IS YOUR HORSE SUFFERING THIS SUMMER?

Summer weather brings a different set of health problems for horses and ponies
 
Many horses and their owners will thoroughly enjoy summer - a time for long hacks, less mucking out and happy horses out to grass, but for some horses and ponies the summer months can be the cause of misery, stress and irritation. Age, breed or type can be affected by the many allergies, ailments and conditions bought on by the warmer weather. 
 
Listed below are just a few summer problems that your horse might face and how you can stay on top of some of the many summer problems he is prone to during this season.

REMEMBER PREVENTION IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN CURE
 
CRACKED HOOVES
 cracked hoof
As the old phrase goes 'no foot, no horse' illustrates, it is vitally important to take good care of your horse's feet during the summer months. Hooves dry out and can become brittle. Simply by walking on hard ground, can cause cracks in the outer wall of the hoof, starting at the toe and working their way up towards the coronet band. If this is left untreated it can cause irreparable damage to the hoof and result in severe lameness.
 
If you notice cracks, get your farrier to take a look as soon as possible. They may do some kind of remedial farriery, rasping off broken parts, stopping cracks from proceeding and relieving any concussion on the sole with pads or specially fitted shoes. As with anything, some horses are more prone than others but try and keep your horse's feet well hydrated by using a hoof treatments or plain water daily, speak to a feed nutritionist about the best feed supplement that will help in improve hoof quality and growth. (click here for more articles on footcare in your horse)

LAMINITIS
 
Laminitis results from the disruption of blood flow to the sensitive and insensitive laminae which secure the coffin bone (the wedge-shaped bone within the foot) to the hoof wall. Inflammation weakens the laminae and also the wall/bone bond. In severe cases, the bone and the hoof wall can separate, eventually penetrate the sole. Laminitis is most often seen in the front feet but can affect all feet. (click here for causes management and prevention of laminitis)
 
Signs of acute laminitis may include the following
  • Lameness, especially when a horse is turning in circles; shifting lameness when standing.
  • Heat in the feet.
  • Increased digital pulse in the feet (most easily palpable over either sesamoid bone at the level of the fetlock).
  • Pain in the toe region when pressure is applied with hoof testers.
  • Reluctant or hesitant gait 
  • A stance with the front feet stretched out in front to alleviate pressure on the toes and the hind feet positioned under them to support the weight that their front feet cannot. 

Signs of chronic laminitis may include the following: 

  • Rings in hoof wall that become wider as they are followed from toe to heel.
  • Bruised soles or "stone bruises."
  • Widened white line, commonly called "seedy toe," with occurrence of seromas (blood pockets) and/or abscesses.
  • Dropped soles or flat feet.
  • Thick, "cresty" neck.
  • Dished hooves, which are the result of unequal rates of hoof growth (the heels grow at a faster rate than the rest of the hoof, resulting in an "Aladdin-slipper" appearance). 
 
Treatment
The sooner diagnosis and treatment begins, the better the chance for recovery. Treatment will depend on specific circumstances and will always be advised by your vet and farrier:
 
Management
It's important to note that once a horse has had laminitis, it may recur. In fact, a number of cases become chronic because the coffin bone has rotated within the foot and the laminae never regain their original strength. Extra care is recommended for any horse that has had laminitis, including:
  • A modified diet that provides adequate nutrition based on high-quality forage, digestible fiber (beet pulp) and oil. Avoid excess carbohydrates, especially from grain.
  • Routine hoof care, including regular trimming and, in some cases, therapeutic shoeing (additional radiographs may be needed to monitor progress).
  • A good health-maintenance schedule, including parasite control and vaccinations, to reduce the horse's susceptibility to illness or disease
  • Introduce your horse to lush pasture gradually.Be aware that an ill horse, under stress or overweight is at risk
  • Possibly a nutritional supplement formulated to promote hoof health (biotin supplements are popular for promoting hoof growth)
  • Avoid grazing lush pastures, especially between late morning and late afternoon hours, plant sugars are the highest during these times
  •  Restrict pasture intake during spring oanytime the pasture suddenly greens up.    
SUNBURN 
 
Just like humans, some horses can suffer from sunburn in hot weather. It will not affect all horses, but those with pink skin, particularly on the muzzle, may be prone. It will look much as it does on humans - the area will become red and possibly crack or even blister. To prevent your horse becoming burnt you can use sun cream on their pink areas. - there are several horse sunscreens available, otherwise use one of your own  high-factors sun block (not around the eyes). There are several fly masks with muzzle flaps available to protect your horses eyes and sensitive, soft skin around your horses nostrils and mouth  (the areas most susceptible) from sunburn. Lightweight cool turnout rugs offer maximum protection for the whole body and also stop the sun bleaching the coat.
 
Already burnt?
If your horse is already burnt, treat it similarly to the way you would treat your own. Aloe sunburn treatments or Sudocream will immediately sooth your horse's burn, and will help re-moisturize and heal your horse's skin, however prevention is always better than cure.

SWEET ITCH
 
Sweet Itch or Summer Seasonal Recurrent Dermatitis (SSRD) is a problem that affects thousands of horse, ponies virtually all breeds can be affected although the condition is rare in English thoroughbreds. Symptoms include severe itching, hair loss, skin thickening and flaky dandruff. Weeping sores may occur if left untreated which can become infected. The top of the tail and the mane are most commonly affected, however the neck, withers, hips, ears, forehead, sheath and mid line belly are also susceptible.
 
Sweet Itch is an allergic reaction and therefore an immune system problem. In the process of repelling the invading insect saliva the horse attacks some of its own skin cells 'by mistake', consequently the damaged cells cause the symptoms described as Sweet Itch. The culprits are two fold, the Culicoides midge which prefer the body areas and the Simulium Equinum who like the ears. They live in herbage and trees as a rule and breed from as early as March until late October, within wet soil or decaying vegetation, like the muck heap. Summers of alternately sunny and rainy days unfortunately cause an increase in midge breeding habits hence the increase in population. 
 
Try to avoid clay based pasture during these months as the larvae will be harboured in the moist ground, keep all pasture well drained and if possible, move your horse to an exposed windy site. Stabling your horse at dusk and dawn is an option for some, however be aware that a bored horse with an itch can do a lot of damage to mane or tail in a very short period of time. A ceiling fan in the stable would be helpful as it can create a less favourable environment for the midges.
 
There are many products on the market to help relieve the symptoms however every case is different and therefore you might have to try a few before your horse shows any signs of relief. If using insecticides remember it is an allergic reaction which is the base of the problem so always skin test before you apply a full treatment, a horse's skin can be very sensitive especially when suffering with this disease. The base substance for most treatments and soothers is Benzyl benzoate which is available from good chemists. It is a milky like fluid which should be worked in to the skin of susceptible areas every day. Please remember this is a skin irritant and should not apply on broken skin or if hair loss appears. Midges do not like oily, greasy coats, so perhaps try diluted Medicinal Liquid Paraffin or bath oil. Soothing creams can bring some relief however they do not deter further midge attacks long term.
 
Unfortunately there is no current cure for Sweet Itch, however it is the owner's responsibility to manage the affects as quickly and routinely as possible to minimise the Horses discomfort. Thoroughly check your horse at least once a day and at the first sign of any irritation apply a lotion, shampoo, insecticide, rug or oil based product to the affected area. Monitor the area very closely and adjust any products accordingly. 

INSECT BITES
 fly bites on horse
Insect bites can swell up and become very itchy. One of the disadvantages of the warmer weather is that flies are active. Most flies just tickle and annoy but some bite and, like humans, some horses may suffer an allergic reaction, causing the bite to swell and become itchy. The horse may scratch or rub the bite and break the skin, which can lead to infection. If this occurs apply a thick antiseptic cream to protect the wound.
To prevent fly bites use a good fly repellent or if your horse is particularly susceptible, invest in an all-over fly-sheet. As with sweet itch, you may consider stabling your horse at the times of day when insects are active, and turning out at night.

IRRATATION TO THE HEAD AND NASAL REGIONS
Irritation from flies and pollen (click here for does your horse have an allergy) will cause discomfort to your horse, resulting in head shaking, snorting and nose-rubbing. Your horse may also wheeze or cough with some nasal discharge visible, this is likely to be a pollen allergy and in such cases the vet may prescribe an antihistamine. Fly masks and gauze flaps can be fitted to the noseband to help alleviate the symptoms. If your horse begins to head shake consistently, it is advisable to call your vet to determine the exact cause and a suitable course of action 

Top 10 tips to help protect your horse against summer bugs. 

1. Spiders love flies, so leave webs in stables.
2. Protect your horse's eyes with a fly mask, ensuring that all edges fit snugly around his head. 
3. Flies breed in manure, so poo pick your fields daily
4. If possible turn your horse out with other horses so they can stand close and swish flies away from each other
5. Bring your horses in during the day when the flies are at their worst, and put him out at night when he won't be bothered
6. Use fly papers and fly traps around the stable block and yard (high enough that your horse will not lick or get stuck too)
7. Place a fine mesh across windows and doors and use a suitable insecticide on stable walls
8. Use special feed supplements in your feed such as garlic or cider vinegar, this is thought to help repel flies through horse secretions
9. Muck out thoroughly every day, flies will breed in deep bedding
10. Avoid pasture turnout where there is standing water as flies and mosquitoes thrive on it.

 
 
 

 

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