Archive for the ‘Horse Health Issues’ Category

Over the next few posts, we’re going to show some of the plants that are toxic to horses and which tend to be common, well-known plants. We’ll also feature some that may be lesser known.

Red Maple Tree

The red maple tree is very common throughout the United States and is one of its native trees. It is very commonly used for landscaping, and also grows naturally in many places.

The part of the tree toxic to horses is the leaves. The leaves can be fresh, dried or wilted from the fall weather in order to be dangerous. The wilted and dried ones can be especially dangerous as they can blow during fall winds, storms, or be collected in lawn clippings given to horses (although this is not recommended).

In order to be toxic, horses would need to ingest 3 pounds of leaves for every 1000 pounds. At this rate, the leaves can be deadly.

It is not known what exactly the leaves contain that makes them toxic to horses, but the effect the leaves have is that red blood cells are destroyed.

The symptoms that you will see with poisoning look like other red blood cell disease symptoms:

  • Severe anemia
  • Depression
  • Increased heart and breathing rates

Right now, there is no cure or antidote for poisoning from red maple leaves. The best that any veterinarian can do is simply provide support and therapy to the horse.

In some extreme cases, however, a complete blood transfusion may be needed to save the horse’s life.

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The picture above is of just one of the almost 100 different species of milkweed, and all look different. The one characteristic all have in common is that, when the plant is injured, it releases a white substance that closely resembles milk.

Milkweed is found throughout the United States in almost any type of soil. It tends to favor open, sunny areas, and can especially be found in weedy patches along road and field edges, including hay fields. As such, it’s extremely important to ensure that none of these plants end up in your hay.

While all milkweed species are toxic, the narrow leaf species tend to be more toxic than the broad leaf species. The narrow leaf species seem to cause more neurological issues, while the broad leaf species cause more digestive issues. No matter the species, milkweed is toxic whether it is fresh or dried.

A horse only needs to ingest as little as 1 pound for a 1000 pound horse to experience severe reactions and even death. Death typically occurs within 1-3 days after the plant is consumed.

Symptoms of poisoning include:

  • Profuse salivation
  • Bloating
  • Seizures
  • Colic
  • Abnormal heart rates
  • Hypothermia
  • Death

Treatment for milkweed poisoning includes detoxifying the digestive tract and supplying medical treatment for any heart rate problems. Sedation may be required as well.

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Flies and other biting insects are not only a nuisance but they pose a major health risk to you and your horse. Flies carry a number of dangerous diseases that become more of a problem as the fly population increases. Flies live, feed and breed in filth, where germs, bacteria and communicable diseases thrive. Good hygiene is critical to keeping flies and other filthy problems under control.

I was visiting a friend’s farm recently and noticed that the flies were really bothering their horses, a quick look around showed the reasons why. My friend had used a fly spray but still had a lot of flies on the horses and in their barn. No single fly product will solve your fly control problem. Effective fly control means eliminating flies on all fronts, at all stages in the fly life cycle. Eliminating immature flies reduces the number of biting, breeding adult flies you have to deal with.

To help my friend solve his fly problem, we cleaned up the stalls, removing all of the manure and dirty bedding material, we were able to get the material away from the barn not just outside. We cleaned their muck tubs, water troughs and buckets. We also got rid of some standing water that was a mosquito breeding ground.

They used a good fly spray and wiped in into their horse’s coats with an old rag, a fly applicator mitt works well too. Keep in mind fly spray are a poison to the flies and the fly has to ingest the poison before they die. We used a roll on fly repellant around the horse’s eyes.

The next step was to use a fly mask to keep the lies way from the horses eyes and face, a fly sheet and fly boots (similar to shipping boots) are other items that help keep the flies off.

Fly traps are an important part of any goof fly control strategy, use sticky traps in your barn. Avoid using odor attractant traps inside since they draw flies to the area. At night flies congregate away from the wind and drafts, so be sure to treat areas like rafters and ceilings. When temperatures exceed 80°F flies feed on the floor so put traps on the ground and treat the floor with insecticide. Keep your barn dry and clean to prevent flies.

Avoid braiding the mane and tail so the horse will have extra covering and be able to switch insects off their body. When horses are out in pens or pasture it is best to keep horses in groups, so the horses can mutually switch flies together as a group. Another idea to keep in mind is never to shave the hair from a horse’s ear. This will protect the ear and ear canal from any insects.

With these steps we were able to significantly reduce the flies on my friend’s horses.

Fly Control Management Tips

o Dispose of fly breeding material including manure and used bedding
o If waste disposal is not possible, treat manure with an effective larvicide
o Keep paddocks and corrals clean and dry
o Scrub water buckets and troughs weekly
o Remove standing water which may serve as a insect breeding ground
o Use a good fly spray, wipe it into the horse’s coat
o Fly masks, sheets and boots help keep flies away from your horse.
o Use roll on fly protectant on their face and around the eyes.
o Apply a fly repellent ointment on all wounds and sores to prevent fly transmitted infections.
o Read all labels before use and heed warnings
o Mix concentrates with exact amount of water recommended
o Apply fly products according to label directions
o Do not mix different fly repellents together

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What comes to mind when you think of a pleasant, content horse? I bet many of you think of a horse grazing in a huge, lush, green pasture. The horse is surrounded by nothing but green and other horses grazing around him. Some of you may even picture a horse in its stall on a rainy day, relaxing, popping its head out when its human comes to visit or feed it.

We tend to think of a horse being in its stall as a good thing, and it does have its uses. It’s a very good idea to put your horse in its stall during adverse weather. If you want to protect your horse’s coat from sun and dust, put him in his stall. A horse can eat in its stall without any other horses stealing its food. If your horse is injured, stall rest may be prescribed. And it’s convenient to just go to the stable and conveniently get your horse ready there for a ride as opposed to hiking across a pasture to find him.

Even though stabling our horses may provide us with more convenience, it’s not always done with our horse’s best physical or mental health interests in mind. To start with, we’ll look at how your horse can be affected physically by being confined in its stall for long periods of time.

The environment within a stall isn’t always the best for a horse’s airways. While the usual viruses and bacteria floating around can pose a risk to the horse’s health, particles from feed, bedding, footing material and other sources (such as gas or diesel) can lead to increased mucus in the horse’s airways, which can impair performance.

Some ways to minimize this are to soak hay in water, which can minimize the amount of dust and respiratory irritants. Be sure to feed way hay immediately, and do not let it sit around, as bacteria can multiply quickly in moist hay, creating another atmosphere for endotoxins to develop.

Ensuring your barn has good ventilation goes a long way in making sure the air is clean. However, just putting a fan inside may not be enough, as that can just stir up dust and endotoxins. Consult with a barn designer or extension agent to make sure you are providing the adequate ventilation needed.

Other strategies to minimize dust:

  • Use high-quality, low-dust hay/bedding;
  • Clean stalls of manure and urine-soaked bedding regularly–twice daily is best;
  • Minimize activities that kick up dust when horses are inside (i.e., raking, sweeping, leaf blower use); and
  • Place fans so they don’t whip up dust.

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Preventing your horses from getting into plants that are toxic is really about common sense. But here are some tips to ensure they stay away and don’t get sick:

  • Check all around the pastures, especially close to any fence, and make sure you can identify all of the plants you see. Check both inside and outside of the fence, as your horse can reach through to eat. If you identify any plants that are poisonous, learn how to properly remove them so your horse does not eat them.
  • If you find the pasture is beginning to be depleted of any good grass to eat, or any grass at all, make sure you are supplementing with adequate hay. If you don’t, horses, especially those that are younger or have a more curious nature, may begin to sample the other plants in the pasture. In most cases, horses will not bother plants that are poisonous. But preventing any instances where they may want to nibble on other plants that may be poisonous is best.
  • If you are in an unfamiliar area, be sure you can identify the plants that are around. It’s best to not allow your horse to graze unless he absolutely must. If he needs to, make sure you identify which plants are safe for him to eat.
  • When you do supplement with hay, make absolutely sure you know where your hay comes from. Always get your hay from a reputable supplier. Since plants which are poisonous tend to like to grow around the edges of pastures, it can sometimes be easy for them to get baled along with the hay. Many times, these poisonous plants become toxic as they are dried, so make sure you let your supplier know you are feeding this hay to horses, as plants that are toxic to horses many times do not affect cattle in the same way, and your supplier may be providing hay for both.

So what are some of the plants that are toxic to horses? Check out our next blog post to find out!

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In order for a horse to properly chew his food, he must have teeth that function properly. With a horse, proper teeth function is more difficult than one would think.

A horse’s teeth are called hypsodont, which means that they continually erupt or grow out of the gums. As the surface of the tooth wears down from chewing, much like a piece of chalk does as you write with it, more of the tooth is pushed out. As time goes on, just like a piece of chalk, the tooth becomes shorter with use.

There is also the matter of the upper jaw being around 30% wider than the bottom jaw. This causes uneven tooth wear as the horse grinds his food between his upper and lower teeth. There is also the possibility that sharp edges can develop on the outside of the upper cheek teeth and the inside of the lower cheek teeth. Teeth can also develop other problems such as retained caps, sharp points, hooks and ramps.

When problems such as these happen, your horse is not properly able to chew his food. This means the horse loses nutritional value from food that is not being chewed properly. You as the owner are losing money as you are purchasing feed that isn’t providing the maximum nutritional value for your horse, or you are having to purchase extra vitamins or supplements.

And when these problems occur, the horse can’t properly chew his food, which quickly becomes a losing proposition for horse and owner. The horse loses nutritive value from food that isn’t being masticated properly, and the owner loses money purchasing feed that doesn’t provide the maximum nutritional benefit for the horse.

One of the answers for many horses is to float the teeth each year. Floating teeth means the rough edges on the teeth are filed off so that the teeth grind together correctly.

It is also recommended that you get regular and routine dental examinations for your horse so that problems are caught early and can be treated before they become a big issue and detrimental to your horse’s health.

Teeth are an important part of your horse’s health. They ensure your horse is getting enough nutrition and, with prevention, you can avoid any diseases with regular exams and care.

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“No foot, no horse.” We’ve all heard–and believed–that old refrain in one form or another many times in our lives. Yet, we often approach foot care as if it weren’t true. We might be good about having the farrier out on a regular basis during the riding and performing season, but when the horse is put up for the winter, we often turn our backs on our equine partners’ feet.

True, the hooves don’t grow as fast in cold weather as they do when temperatures are warmer, but they do continue to grow. If we ignore hoof care in winter, there is a danger that the hoof will get out of balance and hoof cracks will develop. Or, they might get so long and uneven that chunks of hoof will break off. This is a particular danger when shoes aren’t removed and pull free during daily wear and tear.

The horses most at risk from developing hoof cracks as the result of improper care. It’s recommends that stalled horses have their feet cleaned thoroughly each day to prevent bacterial build-up that can cause problems such as thrush, as well as that stalled horses be led frequently through a wet and muddy area to give the hooves an opportunity to absorb moisture.

Water is superior to any hoof dressing in helping maintain correct moisture content in the hoof. The secret is to find the correct balance. Too much water can weaken the hoof wall.

Many owners don’t think that it is necessary to have farriers trim their horses’ feet during the winter months. They operate on the theory that hard, frozen ground will wear down the hoof if the horse is kept outdoors. The problem with that theory is that the hoof might indeed wear down, but it might not wear down evenly. When that happens, the foot is out of balance and cracks will occur.

Complicating any hoof problem is the length of time required to get it healed. The hoof of the average adult horse grows at the rate of about three-eighths of an inch per month, so if he breaks off an inch of toe it will take almost three months to grow back. Keeping a horse’s feet healthy is better than letting them get in bad shape and then dealing with a lengthy recovery period.

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During the cold winter months, nature provides the horse with a warm coat comprised of long, thick hair. The hair is designed to protect the skin from wind, rain, and cold. It does a good job of it unless it is compromised in some way.

There are many ways in which both the hair coat and skin of a horse can become compromised. The animal might develop lice, rain rot, ringworm, or a host of other problems.

Complicating the issue is the fact that, like humans, horses can suffer from allergies that produce skin problems or dermatitis. Dermatitis can be caused by agents such as external irritants, burns, allergens, trauma, and bacterial, viral, parasitic, or fungal infections. Dermatitis can also be associated with systemic diseases. Horse owners should be alert to horses scratching and rubbing their bodies against hard objects, since this is one of the outward signs of dermatitis.

When a horse suffers from dermatitis, the important thing is to determine the underlying cause. If you don’t know or aren’t sure, consult with your veterinarian. Treatment would be vastly different, for example, if the horse were suffering from a fungal infection than it would if the problem were the result of an allergy. If you live in a rainy, humid part of the country and feel bumps along your horse’s back and spots where the hair is missing, it could be rain rot. In another part of the country, finding spots where hair is missing could indicate a form of ringworm.

Keeping an eye on the condition of your horse’s skin is a good idea all year ’round, but is especially good to check out in the Spring as the long winter coat is shed. Keeping the skin in good condition means your horse stays healthy and happy.

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In our last post, we began to look at parasites that can infect your horse as you do your Spring deworming. Today we’re going to look at signs to look for if your horse is infected with parasites, as well as how prevalent they can be, a deworming program you can follow, and the kinds of dewormers that are available.

Signs of parasites

It may come as a surprise to many that horses can have a dangerously high parasite load and still look relatively healthy. However some horses (especially young ones) will show visible signs such as:

o dull rough haircoat
o lethargy or depression
o decreased stamina
o slowed growth in young horses
o pot belly (especially in young horses)
o colic
o diarrhea

Parasite Prevalence

Parasite resistance is a concern for all domestic animals and should be monitored. One way to determine the type and level of infection is through a fecal egg count done by your veterinarian. The McMaster’s fecal egg per gram test is recommended over the regular fecal floats, which may be inaccurate. It is important to note that a negative count doesn’t mean the horse is parasite free. Some parasites produce eggs intermittently, larvae don’t produce eggs at all and tapeworm eggs are particularly difficult to find in horse manure.

Proper Deworming Program

Ask us to help you design a deworming program to meet your needs. The interval you deworm depends on such factors as the number of horses, pasture management, weather conditions and types of dewromers used. Typically a broad spectrum dewormers works well unless a specific problem is determined, and then that one should be targeted. Using ivermectin, moxidectin and paziquantel twice a year will take care of those.

At present the three main chemical classes of deworming products are pyrantel, benziminidazol and ivermectin. There is a relatively new group of products that combine ivermectin and praziquantel. They provide safe, broad spectrum control for tapeworms through us of praziquantel, as well as parasites such as ascarids, bots, lung worms, pinworms, intestinal threadworms, small strongyles and large strongyles through the use of ivermectin.

By proper timing and rotating your dewormers, as well as proper management you should be able to keep those nasty parasites at bay.

Classes of Dewormers


Stongid Paste (Pyrantel Pamoate)

Tape Care Plus (Pryantel Pamoate)


Anthelcide (Oxibendazole)

Panacur (Fendendazole)

Safe-Guard (Fendendazole)

Macrocyclic Lactones

IverCare (Ivermectin)

Quest Gel (Moxidectin)

Zimecterin (Ivermectin)

Iver Ease (Ivermectin)

Combined Macrocyclic Lactones

Combo Care (Ivermectin/praziquantel)

Equimax (Ivermectin/praziquantel)

Zimecterin Gold (Ivermectin/praziquantel)

Let one of the knowledgeable associates at Hawkeye Tack & Western Wear answer any questions you may have on horse parasites and deworming your horse.

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Spring is a great time to deworm your horse.  We offer lots of choices in dewormers here at Hawkeye Tack & Western Wear.

We all know that controlling parasites through appropriate deworming is the major part of your parasite management program.  Bots, pinworms, small strongyles, round worms and tape worms pose the greatest risk to horses.

Parasite Review

There has been a reduction in large strongyles, also called bloodworms or redworms due to the wide spread use of deworming products.  They can be seen occasionally in horses that are not being dewormed, so it is important to consider them.  Large strongyles penetrate the bowel lining and travel through the intestine’s blood vessels.  In large numbers they can cause extensive damage.  Ivermectin products effectively control them.

Small strongyles burrow into the intestinal lining and remain dormant, or encysted for several months.  Left unchecked, small stongyles can cause severe damage to the intestinal lining.  In the encysted stage they are resistant to most dewormers, particularly benzimidazol, but are susceptible in early and late larval stages.  Products containing fenbendazole and moxidectin are the only ones effective against encysted small stongyles.

Roundworms or ascarids, are most often a problem in young horses.  They migrate into the lungs where they are coughed up, swallowed and complete their life cycle.  In large numbers, they can block the intestines.  To decrease a foals exposure to roundworms you should deworm pregnant mares 30 days before foaling or right at foaling.

Tapeworms are most common in horses with access to pasture.  They settle in the ilocecal junction, which is where the small intestine, cecum and colon meet.  A product that contains praziquantel is effective against tapeworms, and is recommended that it be used annually.

How Parasites Get Into Your Horse

Horses are infected with parasites in a number of ways, depending on the parasite’s lifecycle.

Basic Parasite Lifecycle

Many types of equine parasites live in manure in the grass and are eaten as the horse grazes.  Once these parasites enter the horse’s system, they migrate, mature and lay eggs.  A new generation of parasite eggs and larvae leaves the horse in manure, then waits in the grass to be ingested again.

Indirect Lifecycle

Parasites with indirect lifecycles depend on another organism to get into the horse.  For example, tapeworm eggs develop in the oribatid grass mite and enter the horse when infected mites in the grass are ingested.

Bot Fly Lifecycle

Bots aren’t worms, they’re flies.  Adult female bot flies lay eggs on the horse’s legs, shoulder, chin, throat and lips.  The eggs hatch and bot larvae enter the horse when licked or by burrowing under the horse’s skin to the mouth.

In our next post, we will look at how to tell if your horse is infected and the proper deworming program to use for your horse.

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