8 Common Horse Health Problems
Unfortunately, many horses arrive to rescue with some sort of horse health problem. Like any animal, horses can develop health problems at any stage of life. While neglected and abused horses may be more susceptible, any horse can get sick no matter how well they are looked after. However, some horses are more susceptible to certain conditions than others. For instance, laminitis or thrush can leave a horse more likely to contract it again. Here are the most common health problems we see in horses and how to prevent or treat them.
Allergies to dust and insect bites are fairly common horse health problems, but the severity of the allergy varies. Some dust allergies can result in COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). It is a serious respiratory disease that may require steroid therapy to reduce inflammation and mucus buildup.
Most allergies result in skin irritation known as urticaria. This is very common alongside insect bites and stings. Urticaria looks like nettle rash. The skin becomes lumpy with small swellings but usually subsides on its own. However, occasionally treatment with antihistamines may be needed.
Colic is a very serious and potentially fatal condition that affects the digestive system and causes severe pain and cramping. Many horses lie down or roll and thrash when they have colic. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to get them up again. Severe colic in which the intestine twists can be fatal if surgery isn’t performed in time. Horses should be kept up and moving until a vet arrives. Veterinarians usually treat minor colic episodes with an injection of Banamine.
Laminitis is a crippling and potentially fatal horse health problem. It is the swelling of the laminae, the soft tissue under the hoof wall. It can be caused by access to rich grass in the spring, eating too much grain, trauma to the hoof or a retained placenta after foaling. Once a horse or pony has had laminitis, they are more likely to develop it again. It’s a painful condition that makes a horse lame as the laminae tissue swells and presses on the hoof wall and the bones. Treat mild cases with an anti-inflammatory, stall rest, a high-fiber, low-carbohydrate diet and corrective shoeing.
Thrush is an infection of the frog, a v-shaped groove in the sole of the horse hoof. It is easy to detect as the hoof produces a distinct foul smell. Keeping the horse’s feet clean and dry and by picking them out regularly can help prevent thrush. It rarely requires veterinary treatment and usually goes away after a thorough cleaning and a few applications of antibacterial purple spray. However, a severe case of thrush can travel up into the hoof. This will require a poultice to draw it out and a round of antibiotics to kill the infection.
Mud Fever normally occurs in the spring when pastures are wet and muddy. It is a form of dermatitis – a skin infection resulting from bacteria in the mud. The bacteria enter small cuts or chapped areas of skin on horses’ lower legs and create itchy, inflamed and crusty patches. This horse healthy problem can sometimes cause swelling and tender skin, resembling urticaria. Treat mud fever by washing the horses’ legs and applying a topical dressing. Left untreated, the infection might require antibiotics. Prevent it by keeping your horse’s legs clean and dry. Also check the fetlocks and pasterns regularly for sore and signs of infection.
Worms are a common problem amongst horses, especially those that graze in fields with other animals. These parasites can cause weight loss, dull coats and lethargy. They can also form blockages in the intestinal tract that could lead to colic. To avoid this horse health problem, horses should be treated with dewormers every three months. Because there are so many different species of worms, they each require a different medication. You should use de-wormers that contain ivermectin, pyrantel and fenbendazole throughout the year.
Sweet itch, also called Queensland Itch and Summer Itch, is a result of sensitivity to the saliva of biting flies that are active during the summer months. Horses rub the itchy constantly, often rubbing the hair away completely and creating large open sores. You can treat it with a topical cooling cream, but large open sores or infections may need veterinary attention. To prevent insect bites, use fly repellents and summer sheets, especially when horses are outdoors.
Back problems are very common in horses and ponies. They are usually the result of ill-fitting saddles, but they can also develop when a horse pulls a ligament or muscle when it rolls or falls. The spine can become very tender and painful. You may notice swelling or heat around the affected area. Extensive physiotherapy or corrective shoeing can treat some back problems; however, they can be very complex and take years to resolve. Always have your veterinarian asses any horse back problems. They will be able to determine if x-rays or ultrasounds are necessary for an accurate diagnosis. Treating back problems is often a team effort that involves the veterinarian and farrier. If this horse health problem doesn’t go away, it may even involve a professional saddle fitter or equine chiropractor.
Avoiding Rescue Horse Health Problems in Livingston, Montana
Some horse health problems are very common and are safely treatable at home with supplies from your local tack shop or feed store. Keeping your rescue horses on regular de-worming schedules, providing plenty of high-quality hay, fresh water and keeping their environment clean, dry and free of excess manure will prevent many of these common health issues. However, when a minor health problem worsens or if a horse is distressed, stops eating, runs a fever or won’t stand, always seek veterinary advice. These can be signs of serious problems that require veterinary intervention.