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“Winterizing” for Horses

Winter is one of my favorite seasons when it comes to horses. I know that may be an unpopular opinion, everybody reading this is thinking “but it’s so cold and soggy, you have to break ice on water buckets, the ground is hard, and yuck it is actually snowing!” But what winter brings to mind for me is the best feeling of swinging into a cold saddle on a fresh horse, the blessing of the hounds on the opening day of foxhunting season, and let’s not forget dressing horses up for Christmas parades! Whatever your feeling on horses in winter, we always get a few questions that I thought I would address. How to minimize risk of colic, what is the “right” blanketing strategy, and do we need to be concerned about our horse’s feet when it snows?

1. Colic: A horse can colic at any time of the year but we definitely tend to see a few more in the winter, this is often attributed to horses not drinking enough water which sets them up for impactions (obstructions of the GI tract). Horses also often aren’t moving around as much or are stalled for longer periods of time.

To encourage horses to drink more water, water trough heaters are always a great idea. Make sure to get the correct kind for your trough, but these are great for keeping water at a comfortable temperature. If it gets cold enough for ice to form be sure to break and remove the ice chunks from the top. Some horses are willing to make their own holes in the water but others aren’t and we don’t want to give them any more excuses than they already have in the winter for not drinking. For my own horses I also include a dose of equine specific electrolytes once daily in their feed, again to encourage water consumption. This will help keep everything moving smoothly.

And lastly, even though it’s cold, keeping your horse moving will keep their GI tract moving as well. So remember to give them as much turnout as possible, or if they are being stalled for long periods take them out for a couple 15 minutes hand walks per day.

 

2. Blanketing: A topic which I’m sure has started a few wars in the past. I think the right answer, as with so many things in the horse world, there is no one right answer. Individual horses have different responses to the cold. My family has a draft horse that was raised in Iowa who could care less when it is 20 degrees outside, but we also have a half Arabian and I swear if it drops below 40 she better have a blanket on or you will walk out in the morning and the pasture will be full of freshly dug holes as punishment, her go to response for being chilled.

There are many helpful charts online to use as a guideline. A general rule of thumb is if your horse has  full winter coat and is in good body condition I wouldn’t even start considering a blanket until it is 25 degrees or below on a clear day.  If they are calling for precipitation then start considering blankets at 35 degrees. Old, thin, or clipped horses require blankets at warmer temperatures since they don’t have their natural defense system. Always remember to apply blankets to clean, dry horses.

 

3. The dreaded “S” word – Snow: Whether you love it or hate it snow always adds a little extra work to our daily routine for our hooved friends. Trudging through snow to feed has always been fun for me….for about 5 minutes, then it loses the appeal and I realize my feet are cold, the pastures will be a mess, and now we have to worry about somebody turning their ankle on a snow ball attached to the bottom of their foot. This last part tends to be just a concern for horses in shoes, so if you don’t ride during the winter, your horse has good feet, and no lameness issues that require a shoe to be on constantly then consider letting your horse go barefoot during the time of year that we expect there to be the most snow. Otherwise here are some tips to keep the snowballs to a minimum.

Ask your farrier about anti-snowball pads to be applied in conjunction with your horse’s shoes. These are pads which help push snow out of the hoof area with each step. The only caveat to these is you must be diligent about keeping your horse’s feet and environment clean as pads, which can encourage a wet warmer environment, can predispose your horse to developing thrush.

The only other remedy I have had any luck with is applying Vaseline to the bottom of the hoof, ideally done at least twice daily and not as effective as the pads, but it still should help limit the build-up of snow/ice balls. You can also plan to stall your horse during a snow storm or run out and pick out their feet several times a day. Sorry there is no easy answer to this one! Pick which solution works best for your farm and stick with it!

 

I hope these tips will help you enjoy winter with your horse as much as I do with mine! Happy Holidays!

Dr. Rebecca Bacon

Food is Love, but so is Quality Time

by Dr Maddie Scofield

As the air becomes crisper and the holidays creep around the corner I become increasingly excited about many things associated with season changes.  Most important for me is food.  I’d be lying if I told you Halloween candy has not constituted over 80% of several meals earlier this November!  As I think back on delicious memories of previous holidays, my throat tightens as my belt loosens at the thought of those extra 5-10 lbs. I will gain during these times of love and food.   Which bring me to my main topic of discussion, the concept of food as love.   Food is given and shared as a gift of friendship, fellowship and sympathy during all types of celebrations, family events, and holidays.  Food is love for us as humans to humans but also as humans to our beloved four legged companions.

I would be lying to you if I told you I never give food (i.e. people food) to my animals.  I fondly remember sharing a soft serve ice cream cone between me and my dogs in the Mc Donald’s parking lot one afternoon.  It was a happy moment in a sad time, as it was just after our Labrador “Abbie” had her chemo treatment for cancer.  In the middle of our gastronomic bliss I hear following words emanating from the car parked next to us: “I bet your veterinarian wouldn’t approve of you feeding your dogs that ice cream!”  These were words coming from a concerned busybody in the neighboring car.   I couldn’t help but bellow a response: “Well…..I am my dogs’ veterinarian.  Besides, they ran 3 miles today and this one is dying of cancer…. but thank you for caring!”  The interloper immediately rolled up their window and resumed eating the not so healthy junk food.

I understand the concern that you may have feeding your dog “people food”.  There is the likelihood your veterinarians at VMC are going to chastise you for feeding your dog anything but pet food and pet treats.  But what joy and happiness we feel giving them something they love!  Feeding homemade snacks from the farmers market…….watching that reward center of the brain light up as they smack peanut butter from the roof of their mouth, or eat meat drippings on their dry kibble.  There is no doubt that food helps bond us to our pets and patients.

Unfortunately, all these extra treats can bring problems.  There is the ever increasing concern for weight gain, and with this obesity can come other health problems which can severely impact the quality of our pet’s lives and their longevity.  That’s why this year I’m promising myself to try to light up the reward center in a more healthy way!  I’m sure we will indulge in snacking, but this year I plan to pursue moderation in the indulgence!  The same will go for my beloved 4-legged friends, and I encourage you to do the same.  Your dog can have a tiny taste, but remember they don’t need a huge portion.  A taste will often satisfy your need to give in and share as well as avoid the food coma or overload lethargy from a true gorge of indulgent calories (i.e. “Thanksgiving”).  It will also help prevent the inevitable gastrointestinal ailments we see in dogs after the holidays.

I’m going to put effort towards another, perhaps more rewarding way to bond with my pets this holiday season: we are exercising together!  This exercise will induce natural endorphins and give us the quality time we need together.  Our companions get the most reward from just being with us, especially when we are active with them.  A 10-15 min sojourn around the block will not only help slim our waist lines and invigorate our mental health, it will also strengthen our human-animal bond.  My challenge for all of us is this: for every extra snack or treat we eat, we must be more active, and take our pets out for a “sniff” walk or game of catch, while we enjoy this beautiful time of year.  I’m hopeful that this holiday season is magical, and that you and your pets will enjoy this time together even more with more activity and exercise!  If you have any questions about breaking the rules…you know where to find me, just don’t tell your veterinarian!

p.s. – I’ve made it to the gym 3 times in the past week!!

Bark in the Park 2013 – an un-fur-gettable event!

Each October for three years running, Idlewild Park in Easton has been transformed to allow dog-lovers to have a great time with their pooch and support a local and important cause – helping the homeless pets of our community.  Bark in the Park is an annual fundraising event launched by Talbot Humane and it has been a highlight each autumn for the Easton community. Talbot Humane has done an amazing job organizing this wonderful event, and this year, Bark in the Park had a record turnout. From a 5K race in the morning, to canine agility and dog-training exhibitions, to pet photos, dog-kissing booths and of course a “pawrade” of adoptable pets, there was something for everyone at this year’s big event.

Veterinary Medical Center was in charge of the pet first aid tent – and lucky for the dogs, our doctors and veterinary technicians were not too busy! Dr. Bruce and Dr. Callahan were able to see some of their favorite canine patients and even meet some new furry faces over the course of the day. Dr. Martinoli spent the morning educating dog owners on chiropractic treatments and its benefits in small animals. She certified as a veterinary chiropractor and had a lot of fun informing interested dog owners how it can help a variety of different canine ailments, as well as improve performance in working and agility dogs.  Several lucky dogs even received a complimentary adjustment for demonstration!

Everyone at VMC had a delightful time contributing at such a well-executed, commendable event to benefit the helpless and homeless animals of our community.  But each volunteer would agree that one the most enjoyable aspects of Bark in the Park, is seeing how our dedicated clients not only take wonderful care of their dogs, but also are committed to helping other pets in need too. We are proud to be a part of and serve such a generous, altruistic group of people who truly have hearts of gold and who love helping our canine (and feline) friends as much as we do!

If you could not attend the Bark in the Park event this year but are still interested in making a donation, please visit their website (www.talbothumane.org) and help make a difference in our the lives of our animal companions who need their “fur-ever” home. Veterinary Medical Center is honored to a part of this annual event that enhances the lives of the four-legged friends we love so much!

Help! I can’t get rid of these fleas!

Help! I can’t get rid of these fleas! How Veterinary Medical Center handles these pesky parasites.

Dr. Amy Tanis

Hello and welcome to Veterinary Medical Center’s blog! My name is Dr. Amy Tanis and I have worked here as a mixed animal practioner for 5 years. This is our first blog entry and I felt it fitting to welcome you to our practice by allowing us to become better acquainted and go over how to get a better handle on flea control in our pets during this time of year.

Veterinary Medical Center first opened its doors in 1980 and has served small and large animal patients since! Our mission statement is simple and 2-fold: we treat sick animals and our goal is to do so with compassion, respect, and integrity. Our purpose is to make sure every patient and client is treated like part of our family! Back then, flea control consisted of shampoos, dusts and sprays that did not last long and were ineffective at controlling anything but the adult flea. Clients were often frustrated since the fleas were very difficult to get under control. Now-a-days, there are countless products that are on the market for fleas – but it doesn’t mean that they are any less frustrating when you see them on your pet!

When we talk about fleas, clients are often perplexed about where to start – what product should I use? How do I apply it? Can I combine treatments? Is what’s available at PetSmart the same as what my veterinarian sells?

This time of year, we often see a surge in the number of fleas that infest our cats and dogs. This is because they’ve had all spring and summer to reproduce, so the number of adults ready to jump on your animal is the highest.  And how the adult fleas got to that stage (their life cycle) is important since we focus our efforts on killing not only the adults, but other life stages as well. The flea goes through 4 separate life phases – egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The whole life cycle takes about 3 weeks in ideal warm, humid conditions. But the pupa stage can lay dormant for up to 6 months or longer if the temperature is cool. That’s why you may not see fleas all winter, but come spring and warmer temperatures, you have fleas again! It is because the pupa that have survived all winter (free room and board in your house!) hatch and become adults that then jump on Fido or Fluffy –  the cycle continues.

So how do we effectively stop this vicious cycle? Our flea control focus is 3-pronged: treat the affected pet, treat the environment, and treat all in-contact animals. This third factor may be out of your control if you frequent dog parks, kennels or areas where there are pets other than your own. But every other pet in your household should be treated.

But what is the best treatment once fleas are discovered? At VMC, we tailor each pet’s flea control program to meet the individual animal’s needs.  Some animals swim often – let’s use oral medication as the primary flea preventive or treatment. Cats often do not like taking a pill – there are topical and even injectable options. There are so many options on the market these days, the task of choosing a flea treatment or preventive can be daunting. We are here to help! Please contact us or visit our website so we can help you choose the best products for your animal.