill, DVM
Post Road Veterinary Clinic
746 Post Road Wells, ME 04090
Phone: 207-646-7200
Post Road Veterinary Clinic


Hello Again!

I thought that I would give everyone a brief overview of pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) which is more commonly known as Equine Cushing's Disease.  I am not going to attempt to go into all of the small details of the disease but present the basics and provide a basis for a discussion with your veterinarian.  As most of you probably know, there is a plethora of information available on the web and in equine journals.  Additionally, research is on-going and information and recommendations continue to evolve. 

The name change has come with a further understanding of the disease and to differentiate it from Cushing's Disease in dogs and humans.  In all three species the pituitary gland is affected; however, a different part of the gland is affected in the equine form of the disease.  The basis of the disease in horses is that the pars intermedia of the pituitary gland is enlarged and overactive and it does not respond to normal physiological regulation.  In other words, the pituitary pars intermedia secretes more signaling molecules than normal to the rest of the body and does not respond to the signal to stop.

PPID is generally diagnosed in middle age to older horses, and is becoming diagnosed more commonly as horses live longer.  The typical presentation of the PPID horse is a long, wavy hair coat that does not shed normally.  Another common trait is abnormal fat distribution such as along the crest, at the tail head, in the sheath, or above the eyes.  Some horses will also suffer from chronic recurrent laminitis or hoof abscesses.  Owners may also report increased water consumption and urination.

PPID is not a disease that can be prevented, but like any disease process, early diagnosis is key in controlling the symptoms of PPID.  The two most popular tests to diagnosis PPID are the dexamethasone suppression test or plasma ACTH concentrations.  Both tests have pros and cons.  I would recommend that you discuss your options with your veterinarian and make a decision based on what is best for you and your horse.  While testing for PPID, many veterinarians recommend testing blood insulin and glucose levels.  These values will be crucial in developing a treatment plan for your horse.  Additionally, symptoms between PPID and Equine Metabolic Syndrome can overlap; blood glucose and insulin levels will help distinguish between the two disease processes

Treatment is aimed at regulating the secretions from the pars pituitary intermedia.  The drug of choice at this time is pergolide, and it works by mimicking the body's regulatory signal.   Other aspects of treatment are nutrition, farrier work, and preventative medicine.  Nutritional changes will usually involve lowering the amount of soluble carbohydrates and providing more fats and fibers.  Many commercial feed production companies have developed feeds that help accomplish these goals.  Also, changing the type of hay fed may need to be considered.  Research is ongoing to evaluate the benefits of supplementing chromium and magnesium.  If your horse suffers from chronic laminitis or hoof abscesses, your farrier will be an important member of your horse's health care team.  Often effected horses will need to see their farriers more often than the standard 8 to 12 weeks.   Preventative medicine and quick responses to any illness will also be critical in maintaining the horse's well being.

With early diagnosis and treatment implementation, we can work to minimize the symptoms and long term consequences of the PPID disease process.  Each horse is an individual and will present with his or her own symptoms. If you notice any of signs noted here or anything that different from your horse's “normal”, I would certainly bring them to the attention of your vet. Every treatment plan will be tailored based on individual needs.  Your veterinarian can help you develop a comprehensive treatment for your horse. 

Erin M. Dahill, DVM
Post Road Veterinary Clinic
746 Post Road Wells, ME 04090
Phone: 207-646-7200
Post Road Veterinary Clinic