Category Archives: Equine Health

Equine Coronavirus

What is Equine Coronavirus?

Equine coronavirus (ECoV) is well known as a cause of gastrointestinal disease in foals.  However, recently this virus has been linked with intestinal diseases in adults.

What are the clinical signs of ECoV?

Infected horses tend to develop high fevers (>103oF), inappetance, dullness, and lethargy that may last two to four days with minimal treatment.  Some horses may experience soft manure to diarrhea with mild colic signs such as flank watching and/or lying down.  In rare cases, ECoV may lead to translocation of bacteria from the intestinal tract and lead to serious complication like septicemia, endotoxemia, and encephalopathy.

How is ECoV transmitted?

ECoV is spread horse to horse by manure-to-mouth. Both symptomatic and non-symptomatic horses can transmit the virus in their manure for three to four weeks that may lead to clinical disease.  Research is ongoing to assess sources of outbreaks.  The disease is highly infectious and appropriate biosecurity measures are essential during an outbreak.  Although many horses may become infected (high morbidity) overall mortality is low.  The virus is suspected to live in the environment for up to 72 hours.

How is ECoV diagnosed?

Gold standard for diagnosis of ECoV is submission of manure sample for PCR testing for presence of the virus genetic code.  Such testing may take several days to perform thus treatment is started prior to confirmed diagnosis in many cases.

How is ECoV treated?

Main goal of treatment of ECoV is supportive care for the clinical signs displayed such as IV fluids to avoid dehydration, medication to reduce fever such as Banamine®, and gastrointestinal/anti-ulcer protectant medications such as BioSponge® and Gastroguard®.  Close monitoring for laminitis and preventative measure of deep bedding and/or hoof padding is recommended.

How to limit spread during an outbreak?

Strict biosecurity measures must be established.  Affected horses must be kept separate from unaffected horses. Separate barn equipment must be used when handling/treating sick horses.  It is recommended to handle sick horses last and limit the overall traffic occurring in/out of barn during an outbreak.  Veterinarian grade disinfectants are required to inactivate the virus.

Denise Newsome, BVSc, MRCVS, DABVP(equine)

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!

Five Lifesaving Skills that all Horses Need to Know

I know we all use our horses for many different things.  Some of us trail ride, some of us show, some of us just like to watch them in the field.  It really doesn’t matter.  What does matter, though, is that I think every horse should know 5 basic things.  These 5 things may make the difference between life and death for them.  We are fortunate – we don’t live in an area where there are wildfires or the need to evacuate in a moment’s notice.  But even if we don’t need to leave quickly, we still need to be able to handle our horse in an emergency.  Here are the 5 lifesaving things:

  1. Be able to catch and halter easily. If you can’t catch your horse, you can’t take him. It may take a few sessions in a round pen, but it CAN be taught.
  2. Lead well. By lead well, I mean to walk at your side, to stop when you do and to keep a respectful distance.  Not only will it make it safer for you to handle your horse, it makes it safer for your horse as well.
  3. Pick up his feet easily. (And that means all 4!) This may not be an emergency item, but you would be surprised at how many horses don’t know.  Your farrier and vet will thank you too!
  4. Have a rectal temperature taken. In an emergency, when you don’t have help, you may need to take your horses temperature.  If you have never taught them, it may be a disaster (for you at least- the horse just won’t let it happen and may remind you that you have never even lifted up the tail, much less inserted a foreign object there!)
  5. Load in a trailer. Not with tranquilization, not with an hour of coaxing, shoving, ropes, whips or grain. Do you need to evacuate?  Is your horse colicing and loading (or not) to go to a referral hospital?  An emergency is not the time when you should be seeing (and hoping) if your horse will load.

These things don’t cost money, they just take time.  They also apply to any age horse, from a foal to the geriatric horse. There are a lot of trainers who can help you, or you can get a lot of this knowledge from books, DVD’s or online.  If you need help or need to know where to look, let me know and I can get you the information you need.  After all, your horse’s health matters to me too.

Elizabeth D. Callahan, DVM, DACT, DABVP

Horse Treats for Cushing’s Patients and Metabolic Syndrome

Giving treats is a common way we form a bond with our horses.  Treats are also useful in many training situations.  Unfortunately most commercially made horse treats, as well as apples and carrots, can be high in sugar.  This presents a problem with horses that have Cushing’s disease, or Insulin Resistance/Metabolic Syndrome, as those horses’ sugar and starch intake must be limited.

The following recipe is a great alternative to commercial horse treats.  It was even tested at Equi-Analytical lab and is extremely low in starch and simple sugars, with an NSC of 2.4.

LOW STARCH APPLE CINNAMON HORSE TREATS

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. bag of Bob’s Red Mill organic ground flaxseed (from Wal-Mart or grocery store)
  • ½ cup Unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tbs. Cinnamon
  • 2 cups hot water
  • Cookie sheet, and parchment or wax paper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Dump flaxseed into mixing bowl.  Add Cinnamon; mix.  Add applesauce, then HOT water.  Initially mix with rubber spatula, then use your hands until the dough is smooth.

Cover cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper.  (Do NOT use cooking spray.)  Place dough on paper covered cookie sheet to evenly cover it.  The thinner you spread the dough, the crunchier your horse cookies will be.  Cut the dough into squares BEFORE baking; this allows them to come apart easily after baking.  They are difficult to cut apart once baked.

Place in preheated oven and bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes for chewy cookies, and 75 minutes for crunchy cookies.  After that, turn off the oven and let them sit in the warm oven for another 30 minutes.

The cookies shrink during baking.  Once cool, they break apart easily.  Store in a baggie or plastic container in the refrigerator so they will not mold if not eaten quickly.  (Thinner, crunchier cookies are less apt to mold.)

I hope your horses enjoy these!
Dr. Teresa Martinoli

For more Information about Equine Cushings Disease and Equine Metabolic Syndrome go to the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) website  and look in the Owners section.