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Resources for Horse Owners

By Grant Miller, DVM, July 07, 2014

It seems that horse ownership is getting more and more expensive every day.  Costs associated with just about all aspects of the business aren’t even “creeping” up anymore, now they are increasing by leaps and bounds.  Take, for instance hay, there appears to be no end in sight when it comes to the rising costs associated with feeding horses.  Select hays are now selling for has high as $30 per small bale in some parts of the country!  With extreme drought conditions throughout a significant portion of the hay growing regions in the western United States, prices may rise even higher.


Undoubtedly, many horse owners will continue to have to make tough decisions when it comes to keeping, selling or re-homing their horses.  The following organizations are doing a great job in providing some assistance.


The Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC) seeks to reduce the number of unwanted horses and to improve their welfare through education and the efforts of organizations committed to the health, safety, and responsible care and disposition of these horses.  The UHC manages on online directory of facilities in each state that accept unwanted horses and administers the Operation Gelding program which provides financial aid to local non-profit horse organizations that facilitate equine castration clinics.  In addition, the coalition creates and disseminates excellent information regarding the costs and responsibilities that one can expect when owning a horse. 


A Home for Every Horse provides an online clearinghouse to not only post a national ad to place your horse or find a new one, but also to find a horse rescue in your area.  This website is user friendly and provides an ehttp:xcellent way to connect with horses around the country.


The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) continues to demonstrate strong support for horses in need through their ASPCAPro Equine Fund.  The fund provides several different types of grants to organizations seeking assistance in caring for horses.  Other ASPCA initiatives include the “Hay It Forward” program in which patrons of participating feed stores or horse show participants at certain competitions can opt to contribute to a non-profit horse rescue.


The much needed Second Chance Fund offered by the American Humane Association will review requests for assistance in rehabbing a neglected horse, however the request most come from a 501(c)3 horse rescue organization. 


It is nice to know that help is out there as some of us struggle to make ends meet and care for our hooved companions.  Is anyone else aware of resources to assist horse owners during these difficult times?  Please share if you have any thoughts!
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By Grant Miller, DVM, June 30, 2014

Equine Occult Sarcoid


Does your horse have a dime to quarter-sized round patch of missing hair that doesn’t ever go away?  Although it could be a scar or a callous, don’t forget about the possibility of an equine sarcoid.


Sarcoids are a form of skin cancer caused by the bovine papilloma virus.  It is a weird sort of etiology- the virus that causes warts in cattle can cause cancer in horses.  While warts are generally self-limiting in cattle, the cancer is a potentially serious life-long issue in horses.  Flies can carry the bovine papilloma virus on their mouth piece and inoculate it into the horse’s skin when they bite.  Of course, not every horse that gets bitten by a fly carrying papilloma virus gets sarcoids, so much is still unknown about the disease process.  It has been postulated that some horses are genetically susceptible to the cancer, or also possibilities that immune status plays a roll.  Despite all that we have yet to learn about why they occur, we do know for sure that sarcoids are the most commonly diagnosed tumor of horses, mules and donkeys- representing 36% of diagnosed skin tumors. Studies suggest there is no significant gender or age predisposition, but they are highly prevalent in Quarter horses and Arabians and less common in Standardbreds.


There are six described types of sarcoids:


Occult sarcoids are flat, hairless, crusty lesions that are typically round. They often have a smooth, dark hairless area around them.


Verrucose sarcoids are raised, knobby, dark areas that often spread into poorly defined margins. They can sometimes have ulcerated portions.


Nodular sarcoids are firm and nodular skin lumps which may have normal skin over them.


Fibroblastic sarcoids are often swollen, nodular bloody scabbing lesions that grow off the body much like proud flesh.


Mixed sarcoids are commonly a mixture of two or more of the forms described above.


Malevolent sarcoids are aggressive and invasive lesions that appear on the outside like fibroblastic sarcoids but also invade deep tissues.

Sarcoids can develop anywhere on the body but are most common in the paragenital region (around the sheath and on the inside of the upper hind legs,) the ventral thorax and abdomen (midline), and the head. They frequently are seen at sites of previous injury and scarring.  Why?  Because these are the places where flies most commonly bite!


Several treatments are available, but none are guaranteed cures.  Most commonly, small sarcoids are surgically excised and removed.  Often times a laser is used in the surgical process since it can cut the sarcoid out and cauterize the location simutaneously.  Cases in which sarcoids are too large to be excised or are in inoperable locations, chemotherapy, radiation and even topical caustic agents can be used to reduce the size of the lesions and kill neoplastic cells.  There are even some experimental sarcoid vaccinations in the works- stay tuned!  No two sarcoids are treated exactly the same way, so you must consult with your veterinarian to determine which treatment plan is the best option should your horse have a sarcoid. 


If your horse has a sarcoid, avoid picking at it and keep the flies away since any irritation can cause it to “wake up” and grow.

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The Glass Horse

By Grant Miller, DVM, June 23, 2014

The glass limb.

Trying to comprehend what is happening to your horse during colic is nearly impossible because equine anatomy is so much different from human anatomy.  When the vet starts talking about the right dorsal colon, the cecum, the transverse colon, and the small colon - everything can get terribly confusing.  When you have to make serious medical decisions under pressure, confused is the last thing you want to be!  To help clear it all up, The Glass Horse offers 3-D digital animations that will instantly catapult your understanding of equine anatomy to a whole new level.


The Horse Owners Guide to Colic includes a detailed, step by step 3-D anatomy construction program in which you can “build” the internal anatomy of the horse one organ system at a time- almost like putting together a puzzle.  It allows you to see “what goes where” in a step-by-step fashion.  The program also includes information about colic including the common signs as well as answers to frequently asked questions about the various types of colic.  Best of all, this guide shows what happens internally during 9 different types of colic, ranging from impactions to torsion.  In these sections, the animated 3-D movie can be viewed from all angles with a drag of the mouse. 


The Glass Horse has extended this technology into the Equine Distal Limb for owners trying to understand lameness.  Since the vast majority of lameness comes from the foot region, it makes sense to focus on this area.  The program pieces the distal limb (from the fetlock down) together - one structure at a time.  Within a few minutes, users are versed in knowing where tendons, ligaments and bones are in the foot. 


These two programs can be purchased as downloads or as a CD - check them out if you have a chance - you will be glad you did.

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EOTRH: Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis

By Grant Miller, DVM, June 16, 2014

Credit: eotrh
Courtesy: Midwest Equine Services
This past weekend I power-floated a 22-year-old warmblood gelding and immediately noticed that he was “long in the tooth.”  The term is widely used to describe something that is old, but did you know that long incisors in horses can be an indicator of a disease process?  In other words - there are some cases in which long incisors occur due to something other than just aging.  I am talking about Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resporption and Hypercementosis or “EOTRH.”


EOTRH is characterized by disintegration of the incisor tooth roots and gingiva (gum) recession.  In many cases, the surrounding gingiva will concurrently swell.  The cause of this disease process is unknown, but it only occurs in aged horses (usually late teens onward).  It can be painful, since loss of tooth roots can render the incisors unstable, thus causing nerve pain.  In addition, as they loosen, food particles can pack down in between the tooth and the gingiva, resulting in infection and in some cases, tooth root abscesses.  No fun. 


Horses with EOTRH tend to not show many outward signs of tooth pain, but rest assured - they have it.  Any of us who have ever had a tooth root abscess can attest!  EOTRH horses may not be able to bite down on apples or carrots.  They also sometimes exhibit signs of slow eating and reluctance to drink extremely cold water.


The first step in determining if a horse has EOTRH is to have a veterinarian do an oral examination of the incisors and canine teeth (these are the only teeth that are currently known to be affected by the condition).  If the gingiva are receding and the teeth look “long” - there may be a problem.  If the receded gingiva are swollen and there is excess cementum on the teeth - these also can be signs of the problem.  Ultimately, taking intraoral radiographs of the incisors or canines can confirm the diagnosis.  Radiographs will show black shadows around the roots of the teeth.  In more advanced cases, the roots will literally be fractured off or missing altogether due to resorption. 


Taking intraoral radiographs is not impossible to do with a conventional digital X-ray processor (termed a “DR” processor), however, there are special X-ray plates made specifically for evaluating incisors.  Not all vets have them, but they are becoming increasingly more available as more and more veterinarians expand their dentistry services.  


Bottom Line 

Your vet can get by with putting a normal digital radiograph plate in your horse’s mouth in order to assess the incisor teeth. 


The best treatment for EOTRH is to extract affected teeth - especially if it is in an advanced state, if the horse is excessively painful, or if evidence of infection is present.  Don’t worry though- horses can live and eat just fine without incisors.  In fact, owners report that once painful teeth are removed, their horses act younger and more energetic.  In cases where all incisors are removed, the tongue will hang out of the mouth.  Other than looking a bit funny, it is of no detriment to the horse!


Want to read more dentistry by Dr. Miller?  Here's an article explaining power floats and the need for regular dental care on your horse.

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Lameness Locator

By Grant Miller, DVM, June 08, 2014

Credit: lameness-locator-report

Technology has crept into our lives like vines overtaking a picket fence.  We interact with it in all aspects of life- from washing our hands in the bathroom (with this finicky faucets and soap dispensers) to connecting us to the world through our smart phones.  The horse world has not been forgotten in this age of technology either! 


In the past decade we have seen advents such as digital high-resolution radiography, Ultrasound, MRI and CT Scan assist vets in diagnosing lameness.  We also have uncovered widespread ailments like gastric ulcers through improvements in endoscopy.  Now, even the most rudimentary part of the equine lameness exam can be assisted by technology!  That’s right, the Lameness Locator by Vetel Diagnostics can assist the veterinarian in finding lameness when the horse walks and trots. 


The Lameness Locator is a system that enables a veterinarian to objectively identify lameness in horses. The system provides an analysis that indicates whether the horse is lame, an amplitude of the severity of the lameness, the limb or limbs involved, and the part of the motion cycle at which peak pain is occurring (impact, mid-stance, or push off).  It achieves this through the attachment of small, wireless, body-mounted inertial sensors to the horse’s body that transmit data at a rate of 200 times per second to a hand-held tablet PC.  In the end, the veterinarian can look at a graph which points to the lame leg! 


These types of diagnostic instruments cannot replace a lameness exam and should only be used by a veterinarian since results simply “point to the lame leg” but do not diagnose which structure or structures in the leg are the source of the lameness.  This technology can be particularly useful in subtle cases of lameness, or in which lameness is present in multiple limbs.


If you're vet has used the lameness locator on your horse, I would love to hear about your experience with it.


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