Digital Mobile Radiography
We can acquire very high quality x-rays very quickly and efficiently. The x-rays can be rapidly emailed to insurance companies, potential purchasers and specialist radiologists when necessary. The x-ray system gives hospital standard images but on the move, so severely lame animals need not risk potential exacerbation of a problem during transport. If transport proves necessary for treatment, the appropriate splinting techniques can be employed, based on the diagnosis from the x-ray. The digital machine also enables our vets and owners to view the images immediately aiding explanation and allowing further investigation based on findings.
Digital Mobile Ultrasonography
Our machine is capable of very high quality tendon and ligament scans. In addition we have probes for the machine that allow assessment of the liver, kidneys, intestines and spleen. Where biopsies or exact positioning of injections into an area are required, such as when injecting stem cells or the sacroiliac, our machine is used to ensure optimal needle placement. The scanner is equipped with extra software to allow visualisation of normal and abnormal blood flow in the heart, allowing excellent assessment and monitoring of cardiac murmurs. The ultrasound scanner can also aid in identifying foreign bodies too. We also have three other scanners dedicated to reproductive work. They are used to scan the uterus and ovaries, to work out the timing of ovulation and detect any problems.
A piece of equipment used to investigate irregularities in heart rhythm. We also use this when monitoring horses we are treating for atrial fibrillation (heart flutter) at the clinic. We have ECG attachments for our iPhones to carry out a quick check in a field situation to establish whether further diagnostics are required pre-anaesthesia or if an irregular heart rhythm has been detected at our health checks when we vaccinate. In addition to this we have an ECG that can be attached to the horse for a 24 hour period or used whilst lunging to monitor how the heart responds when under stress due to exercising.
This allows us to examine internal structures such as the larynx and upper airways. Samples, injections and biopsies can be directed towards specific structures. Recently we have successfully treated a nasal tumour by injecting it via the endoscope. More commonly the scope is used to investigate abnormal respiratory noises and coughing.
By having a laboratory within the practice we can process blood samples efficiently and quickly. This includes a full panel of haematology and biochemistry, helping to rapidly identify the presence of a virus, liver disease, muscle pathology (exercise induced tying up or sycamore seed poisoning) and many more disorders.
We also perform faecal worm egg counts in-house to aid in parasite control programmes. This means we can tailor a individual specific worming program, taking into account the faecal worm egg count, in contact horses and their worm burdens alongside paddock and yard management. This enables responsible worming with a suitable active ingredient when it is required. We aim to have results within 48 hours and we only require one fresh dropping, either dropped into the practice at any time or given to one of our equine vets on the road. After testing if worming is advised we offer 10% off the relevant wormer. We also have available a tape worm test, ideally used at least once a year in spring or autumn and we can test for pin worms too if clinical signs indicate it.
Available alongside our extensive range of manual dental tools (including a full set of rasps, picks, probes, elevators and extracting tools) we have dental power tools. These are used alongside the manual tools for precision and removal of large and sharp points and hooks. We always carry out a comprehensive oral check using a dental gag, head torch and mirror to identify problems often with the horse's head on a dental stand. In cases of fractious horses or when they are painful sedation may be needed which we can provide at a standard discounted price incorporated into the dental fee when required. Obviously any relevant treatment we can also carry out, in advanced cases that can be in our hospital with a specialist dental veterinary surgeon. Importantly when we do dental work pain relief when necessary can be provided too.
We pride ourselves on providing top class dentistry and as a practice regularly attend advanced dental training to continue the high level of service we offer. Please note dentistry can be booked on a normal or shared visit,. We regularly carry out dentistry out on the road or using the stocks at our practice in Market Harborough. There is no visit charge when the horse is brought into our facilities.
In addition to the above we have a new dental video camera. This means we can detect problems in the areas of the mouth that are hard to visualise even with a dental mirror. It is especially useful to evaluate diastemata (gaps between teeth) where food packs and rots, causing extensive gum disease and loose teeth. In suitable cases we can pack these gaps and prevent further deterioration. The dental camera also helps identify fractured teeth, problems with the dental pulp and caries.
Please do not hesitate to contact one of our equine vets to discuss a tailor made worming program for your horse or yard. If you wish to submit a faecal sample for worm egg count please complete the submission form below and supply one ball of fresh faeces from your horse in a suitable container. (Refrigerate sample if it cannot be submitted immediately).
Intestinal worms have been around as long as horses have. They have highly complex life cycles and vary hugely in the way they behave and problems they cause. In the wild, horses will have survived quite adequately without the need for worming drugs so why is it that they are so dependent on them now?
The main reason is simply to do with the fact that we tend to keep horses in a much smaller space than they would have done in the wild, and we keep them there all year round. In the wild, a horse would move to new grazing on a very regular basis and therefore rarely be eating pasture close enough to their dung to become re infected.
1. What are the symptoms of worms?
For the main part, if present in low numbers, worms cause few symptoms and often you will be unaware of their presence. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t causing any damage and sometimes problems arise at a later date.
The two main problems we see regularly in horses due to worms are colic and diarrhoea. In more severely infected animals we can see failure to thrive, dull coat, poor weight gain, coughing or liver and other organ damage.
‘Colic’ is a term used to describe abdominal pain (belly ache) in horses. Worms cause abdominal pain in a number of different ways. Some will burrow through the gut wall into the blood stream, then migrate in the blood vessels that supply the intestines causing severe cramp by interrupting the blood flow to the gut wall (e.g. the large strongyles). Other types of worm can cause a blockage to the passage of food (e.g. the large roundworm ‘parascaris’), or can congregate at the opening of the caecum causing spasm (e.g. the tapeworm ‘anoplocehala’). Another possible complication of worm damage is a condition called peritonitis. This is infection in the abdomen around the outside surface of the intestines. There are various causes of peritonitis, but migrating worm larvae are one cause.
Sometimes an episode of colic that improves rapidly (e.g. spasmodic colic) may be put down to being ‘one of those things’. If your horse has colic, however mild, it is important to reflect on your worm control program. It may well be worth asking to speak to one of the equine vets at Town and Country and we will be able to advise you of the most appropriate worm control program for your horse and hopefully reduce the risk of further colic episodes in the future.
Another common symptom of worm damage is diarrhoea. This is particularly caused by the small redworms (cyathostomes). They tend to damage the wall of the large bowel causing inflamation which results in diarrhoea.
The cyathostomes have a seasonal lifecycle. They are active throughout the spring and summer grazing season, but in the autumn they start to become less active and will ‘hibernate’ inside the horse by burrowing deep into the gut wall and becoming encysted. In this state, they are able to avoid the horses immune system and are pretty resistant to most worming drugs. Interestingly, when the spring grass starts to come through, these encysted small redworms will wake up and emerge back into the intestine causing significant damage to the gut wall. If your horse suffers from diarrhoea at the time the new spring grass comes through, it is possible that this is due to worm damage rather than just the ‘richness’ of the grass.
Please contact a member of our equine team to discuss your horse if you have any concerns that this could be occurring.
2. Assessing the worm burden in an individual or group of horses
The easiest way to investigate whether your horse has worms is to collect a fresh sample of faeces and get a worm egg count performed. This is a relatively good way of assessing roundworm burdens but it is not so good at detecting tapeworms. There is a blood test that can give an idea about the level of tapeworm infection present in your horse. A newer and less invasive test can be carried out using a sample of saliva that owners can take from the horses mouth using a swab within the kit provided from us, this is cheap and effective.
There are a few limitations of the worm egg count. Round worms do not lay eggs all year round. In fact, the number of eggs present in a sample can vary on a daily basis depending on just how many eggs are being laid. It is however a useful tool, particularly if performed reasonably frequently (3-4 times a year particularly during the grazing season). Frequent worm egg counts and testing for tapeworms, alongside good pasture management enables responsible worming, which is covered below.
3. Treating worms
There is no single dosing interval that is correct for all drugs at all times of year. In fact, it is probably fair to say that there is no single worming program that is suitable for all horses.
There are comprehensive worming programs that have been designed to give complete cover from all worms all year round. These may be suitable in some circumstances, but a heavy reliance on drug based worm control is more likely to lead to the development of drug resistance. They often lead to unnecessary dosing and it may become quite expensive, especially if you have more than one horse.
At Town and Country Veterinary Centre we aim to advise our clients on an individual basis in order to develop a tailor made worming program to suit their needs and those of their horses. The basis of our program includes:
Identifying the animals which need treating and those who may have a good natural immunity and therefore don’t require treatment. This is done by performing Faecal Worm Egg Counts.
Recognising which worms are present and therefore which drugs are most appropriate.
Identifying feasible pasture management changes which can reduce risk.
Understanding the natural life cycle of the worms and treating at the most important times of the year.
Ensuring the correct dose of wormers is given according to the horse's weight. Under dosing also predisposes to resistance building up.
4. Pasture Management
The single most important management means of worm control is regular dung removal from the pasture. However, in order to be an effective part of your worm control strategy, the dung must be removed before the worm eggs have hatched into infective larvae. The frequency that this must be performed depends on the weather. When it is warm and wet it is particularly important to be vigilant and dung collection should be performed 2-3 times per week.
Stable new horses until after treatment
When you worm your horse, it is worth keeping it stabled for 48hrs after dosing so that any worms and eggs that are passed are not left to contaminate the field. It is sensible to worm and follow this procedure for any new horse being brought onto the field.
Resting a pasture is another way of controlling worm numbers that is useful if you have plenty of land available. Sheep and cattle carry different worms to horses so alternating grazing with other species can be one way of ‘resting’ a field. They will also graze up infective larvae from ungrazed, faecally contaminated areas.
The length of time a pasture needs to be rested however is quite long as some worm eggs can survive for many months. Resting a pasture for a year would significantly reduce the strongyle population, but the tougher eggs such as parascaris (particular problem for foals and youngsters) will take much longer. A very cold winter will help kill off some but probably not all worm eggs. A mild winter is likely to leave many more eggs viable to hatch in the spring when the weather warms up.
Harrowing your field is a risky business. If you can guarantee a hot dry spell for a week or so after you have harrowed then it is likely that the eggs and any newly hatched larvae will be subjected to the sun’s baking rays and be killed. If however it rains unexpectedly, your entire pasture will be infected and any horse grazing there will suddenly be exposed to a finely spread layer of worms on almost every blade of grass in the field!
How do I protect my mare and foal from worm problems?
Most of the wormers available are safe to use in pregnant and lactating mares. Some advise that they shouldn’t be used in the first 4 months of pregnancy. It is extremely important to read the small print on the leaflet. This will advise whether the product you have is suitable for use in pregnancy.
The age at which a foal first needs to be wormed depends on the management conditions and the likelihood of exposure to worm eggs. As a general rule, they will need a first dose against roundworms at 6-8 weeks old although this can be delayed if management factors have been assessed as posing a very low risk.
There is a roundworm that can be passed directly from the mare’s colostrum (strongyloides ‘threadworm’) that can cause diarrhoea in foals at a younger age. If the mare has not been wormed and infection is suspected then there are some wormers that are safe to use in foals as young as 2-3wks old (for example Panacur oral suspension).
Not all wormers are safe for use in very young foals. It is important to read the instructions carefully. Equest and Equest Pramox are not suitable for young foals. Foals tend to be more sensitive to overdosing, so it is important to assess the foals weight as accurately as possible.
High risk of worm contamination:
Grazing shared with other foals/youngsters
Grazing used for foals last year (high risk parascaris contamination)
Mares not routinely wormed or checked for worm egg counts prior to foaling (Increases risk for all worms, increases risk threadworm)
Dung not cleared from pasture at least 3 times weekly
High stocking density.
Lower risk of worm contamination:
Mares and foals turned out onto fresh pasture (ideally no horses on it for >1yr, or at least rested over the winter and turnout delayed until late spring).
No other younsters on grazing
No foals on grazing in previous year
Regular dung removal performed
Download submission form for a Faecal Worm Egg Count
Our equine vets have experience in all areas of the equine industry and they understand the requirements of horses and owners in the various equine disciplines. If you are considering buying a horse and would like more information regarding the pre purchase examination or 'vetting' process then please read through the following articles. If you wish to have a two stage vetting, please complete the request form below and return it to us prior to the vetting taking place.
If you are new to horse ownership then buying your first horse can be an exciting, if not a little daunting. There are many factors to think about and it is worth considering them carefully.
1. Have you got enough time?
Caring for a horse is very time consuming; even a pony kept in a field will need checking at least twice a day and during the winter this requirement may be increased if you are mucking out stables, feeding and checking frozen water supplies. There is also the need to find someone competent to care for your horse if you go on holiday.
2. Have you thought about the costs involved?
The initial purchase of a horse should probably be seen as the cheapest part of horse ownership! As well as obvious costs for things such as grazing, stabling and feed, your horse will need regular visits from a good farrier, annual vaccinations and a dental check up. We would also strongly advise insurance.
People often ask us why veterinary care for horses is so expensive.
Firstly, the average horse weighs about 500kg. This is nearly 10 times as much as a person and over 20 times as much as a dog. For this reason, a horse will require a large amount of any given drug treatment, therefore an injection that would cost £2 for a dog could cost somewhere in the region of £40 for a horse.
Secondly, we aim to provide a high standard of care, without exception, to all our patients. We do not believe it is in our patients interest to cut corners for example with the quality of materials we use or the standard of service we offer.
We work closely with specialist centres for example in Newmarket, who have state of the art operating facilities and diagnostic tools such as MRI. In the same way in human medicine that a GP may refer you to see a specialist if there is a serious medical problem that needs attention, we are able to provide the same service to our patients.
Unfortunately there is no NHS for animals so all veterinary treatment is private and the costs reflect the time and expertise this takes. Furthermore, there may be medical conditions that require stabling or specific caring requirements that may mean you will suddenly have increased costs for livery.
3. Is the horse/pony suitable for the experience of the rider?
This is of fundamental importance. Make sure you have had ample chance to try out the horse. Don’t be afraid to go back several times to see it, ask whether you can take it out for a ride or whether the vendor would be prepared to agree to a trial period before you decide to buy. If you are buying a pony for a child, if possible they should have the opportunity to go for a little ride.
It is advisable to take your riding instructor or a knowledgeable friend with you when going to try out a horse for the first time. The vetting procedure will not give you any guarantees about the talent or ability of the horse. We can give you some idea about how easy the horse is to examine, but there are some simple things you can do when you go to look for the first time to get an idea about this.
Do pick up all the horse’s feet yourself and feel down it’s legs and under the belly, do have a look in it’s mouth at the front teeth, do get someone to trot it up and down for you, and if you can have a go yourself. If you, or the child who’ll be riding is nervous then don’t go for a horse that is sharp or objects to having these simple procedures performed - however well bred or flashy it may look!
A young or ‘green’ horse may look like the epitome of discipline and good behaviour in the hands of an experienced rider but turn into a heavyweight ill mannered brat the minute it senses the new handler has slightly less experience! Horses are not daft and it can completely ruin the confidence of a young rider to have a horse who doesn’t look after them.
4. Who should be present during the pre-purchase veterinary examination?
The examination will usually take place at the yard where the horse is currently kept. We would recommend for the potential purchaser to be present if possible, this way you can see how the horse responds to the examination and you can have plenty of opportunity to discuss findings with the vet.
It is quite understandable that it may not be possible to be present during the examination, under which circumstance it is preferable to make telephone contact with the veterinary surgeon before and after the vetting.
When you make a booking for a pre purchase examination you will be asked to give contact details for the day on which the vetting is to take place so that the vet can speak to you directly. Under some circumstances the horse will be on loan with the potential purchaser for a trial period, in this case it may be that the vendor will not be present.
Facilities required for a pre purchase examination
A stable or dark quiet area where eyes can be examined and heart/lungs heard.
A level hard trot up area, for example a drive or parking area, about 50m long. A stretch of road is not ideal unless it is a very quiet lane. A soft surface like a field or sand school is not suitable.
The feet need to be in good condition. It isn’t possible to fairly assess horse if the feet are overgrown and the shoes are in poor condition.
The passport should be available for inspection.
The horse must not have had any medication within the last 8 days. Any medication within the last 4 weeks must be declared. If there is any doubt then speak to the vet who will be performing the exam before they set off.
For 5 stage vettings an area where the horse can be exercised is also required. This is usually ridden exercise and the level of exercise will depend on the horse’s fitness, it will require work at canter/gallop. If the horse is to be exercised in a field you need to have reasonable ground conditions, A school is ideal.
If there is any question as to suitability of facilities then you can bring the horse to us at Moulton where we have all the facilities required to perform the full five stage examination. If this is not possible then find out whether there is a local equestrian centre that can be used.
The five stages of the standard pre-purchase examination
A thorough clinical examination of the horse at rest. This includes auscultation of the heart and lungs, an ophthalmic examination, inspection of the skin, palpation and manipulation of the limbs and joints and an estimate of the horse's age. At this stage an appraisal of conformation and any signs of abnormal behaviour or temperament will also be noted.
Examination of the horse at walk and trot in hand on a flat, hard surface. Flexion tests and where possible lunging of the horse on a hard surface are also performed.
Strenuous exercise to assess the heart and 'wind' and further evaluation of the horse's movement. The horse will be required to walk, trot, canter and gallop. In most cases the horse is ridden, however if the horse is unbroken then exercise can be carried out on the lunge. This allows for the detection of abnormal respiratory sounds and abnormal heart rhythms and sounds.
The horse will be rested for a period of time to allow the heart rate to return to normal. At this stage the heart and lungs will be examined again and a blood sample taken. The passport is also checked.
Further examination of the horse at walk and trot in hand to ensure the horse continues to move soundly after completion of stage 3.
Once the pre purchase examination is completed, the vet will assess the significance of any findings alongside the use of the horse for which it is being purchased.
In some cases, further tests may be recommended. For example, endoscopy to investigate a respiratory noise, and some insurance companies will require radiographs to be taken if the horse is to be insured over a certain value.
If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, the blood sample will be sent away and stored independently for a period of 6 months following the vetting to allow for analysis should any subsequent lameness or temperament problems develop.
Download BEVA/RCVS Guidance Notes on the Examination of a Horse on Behalf of a Prospective Purchaser
Download request form for two-stage vetting
JMB (Joint Measurement Board) Measurement of Horses and Ponies
To get an official height certificate, horses must be measured by a JMB appointed measurer, at an approved premises. We have an approved measurement pad in our yard at Market Harborough and Iain Carpenter is an official measurer.
Horses that are 4, 5 or 6 years old can only hold a certificate for one year, once 7 years of age or older they are eligible for a Full (life) certificate as long as they have been measured in a previous year. Consecutive measurements cannot be made at the same pad. The annual certificate is valid for one calendar year.
Horses to be measured must have their shoes removed and their feet trimmed ready for shoeing. They must not be given any sedatives. You must bring their passports with you. If they do not have a Microchip, one must be implanted at the time of measurement. You also need to bring a cheque payable to JMB Ltd.
Once the horse has been identified, (if it is the first measurement a new drawing must be made), the measurement can be started. The horse must stand square with the head positioned so that the eyes are about level with the withers. A weights and measures certified measuring stick with a spirit level and a brass foot is used to find the height of the highest point of the withers. Up to 30 minutes are allowed to ensure that the horse is fully relaxed and the lowest measurement made is recorded. The paperwork is then sent off to the JMB, who will return the measurement certificate to the owner directly in about 10 days. The whole process takes about 45 minutes.
Please call us to discuss fees payable to the JMB.
Information as to which animals require passports, the legalities regarding passports and how to obtain one if your horse hasn’t got one. If your horse is NOT for human consumption then check that section IX of the passport has been signed confirming this.
Any of the equine vets at Town & Country Veterinary Centre would be happy to discuss your horse’s passport requirements. Do not hesitate to contact us if you are unsure as to what you should be doing. Listed below however are a couple of frequently asked questions which may be of interest.
1. Which animals need to have passports?
All horses, donkeys, mules and even zebra and wild horses must have a passport, whatever their age (if they are over 6 months old) and regardless of whether they are likely to travel anywhere. It is an offence not to have a passport. The only exception to this rule is for defined populations of identified and listed animals in designated areas of Dartmoor, Exmoor and the New Forest.
2. Why does my horse need a passport?
The regulations were introduced to ensure that animals who are not intended for human consumption can be identified as such and can benefit from the use of medicinal treatments that are banned for use in ‘food producing’ animals. As far as the regulations are concerned, horses are considered food producing animals unless they have been officially identified and the section IX part of their passport has been filled in confirming that they are in fact NOT for human consumption.
A good example of a common drug that is not permitted for food producing animals would be phenylbutazone (the active ingredient in ‘bute’ or Equipalazone). This can only be given to horses who have a passport with section IX completed.
A horse should be accompanied by it’s passport at all times. If you have a horse on loan, arrangements should be made to ensure that the passport is available for inspection at any point. If you travel to a show or take your horse on holiday, you must take the passport with you so that is is available in the event of your horse requiring veterinary treatment at any point.
3. What do I have to do to get a passport?
If you have a horse who does not have a passport then you have to obtain a passport application form. There are many different passport issuing organisations, including breed societies and a number of general horse societies and companies.
A couple of general passport issuing organisations include:
British Equine Federation - www.bef.co.uk
British Horse Society - www.bhs.org.uk
Farmkey - www.farmkey.co.uk
Horse Passport Agency Ltd - www.horsepassportagency.org
Weatherbys - www.weatherbys-group.com
Since July 1st 2009 it is compulsory to have your horse microchipped when applying for a passport. The chip must be implanted by a qualified, registered veterinary surgeon. The vet must scan the horse prior to insertion of the chip and check for any scars that would suggest that a chip had been surgically removed. If the horse is found to have a chip present, then the number must be reported to the passport issuing authority and the national equine database, who will investigate whether a passport has been previously issued. The horse will not be given a second chip. Freeze branding or DNA verification do not replace the requirement for a chip.
Most passport issuing organisations will request that a veterinary surgeon completes the identification sketch of your horse. Some will permit this part of the procedure to be performed by someone who is not a veterinary surgeon. Check with your passport issuing authority.
Once your horse has been chipped and the paperwork completed, the application can be sent off.
4. What age do I have to get a passport for my foal?
All foals must be chipped by the time they are 6 months old or before December 31st of the year they were born. (Whichever of these comes later). If the foal is sold at younger than 6 months old, or before December 31st then they don’t need a passport for the purpose of the sale, but the new owner must get one within 30 days of purchase.
5. What do I have to do if I have just bought or wish to sell a horse?
All horses must be bought and sold with an accompanying passport (apart from young foals, see note above). If you have just bought a horse, you must contact the passport issuing authority and inform them of the new ownership details within 30 days of purchasing the horse.
6. What happens if my horse dies?
If your horse dies, then the passport should be returned to the passport issuing authority.
We have the equipment, further training and knowledge to perform tooth extractions and power rasping where necessary.
Available alongside our extensive range of manual dental tools (including a full set of rasps, picks, probes, elevators and extracting tools) we have dental power tools. These are used alongside the manual tools for precision and removal of large and sharp points and hooks. We always carry out a comprehensive oral check using a dental gag, head torch and mirror to identify problems often with the horse's head on a dental stand.
In cases of fractious horses or when they are painful sedation may be needed which we can provide at a standard discounted price incorporated into the dental fee when required. Obviously any relevant treatment we can also carry out, in advanced cases that can be in our hospital with a specialist dental veterinary surgeon. Importantly, when we do dental work pain relief when necessary can be provided too and local anaesthetic using advanced nerve blocks means we can under take procedures pain free.
We pride ourselves on providing top class dentistry and as a practice regularly attend advanced dental training to continue the high level of service we offer. Please note dentistry can be booked on a normal or shared visit. We regularly carry out dentistry out on the road or using the stocks at our practice in Market Harborough. There is no visit charge when the horse is brought into our facilities.
Download BEVA Equine Dental Procedures
1. Wound Assessment
If you discover that your horse has sustained an injury it is important to assess the damage as objectively as possible before implementing treatment in order to ensure that the right course of action is taken from the start. If the answer to any of the following questions is yes then please call the Town and Country Veterinary Practice for advice immediately on 01858 465668. These are emergency situations.
Is the horse very lame?
Is the wound over a joint, flexor tendon or eye?
Is the wound large or could it be deep (for example a puncture wound)?
Is there profuse bleeding?
If there is profuse bleeding from a wound it can be very distressing. It is however very important to remain calm. It may be of some comfort to know that an average sized horse will have about 50 litres (88 pints) of blood, it is highly unlikely that a horse will loose enough blood through an external wound to suffer from the effects of blood loss.
If is it more than 2 years since your horse had a tetanus vaccination we would advise that you contact the practice during opening hours and arrange for a tetanus booster.
We can provide immediate tetanus cover using Tetanus Antitoxin when a horse is not covered by up to date tetanus vaccinations. This is very important because the horse is very susceptible to the tetanus toxin and infection is invariably fatal.
2. Wound Management
If you are happy that the answer to all the questions overleaf is NO then the following basic steps are essential to ensuring rapid and uneventful healing.
1) Clip the hair around the wound so that you can see the full extent of the injury and to make it easier to clean and keep clean. Before clipping around the wound it is advisable to pack the wound with a sterile water- soluble gel such as Dermagel, Intrasite or K-Y Jelly to prevent hair and debris from contaminating the wound.
2) Flush the wound to clear out any dirt or contaminants. The best thing to use is a large volume of sterile saline. If you are going to use disinfectants it is important not to use anything irritant that will damage the exposed tissues. If you use Hibiscrub it must be diluted to 1:50 concentration. The flushing can be performed using a 50ml syringe with a 16 gauge needle or using a ready made flush such as Iriclens.
3) Assess the wound for depth and extent:
If there is any suspicion that the wound is deep and may involve important structures such as a joint it is important to seek veterinary advice immediately. Some puncture wounds may look small on the outside but have introduced infection deep into the tissues below and thus be far more serious than they initially seem.
If there are any loose flaps of tissue it is sometimes necessary to remove these to allow the wound to heal properly. If you are in any doubt as to whether this is indicated then call 01858 465668 and speak to the duty veterinarian.
If the wound is recent and has clean edges then it may be possible to close by suturing the wound. Prompt veterinary assessment is required in this case as a wound closed within the first 4 hours has the best chance of healing. There may be circumstances when the vet will advise delayed closure if the wound requires decontamination and debridement first.
4) Once the wound has been cleaned, it must be kept clean. To promote optimal healing the wound surface should be kept moist but not wet. A light but sterile and non stick dressing such as Melonin or Skintact should be sufficient for a small wound. If the wound is slightly larger and oozing then it may be necessary to use a more absorbent dressing such as Allevyn. Avoid using wound powders or irritant antiseptic creams.
5) Wounds to the limbs will often result in some degree of swelling, usually tending to the lower regions. It is advisable to put stable bandages on your horse to help minimise this.
Proud flesh or excess granulation tissue can be a big problem in horses. Our vets can advise how to minimise the risk of this occurring with a suitable dressing or topical gel.
Localising pain in horses can be difficult but by using the latest diagnostic nerve blocking techniques we can usually find the source of the pain. The area is then investigated further using digital radiography and/or ultrasound as appropriate.
Occasionally a horse will require an MRI scan or nuclear scintigraphy (bone scan). We are experienced in using and interpreting the images acquired using these technologies.
We offer a wide variety of treatments tailored to each individuals need and budget. We work alongside remedial farriers, physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors where appropriate to ensure our patients have the best possible chance of a rapid and sustained recovery.
Depending on the cause of lameness we can do a preliminary lameness work up where the horse is based or if the horse is safe to travel we have excellent facilities available at our hospital site Moulton College, Pitsford, NN3 7QL. These include a flat hard surface for the trot up, flexion tests and lunging and a large indoor and outdoor area for lunging on the soft or ridden assessments. We also have stocks to help restrain the horse for certain nerve blocks and a prep room to carry out joint blocks or treatment in a clean and safe environment with a nurse present.
When surgery to debride any soft tissue defects within a join is indicated, David Platt BVSc PhD Cert VR DEO FRCVS, our external surgeon can carry out arthroscopy (key hole surgery) in our hospital so your horse does not have to travel long distances and stress is minimised. Our surgery facilities are comprehensive and top class care is given by our team including multiple vets and Sam Tibbetts, our highly qualified and experienced equine nurse.
We offer advanced treatments including stem cell therapy and platelet rich plasma. We have been particularly pleased with the results we have attained by injecting platelet rich plasma using ultrasonographic guidance into torn areas within suspensory ligaments.
We combine our efforts in the treatment of these difficult cases with the physiotherapists in the therapy centre at Moulton and at home. The horses will have the best possible chance of a good recovery.
We are experienced in equine reproductive management and artificial insemination techniques. Our vet John Abbott has also received training in embryo transfer techniques.
We offer various reproduction packages so that our clients can budget for their stud season.
Recently in the Welland Valley area there have been a number of strangles outbreaks. Strangles is a contagious bacterial infection that typically affects a horse’s upper respiratory tract. Although less common, abscesses can develop elsewhere in the body. The disease is contagious and often infects a high proportion of individuals in a group. Most get over the disease with only rare cases resulting in death.
One of the biggest associated problems is the restriction of movements of horses and ponies from the site of an outbreak to limit the spread of infection elsewhere. This can seriously disrupt competition and racing schedules.
The first clinical signs that usually develop are difficulty or unwillingness to eat and a dull demeanour. There is also usually a fever (temperature > 38.4C). Most cases also develop a thick nasal discharge and often go on to develop swollen lymph nodes under the chin and on the side of the head. The swollen lymph nodes or “glands” often burst open discharging pus onto the skin surface. Pus and nasal discharges are the most infectious materials and transfer of the bacteria in discharges via horse to horse contact, via buckets etc and via people’s hands and clothing are all likely if precautions are not taken.
When a case is suspected, it should be isolated from other horses with no direct contact or indirect contact (buckets, hand etc). A vet should be called to examine the horse, to advise on reducing the spread of the disease within the yard, and to take the appropriate samples to confirm the diagnosis. There is continued debate in the veterinary world over the use of antibiotics to treat strangles. Most horses will get better without them but some very sick individuals can benefit from them.
Once the infection has gone through the yard and the last clinical signs have resolved, laboratory testing is required to confirm that the infection has definitely gone. This is because some horses become “shedders” which means they continue to spread the bacteria despite showing no outward signs themselves. The laboratory testing usually involves one or a combination of guttural pouch washes taken through an endoscope, blood tests and swabs from deep within the nasal cavity. Once the yard is confirmed to be clear of infection movement to and from the yard can resume.
It is important to note that horses can be silent carriers and not exhibit any clinical signs at all or very mild ones that may be missed, they can carry the bacteria for years after initial infection. This means when testing to ensure a yard is clear from strangles all associated horses will need to be tested. Not having any signs of the disease does not rule out a horse being able to spread it to many other horses. Strangles has a low fatality risk but a high morbidity risk as it can cause significant illness in the young, old or immuno-compromised horse. In rare cases it can cause severe signs and result in death. This is why it is imperative to have strict biosecurity protocols in place at an infected yard and test all horses before the yard is considered clear so the disease is not spread to a vulnerable horse and have fatal consequences.
Prevention by testing new horses moving onto a new yard and isolation on the new yard for a few weeks is ideal. If you have any questions please contact the equine team at Town and Country Veterinary Centre.
Sarcoids are the most prevalent tumour affecting the skin of horses. They are the “skin cancer” of the horse world, and are often a topic of discussion between horse owners and their subsequent vets alike. A cancer as we understand it represents an organ or tissue which is made up of cells which are abnormally dividing.
The confusing point about Sarcoids is that many will remain dormant for the entirety of the horse life, whilst others will continue to multiply and indeed spread to other parts of the body (skin only). This can be part of their unpredictable nature.
The most common site for sarcoids are on the face, groin, in-between the front legs and on the sheath. These areas coincide with where local fly populations prefer to feed, and it is these flies that seemingly spread sarcoids to other sites. A sarcoid that is bleeding or discharging will appear extremely attractive to flies, and hence it is the summer months which provide the optimum time for transmission.
There are several types of Sarcoids, each with a classical appearance. The Occult sarcoid, is often seen as a hairless lesion or roughened area, and found around the head and neck or areas which are relatively hairless. The Verrucous sarcoid, is wart-like in its appearance, and tends to be found on the groin/sheath. Also in this area, the Nodular sarcoid can be found, and is often the most aggressive as being firm, bellow the skin and around 0.5 – 2cm in diameter. The most aggressive of all the sarcoids is the Fibroblastic, and perhaps causes the most concern amongst owners. They are fleshy, often ulcerated and will easily invade into local tissue.
Diagnosis of a sarcoid is often made on careful clinical examination by your vet alone. If there is any doubt, a biopsy can be taken from the lesion and a definitive diagnosis made. However, care must be taken as it is easy to inadvertently transfer cells from abnormal to normal tissue, and hence make the situation worse. We tend to treat any suspicious lesions, or send a photo to Liverpool University, who have a leading expert in Sarcoids and act on his opinion.
Sarcoids are difficult to treat, and there are multiple products available, which are heavily advertised. Currently there are around 40 different treatments that are used world-wide – this suggests that no single method is universally effective. Treatment before the age of 4 favours a better prognosis. We can surgically remove, band, freeze the lesions or apply cytotoxic creams (blood root ointment or cream supplied by Liverpool University). Before deciding which treatment option will be most beneficial to your horse, we make sure that we take into account the horse’s individual needs. This is often determined by the size, location and type of sarcoid. It is important to note, that there is no way of telling whether a sarcoid will reoccur after treatment has been completed.
If treatment is deemed necessary by your vet, then appropriate action should be taken quickly to slow the spread and reduce the size of the sarcoid.
Laser is the most effective method of removal with the least chance of recurrence. The laser beam destroys are remaining cells which a scalpel could unknowingly spread them. The resulting wound is causterised so has minimal chance of infection and should heal quicker than the wound caused by cytotoxic creams. It is the best method for fractious horses who would resent multiple applications of a cream. The horse's general health, temperament and the location of the sarcoids will determine whether the procedure can be done standing, under sedation, or a short general anaesthetic performed.
To summarise, sarcoids must be taken seriously. If left untreated they can become a real headache for a horse owner. Treatment must not be undertaken without a complete understanding of all the available options and side-affects. Turning a blind eye to the small single lesion is a realistic option in some cases, but this option if chosen should be viewed with caution as many cases may become progressively worse.