Friday, October 13, 2017

Protect Your Horse From Autumn Health Hazards

With the start of autumn, new challenges arise for breeders, owners, and boarders. You need to be aware of a variety of conditions from colic to worming, atypical myopathy to mud fever. 

 Equine colic is defined as a condition of severe abdominal discomfort characterized by pawing, rolling, and sometimes the inability to defecate. The change in weather can increase the risk for a number of reasons.  Horses may start to be stabled for longer periods of time, resulting in a change in routine, feeding and activity levels. Making sure that fluid intake is maximized with stress minimized can reduce the risk of an impaction occurring.

Ways to reduce the risk
-Soak hay to help hydrate horses
-Add water to hard feeds to help increase water intake
-Ensure buckets/troughs are not frozen
-Make any changes in feed gradually
-Make sure teeth are routinely rasped to avoid potential pain as well as to ensure the horse can adequately chew roughage prior to swallowing  

Autumn/winter is the time to treat horses for tapeworm and red worm. The best way to monitor a horse’s worm burden and generate a worming plan is to carry out worm egg counts (WEC) at routine intervals throughout the year.

Ways to reduce the risk
-Perform a WEC every 3-4 months throughout the year to monitor worm burdens.  Speak with your vet and determine when and if your horse needs a worming.   
-Let nature be your guide.  After the first frost (November/December) is a good time to fight both tapeworm and red worm.  Your vet can offer advice on best products. 

Atypical Myopathy/Seasonal Pasture Myopathy
This is a condition linked to the ingestion of sycamore seeds, leading to severe muscle damage. AM affects full-time pastured horses and is more frequently reported in the autumn, immediately following inclement weather such as cold, humidity and rain. Horses that develop AM are usually kept in sparse pastures with an accumulation of dead leaves, dead wood and trees in or around the pasture, are often not fed any supplementary hay or feed and have less-than adequate exercise.  Animals 3 years and younger are especially susceptible.

NOTE: This is a potentially fatal condition and so early recognition and hospitalization are vital.

Signs of atypical myopathy:
-Severe muscle stiffness/weakness, shaking and collapse
-Red or brown urine
-Reduced appetite

Ways to reduce the risk
-Check pasture for sycamore seeds.  Fence off trees (seeds can travel a long way on the wind so the absence of a tree in the field does not mean there won’t be seeds)
-Supplement poor pastures with hay
-Reduce stocking density in paddocks (overcrowding leads to bullying and horses at the bottom of the pecking order are more likely to resort to poorer areas of pasture with a higher concentration of seeds)
-Reduce turnout time if sycamore seeds are found and there is no alternative pasture.

Mud fever
Mud fever, also known as scratches or pastern dermatitis, is a group of diseases of horses causing irritation and dermatitis in the lower limbs of horses. Cases of mud fever are much more common in autumn/winter as horses’ legs are more likely to be wet for long periods of time. The severity of mud fever can vary and not all cases will require veterinary attention.

-Avoid excessive washing of legs; bacteria thrive in damp areas
-Brush legs instead of washing legs 
-Use cold water and dry thoroughly.   
- Mud fever scabs shelter bacteria.   It’s important to remove scabs (either by softening with an antibacterial wash or an emollient cream).

If limbs become swollen, hot, and painful or lameness is seen your vet can provide systemic and topical treatment.   

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

June 23rd is Take Your Dog to Work Day

Simple Tips to Make the Day a Success
Business goes to the dogs as workplaces across the country celebrate the annual Take Your Dog to Work Day. The temporary office canines won’t be barking out orders to employees or wagging approval after a presentation, although some might be helping the receptionist greet visitors. The day is an opportunity to celebrate dogs’ special abilities to reduce stress in the workplace and increase job satisfaction, skills confirmed in a study published in 2012 by Virginia Commonwealth University.
Take Your Dog to Work Day  was created by Pet Sitters International and first celebrated in 1999. PSI created the day to encourage businesses to allow dogs in the workplace for one Friday each year to celebrate the great companions dogs make and promote their adoptions from local shelters, rescue groups and humane societies. PSI believes that through the event dogless co-workers will be encouraged to adopt when they witness the human/animal bond. The week leading up to Take Your Dog To Work Day is Take Your Pet To Work Week.
But before you put a tie around his neck and print out an employee badge for Fido, take some common-sense steps to help the workday go smoothly for all involved.

  1. Check in with your co-workers.
Even if Rover’s home base is your office or cubicle, be sure that everyone is looking forward to her presence.  Be sympathetic to fears and allergies.
  1. Pack for the day.
Be sure that you have everything you need to make the day a happy one for your pals, both 2- and 4-legged.  Food and water dishes, toys, shareable treats, a comfy mat or towel, leash and poop bags for a start.  Homey things go a long way to the office experience.
  1. A little grooming goes a long, long way
Admit it- even you don’t like a smelly dog.  Give him a bath and a good brushing.    Is he a kisser?  Brush his teeth so he has nice breath when he meets the boss.
  1. Dog-proof your workspace.
So many new temptations!  Prep the area by lifting power cords, emptying the trash and removing little items like paper clips.  Make sure that there’s nothing on the floor or desk that Rover might find appealing.
  1. Do a good deed for dogs.
Find out if your company will OK a raffle, a guest speaker from a local shelter, visits from dogs in need of rescue etc.  Even people who don’t bring in their pets enjoy the opportunity to interact with other people’s dogs and meet vendors.
  1. Don’t bring Fido in if you can’t rely on his good manners and housetraining.
  2. Don’t bring Fido if he’s sick.
  3. Don’t let Fido wander around off leash.

The most important thing – Everyone should have a great time…Fido included!!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June is National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month

June is a very important month for organizations, nationwide, that work with the community to find permanent homes for rescued cats.  June is National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month.   You may wonder why June was chosen  as the month for this very special service.  The short answer- June is kitten season. It is the time of the year when cats give birth, and flood animal shelters and rescue groups across the nation with homeless litters.   More than 3 million cats end up in shelters each year. This situation makes it more difficult for shelters to find  permanent homes for their rescue cats.  National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month was created to bring awareness and encourage people to ADOPT a shelter cat rather than purchase one from a pet shop.
A new survey of American adults shows that a majority of cat owners believe that cats are intelligent (77%) and independent (71%), which confirms what many of us already know – cats are smart animals that make excellent companions.
They are also skilled hunters that will help keep the bug population down in your home, as well as those hair-raising lizards, mice, moths, etc.
Another good reason to adopt a cat is they make the great cuddle companions.  They are warm and fuzzy and love to snuggle.
And finally…most importantly, you will be saving a life. Each year 3-4 million unadopted shelter cats are eventually euthanized. You could be the one who saves a life.
But what if you can’t adopt?
Here are some easy ways you can still help:
Donate to your favorite animal rescue organization. Not just money, but old towels/blankets, pillows, collars, etc.   Ask the shelter about food needs.
Donate your Facebook status. Just paste this message into the “What’s on your mind?” box at the top of your page: “June is Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month. Save a life: Adopt a cat!”
Tweet, retweet, repeat the following (or your own engaging message): “June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month. Save a life: Adopt a cat!”
Share an adoptable cat, cat-care or adoption article or any other appropriate story through your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter accounts each day of the month.
Sign up as a foster parent or shelter volunteer then tell your friends how great it is. Contact your local shelter, ASPCA, etc. to register as a volunteer.
Pass on an understanding of the importance of pet adoption to the next generation. Talk to your kids, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and other up-and-comers about animal shelters and why Adopt  a Shelter Cat Month, and pet adoption in general, is important.

As part of the ASPCA’s 150th anniversary celebration, a campaign has been created to inspire the nation to take 150,000 actions for animals in just 150 days! If you adopt a cat, help a stray or donate your time to animals in need during Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, be sure to log your action for the chance win a $150,000 grand prize for your favorite shelter!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Equine Respiratory Allergies - Heaves

The respiratory illness commonly known as “heaves” or “broken wind” was, until recently, referred to as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in the medical community. It has been renamed Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO) to indicate that it is not the same condition as the COPD found in humans.  Affecting mostly older horses, heaves arises when lung cells react to allergens by swelling and thickening air passage linings and increasing mucus secretions. If thickened airways trap enough bacteria, the horse could develop pneumonia or other respiratory infections.

RAO is an episodic disease triggered by exposure to
  • moldy, dusty or poorly-cured feed
  • long-term confinement to a stable environment
  • inadequate or absent stable ventilation
  • dust
  • pollen
The exact cause of the disease is not known, but research suggests that the characteristic inflammation of the small airways results from an allergic response to dust, mold, or other trigger factors.

Symptoms of RAO include:
  • nasal discharge
  • chronic coughing which may or may not produce mucous
  • flared nostrils in the resting state
  • labored breathing with elevated respiratory rate
  • exercise avoidance
  • increased abdominal movement during breathing
  • depression

RAO is diagnosed through history (especially of recurrent coughing episodes), physical examination, and blood work.  In particularly difficult or ongoing cases, successful diagnosis may include radiography, endoscopy, bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), and pulmonary function testing.

Commonly, treatment of Heaves requires management and changes in diet and environment;  a clinician may also prescribe medications. The main goal is to reduce a horse's exposure to organic dust. Hay should be thoroughly soaked or replaced with a dust-free source of fiber, and horses should be kept outdoors as much as possible. Horses with RAO often improve dramatically when removed entirely from an indoor barn or stable environment. Dusty riding rings can also trigger episodes and should be avoided. Corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation, and bronchodilators may be given to relieve spasms in the airways. Properly managed, horses with RAO can lead normal lives; but they may remain permanently sensitive to various trigger factors.
Researchers are only just beginning to understand how equine allergies work and how they differ from those occurring in other species. The hope is that someday even the most sever equine allergy will be fully treatable, and a thing of the past. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Equine Skin Allergies

It's frustrating:  lumps, hives and excessive scratching and distress.  It's a difficult business diagnosing the cause of your horse's skin allergies. 

It may take months or years of exposure to develop.  And there doesn't seem to be any link between breed, gender or age. 

Understanding the symptoms, causes and treatments can help identify whether your horse does, indeed, have an allergy.

Horses are surrounded by dust, mold and millions of other microscopic foreign proteins each and every day. Normally, the immune system offers protection, called antibodies, by eliminating them.  

Occasionally, the immune response goes amok, to a stimulus or antigen. This response, or hypersensitivity, is also called an allergy.

Allergies can run the gamut from a mild, unpleasant skin reaction to a life-threatening reaction within the cardiovascular or respiratory system. Everything from molds and spores in the air and grain to insect bites can trigger an allergic reaction.

Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Symptoms: Hives, which appear 12 to 14 hours after exposure to the invader.  They are areas of swelling that begin as small lumps, generally on the side of the neck, and progress across the shoulders and throat.

At first, they may only be  1/2 inch in diameter but may grow together in the target area. Hives will often indent or pit when a finger is pressed into the swelling.

Horses may appear depressed, have a slight fever, and the areas may or may not itch.
Causes: Hives can appear due to certain types of food, plants, drugs or insect bites.
Just like humans, horses are susceptible to food allergies.  And, like humans, it's usually impossible to identify the precise offender. 

Certain grains or types of hay with high protein concentrates have been reported to cause hives in horses, though this is not always the case.   Horses could also be allergic to feeds that are present in other areas of the barn and not actually being fed to the allergic horse.
Horses may also be allergic to medications, either topical or internal.

The most commonly used drugs in horses implicated in allergies include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as phenylbutazone (bute), Banamine, and procaine penicillin. Allergic reactions have also been observed after administration of tranquilizers such as acepromazine.

Hives have even been reported following equine influenza or tetanus antitoxin vaccination. 
Insect bites can cause problems.

The most commonly affected areas include the back, ears, mane, and tail. Itching is a characteristic feature of these types of allergies, and horses will frequently rub their manes and tails until the hair is sparse in these areas. Initially, isolated bumps may appear,  followed by larger hives.  

Treatment: Most horses simply recover on their own.  If the problem is ongoing or recurring, your veterinarian may want to perform an intradermal skin test that can be helpful in identifying the problem.

If you suspect hives to be a result of a food allergy, change the grain and hay ration for at least two weeks. Then slowly reintroduce the original feed. If this stimulates the appearance of hives, you can assume that the feed is the cause of the allergy.

If the specific antigen is identified, hyposensitaization (injections to desensitize the horse to the allergen) may prove beneficial.  The process is, however, time consuming, costly and often disappointing. 

A variety of medical therapies are available through your veterinarian, with corticosteroids most commonly used. Following oral administration, remission of clinical signs is usually observed over 24 hours. Be aware that steroids may cause laminates, so don't attempt to treat the horse without first consulting your veterinarian.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Teacup Dogs: The Cute That Kills

It’s a fact:  purebred dogs are produced to make money.  Much like shopping for a car, you can pick and be sure of exactly what you are buying.  You can choose the color, size, characteristics, etc.  And, like a car, the market is often based on trends.
One of the hottest canine commodities currently trending are teacup dogs.    These dogs are miniature versions of already-small breeds such as the Shih Tzu, Yorkie, Schnauzers and Chihuahuas. They’re smaller than any officially recognized dog breed, generally weighing four pounds or less at maturity.
You don’t need to be a veterinarian to figure out why these micro dogs are so popular.  With the current goal of pocket-sized electronics, and our obsession for “portion control”, why not breed dogs to fit the latest trend?
Here’s why–they’re living creatures, not cell phones.  While it may sound great to have a pal who never grows larger than a puppy, there are reasons to stop the madness of teacup breeding.
High demand results in questionable breeding practices
Teacup dogs can naturally occur, often called the “runts of the litter.” But to guarantee a teacup, a breeder will intentionally pair two undersized dogs.  Because the mother dog is small, her litter will be small and there is a greater chance for complications.  Result:  risk for both mother and puppies.
However, the teacups are in high demand.   They can sell for thousands of dollars, and that’s an enormous incentive for unethical breeders.  In the worst cases, breeders may mate closely related animals or deliberately stunt a puppy’s growth through starvation.
Fraud is another issue. No teacup breed is recognized officially, and there’s no guarantee that your micro-pup won’t grow to standard size.  It’s well documented that unscrupulous breeders will pass off pups at a younger age than advertised so they can reap the economic benefits associated with teacups.
Teacup dogs suffer from a long list of health problems
Every breed is subject to certain diseases and disorders, but the list of issues for teacups is lengthy.  On the one hand, there are health issues directly related to their unnaturally small size. Additionally, there are problems that come from inbreeding and other vague practices of backyard breeders. Thanks to all of these issues, teacups as a group don’t live as long as their normal-sized counterparts. A few of the health issues include:
  • hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) which can result in seizures and death
  • hydrocephalus (water on the brain)
  • heart and respiratory problems
  • incontinence
  • bone fractures
  • chronic stress
Teacup dogs are simply too delicate
Micro dogs are easily injured, especially when jumping or dropped from heights. This makes them a terrible choice for families with young children, who will want to carry around these living doll-sized creatures.   Other dogs – particularly big dogs – can accidentally harm a teacup dog.
Like any small dog, a teacup has a tendency to get underfoot. The difference is, you’re less likely to see them, and more likely to cause an injury when you kick or step on them.
If after reading this, you are still determined to own a teacup…
Do your research and find a reputable breeder.   Make sure you visit their place of business and meet the puppy’s parents. And, absolutely, take the puppy to a vet to get it checked out before finalizing your purchase.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Pygmy Goat Health–Part II

Recognizing Illness
Life would be simple if goats could tell us how they feel.  In fact they do; not with words but in the way that they behave.  Healthy goat behavior is very different from that of a sick goat.
Before you can recognize a sick goat, you need to understand the trademarks of a healthy goat. If it’s a newly purchased animal, you can rely on the breeder’s health certificate.  But if the goat has been a member of your herd for some time, you’ll have to look for changes in behavior.
Lack of interest and energy
This is one of the first things you’ll notice.  Goats are inquisitive critters; signs of  apathy coupled with a lack of energy are sure signs that something is not right.
Slow or sudden loss of appetite
This is a prime signal of ill health; goats are famous for their need to feed.   If food indifference goes on, don’t hesitate to seek help.  Just be sure they haven’t found their way into the feed bin first.
Tooth grinding
Grinding teeth is a common indicator of distress and/or pain, especially when joined with looking at its flanks.
Temperature deviation
A healthy goat’s temperature is approximately 102-103 degrees Fahrenheit.  Consider anything outside of that range worthy of concern.  NOTE:  A lower temperature can be more serious than one which is slightly higher.
Diarrhea and scouring
Scouring, especially in young kids, should be taken seriously and diagnosed quickly.  It may be an early indication of a number of different problems.
Discoloration of urine
Discoloration of urine should be taken seriously. It could be a simple matter of eating something out of the ordinary or it could be a sign of something more serious like a kidney problem.  Take note of any unpleasant or unusual smells.  More often than not, an antibiotic can clear up problems.
Separating from the herd
Moving away from the herd, when about to kid,  is natural.  Both older and very young animals may do the same if bullying is an issue.  Regardless of the “why,” any goat who elects to move apart should be watched closely.
Difficulty breathing and coughing and/or nasal discharge.
Keep a very close eye on a goat which displays coughing over a sustained period, particularly if accompanied with a nasal discharge. Difficulty in breathing requires immediate attention.
Bloated sides
Sometimes, if goats eat wet grass without having first had the opportunity to fill their rumens with hay, or, if they have been allowed to graze for too long, they can look like they’ve swallowed little balloons.  This is an indication that they have not passed accumulated gas from the rumen. Don’t panic–it’s common that the gas will be passed soon.  If, however,  the goat is showing obvious signs of stress and pain, seek assistance.
Frothing at the mouth
Could be caused by a number of things, ranging from choke to poisoning.
Unusual stance or walk
Any unusual posture or gait needs to be examined thoroughly to determine the cause, followed by appropriate action.

Should any of the above symptoms present themselves and you feel that veterinary assistance is required, then do not hesitate. Yes, a visit from your vet is expensive, but early As we all know veterinary help is expensive but early involvement can often prevent further complications and the prevention of higher bills.

This is the second in an ongoing series.  The Pygmy Goat Health series began in February 2017.
Future articles will include tips on feeding, housing, health matters, etc.