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.