Monthly Archives: January 2015

Should I blanket my horse?

By Teresa Martinoli, DVM

This is a common question asked by horse owners every fall and winter.    The short answer:  Probably not!

Most horses do NOT need to be blanketed.  Horses are naturally equipped to handle cold weather, and do not get cold nearly as easily as us humans do.   Their long and thick winter coat can “puff out” when it’s very cold outside, and the air between the hairs acts as an insulator.  This natural insulation does a better job keeping them warm than a sheet or light blanket can; those cause the hair to flatten out, therefore preventing the “air” insulation layer.

The ones that may need blanketing include newborn foals, thin or debilitated horses, sick horses (possibly) and, of course, body clipped horses.  One possible exception to healthy, hairy horses needing a blanket is if they do not have adequate shelter in their field and there is a cold rain causing them to get chilled.  Horses with a nice shed available to get out of bad weather typically do fine all winter without blankets.

If you do decide to blanket, here are some blanketing basics:

Be sure the blanket fits properly!  An improperly fitted blanket can cause rubs, muscle soreness, and even lameness. One that is too large may cause the horse to get tangled in the straps, or even for the straps to get caught on fences, gates, or buckets, causing injury.  (If the straps are too long, try tying them in knots to shorten them.)

Be sure the horse isn’t too hot!  They get warm a lot easier than we do, so just because you need a jacket does NOT mean the horse needs a blanket.  Many horses end up sweating under their sheets and blankets, which can lead to them actually catching a chill when the temperature drops, or to them getting skin disease, or sick.

Take the blanket off periodically (AT LEAST twice a week) to examine the horse’s weight, and check for any cuts, scrapes, or skin problems.  Every spring I see thin horses who were wearing a blanket all winter that prevented the owners from realizing how thin they had become.

Make sure the blankets are still waterproof! Sometimes they look soaked on the outside but are dry next to the horse; this is OK.  However, if you find the horse is wet along their topline or shoulders despite being blanketed, you’ll need to re-waterproof it or replace it.

If you are unable to check/change blankets up to twice daily if necessary, then I would recommend NOT blanketing at all.  More damage can be done if the horse gets overheated, if  he gets caught up in the blanket,  if the blanket has slipped or is not fitting properly, or his weight is not being monitored properly, than if the horse is not blanketed at all.

If you have questions about your horses’ body condition/weight please don’t hesitate to contact me!

To sleep or brush teeth…Dr Amy Tanis

“So overall your pet’s physical exam is normal. He looks great! Let’s start brushing his teeth on a daily basis, this will help prevent tartar and plaque from forming on your pet’s teeth and keep his oral cavity happy and healthy!”

When I first started practicing at Veterinary Medical Center, I would probably say this (enthusiastically, no less) several times a day to most owners I would see, and why not? I brushed my dog’s teeth every day. It was easy, a five minute part of my day that both my dog, Jovie, and I looked forward to. But as time went on I noticed a trend. Each time I said it, I would get very different responses.  Many clients would give me the big “are you kidding me” eyes.  Others would say they’d try, but were realistic and said maybe they could aim for once a week. The most honest of the bunch would tell me there’s no chance of getting a toothbrush into their pet’s mouth, so let’s just schedule him for a dental cleaning every year.  I appreciated all answers as I realized everyone had different schedules, different comfort levels with their pets, and of course each animal’s temperament would dictate what type of at home oral care was possible.

Then I had a baby.

Of course I had time for my first baby, my beloved dog, but it was different. Most of our time together was now shared with a child. Sleep was always a precious commodity, so I would say, “Don’t worry Jovie; I’ll make sure we brush your teeth after I take a nap.” And we would nap together, get up together, take care of the baby and no teeth were brushed. I promised that tomorrow I’d get the toothbrush and chicken-flavored toothpaste, and about half the time I kept my word. Jovie’s teeth still looked healthy; I thought an every other day regimen was a good compromise.

Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. A second baby came. I really had good intentions. Naps were a thing of the past for both of us; we were on the go looking after two little ones. Oral care for my fur baby was not always on my radar screen, but I still did a respectable one-time-per-week brushing. I started buying dental chews and gave one to Jovie on the days I didn’t brush, after-all they are a great way to keep bacteria from sticking to the tooth surface (I would reassure myself).

Then it happened. Surprise! A third baby was on his way. Sleep was at an all-time low, and I don’t think Jovie’s toothbrush even made it out of our bathroom drawer for a few months! During a moment of quiet, when Jovie and I had some time to just sit together, I lifted her upper lip. I thought back to a time of yester-year when those pearly whites got brushed religiously, when I instructed clients on how to perform the simple task, and was honest with them when I said, “why yes, I brush my dog’s teeth every day.”

Nowadays, sleep has become a little more regular, and so has giving Jovie’s teeth a good scrub. She probably will need a dental cleaning in the future, but she’s survived the baby years just like the rest of us. I will get back to brushing her teeth daily one day, or even better, I’ll delegate the job to an eager child who loves their dog!

Please review the link on our website for a short video on how to train your pet to love having a daily tooth brushing!

Don’t forget February is National Dental Health Month!

Mention you read this blog and get a $25.00 discount on your pet’s dentistry service scheduled through February 28 2015!