Frequently Asked Questions

  • How important is water to my horse?
  • Did you know that a horse will drink about 30% more water if it is warmed? Increased water consumption goes a long way in preventing impaction colic. Many people have a heated stock tank, or heated water buckets. If that isn’t an option, bringing your horse a bucket of warm water twice a day will still help increase your horse’s water consumption. Wrapping your bucket or small tank with “Tek-foil” (an insulated, foil-covered bubble wrap, available in most hardware stores) will help to keep the water warmer longer. Wrapping your outside stock tank in insulation, such as Tek-foil, &/or putting it in an insulated box will also help keep your winter electric bill down. Hint: Store 10 gallons of water per horse in covered buckets in your basement or other inside location. This gives you 1-2 days worth of water for your horse in case of a power outage.
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  • My horse’s urine looks red in the snow. Is this blood?
  • Red urine in snow.It is probably not blood that you are seeing. The urine of some horses contains compounds (probably porphyrin-like molecules from hay and other forages) that can oxidize after the urine contacts air. This can impart an red-orange color to the snow or shavings where the horse has urinated. If you are worried, getting a free-catch urine sample will show the real color of the urine. If you're still are worried, we can perform a urinalysis on the sample to check for the presence of blood, white cells and bacteria.
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  • My horse’s urine is cloudy and/or thick. Is this normal?
  • Both of these are normal for the horse. In the horse, the kidneys play a large role in calcium excretion. The cloudiness seen in horse urine are calcium crystals (primarily calcium carbonate) being excreted. Mucus is secreted by the kidneys. It serves to protect the ureteral, bladder and urethral mucosa from calcium crystal deposition.
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  • My horse’s urine is red/dark brown as he is urinating. Is this a problem?
  • If your horse urinates dark red/brown/wine-colored urine, especially after exercise, your horse may have tied up. This is especially true if your horse is stiff and/or reluctant to move. In this case, your horse requires emergency treatment in order to prevent further muscle and kidney damage. Your veterinarian may also want to pull some blood to check the severity of the tie-up.
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  • Does my horse need a blanket?
  • Ticks.While every horse should own at least a waterproof sheet or light blanket, blanket use depends a lot on the weather and your horse’s use, condition, age and haircoat. Horses evolved to grow a thick, protective haircoat for the winter. This coat protects the horse against the cold and snow. If your horse doesn’t work in the winter, is a healthy teen-aged horse with a thick haircoat and access to a run-in shed, or is stabled at night, he probably doesn’t need any blanketing except during extremely cold (less than 0 degrees F), windy or cold/rainy weather. The clipped, working horse requires a larger wardrobe than his non-working counterpart. He will require a light weight blanket for cool weather, and a heavier blanket, or blanket liner for colder weather. For really frigid weather, this horse may require several layers.
  • It is important to make sure your horse is cool and dry before blanketing. If your horse lives in a warm barn, he will need some sort of blanket if he is to go outside for the day in the cold. Of course, if your horse is very old, is thin or always seems to be shivering, he will require blanketing as well.
  • Be careful that you remove any blanket frequently to groom your horse and to check for any rubs. If any rubs are notices, you can sometimes alter the shape of the blanket at the neck, or buy a “sleezy” or “slicker” lining for the chest area.
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  • My horse is itchy and is rubbing himself raw. What could this be?
  • This could be a number of things. Lice or an allergic reaction can cause generalized body itchiness. Itching that is primarily confined to the tail is usually either pinworms or a dirty sheath/udder or tail/perineum. Lice infestations are more common in the winter. Biting lice, the most common variety we see, can cause intense itching, even in small numbers. This sometimes makes them difficult to find. As their numbers increase, they are easier to find, especially along the mane. They are very small (reading glasses or a magnifying glass may be necessary to find them), with white bodies and darker heads. They lay their eggs, called nits, on the hair shafts. Therapy aims at killing the adults and nymphs, and breaking their life cycle.
  • Information on allergic reactions could fill a book by itself. To start, we need to look at anything that has recently changed in the horse’s environment or feed. Therapy includes removing the inciting factor (if known), antihistamines, and possibly steroid therapy.
  • Pinworms are internal parasites whose adults live in the last foot or so of the rectum; the females crawl out of the anus and lay eggs on the perineum (area surrounding the anus). These both can cause intense itching. Diagnosis is by examining a perineal scraping for eggs. A routine fecal exam often does not pick up the presence of pinworms since their eggs are not laid in the manure. Pinworm eggs are very sticky, and often stick to feeders and stall walls, so cleaning up the horse’s environment is an important part of treatment. We are finding that more and more pinworms have become resistant to ivermectin and other commonly used dewormers, so we are advising different dewormers on a case by case basis.
  • Finally, a dirty sheath/udder or perineum can cause hind quarter itching. This is especially true in geldings (or stallions), who can form a very large and irritating bean at the tip of their penis. Treatment is a good sheath or udder (between the udder halves) cleaning and or a good tail and perineum bath.
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  • How can I keep my horse from getting ticks/Lyme disease?
  • Examples of ticks.We are unfortunately seeing more ticks, and thus, more Lyme disease in our local horses. Lyme disease is caused by a spiral-shaped bacteria called a spirochete. Because the spirochete is able to change its presentation to the mammalian host immune system, it can escape detection and therefore destruction by the immune system. This is also one reason that it is difficult to treat and “cure” Lyme disease. While the Deer tick is the primary transmitter of Lyme disease, other ticks can also carry it. So the best way to keep horses from getting Lyme disease is to keep ticks off of your horse. Ticks climb up tall vegetation, hold on with one side and hold out the legs on the other side of their body, grasping onto whatever comes along. Keeping vegetation in and around pastures mowed short will help keep the number of ticks down. As for your horse itself, applying Permithrin-containing insect repellants, especially on the legs, tail and under the jaw helps keep ticks off of your horse. Several of these come in a spot-on preparation. Fipronil spray works well too. Keeping your horse’s tail trimmed (banged) or tied up can also help. Some folks use Guinea hens to reduce the tick population, as these fowl love eating ticks.
  • Four stages of tick life.It takes about 24 hours from the time a tick gets onto your horse until it can transmit Lyme disease, so checking your horse daily and removing any ticks that you find is important. Don’t squeeze them: use a tick remover (Cabela’s sells a nifty one), or remove the tick using tweezers by grasping the tick’s head. If your horse develops a severe reaction to a tick bite, contact us to discuss treatment or testing options.
  • Lyme Disease Prevention
  • 1) Keep ticks off of your horse: insect repellants, environmental management Keeping vegetation in and around pastures mowed short will help keep the number of ticks down. As for your horse itself, applying Permithrin-containing insect repellants, especially on the legs, tail and under the jaw helps keep ticks off of your horse. Several of these come in a spot-on preparation. Fipronil spray also works well. Keeping your horse’s tail trimmed or tied up can also help.
  • 2) Remove any ticks found on your horse at least once daily! It takes about 24 hours from the time a tick gets onto your horse until it can transmit Lyme disease, so checking your horse daily and removing any ticks that you find is important. Don’t squeeze them: use a tick remover (Cabela’s sells a nifty one).
  • 3) Vaccination: While there is no “approved” Lyme vaccine for horses, anecdotal evidence suggests that the dog vaccine is very effective in horses. We will therefore be offering this vaccine to our equine patients. The recommendation for initial vaccination is one dose on day one, one dose 3 weeks later and a third dose at 3 months. Vaccination is then recommended every 6 months. We will be offering reduced-cost Lyme vaccination clinic days starting in February; contact us for details.
  • Below is the mechanism by which the recombitec Lyme vaccine works.
  • Osp stands for outer surface proteins. OspA and B are expressed when the spirochete is attached to the tick’s mid-gut. OspC is expressed when the spirochete is connected to mammalian tissue. OspE is expressed when the spirochete is in early stage of infection. OspF is expressed when the spirochete is in late stage of infection.
  • The spirochete can also change its shape to three different forms and hide within cellular folds. When the tick begins feeding the warmth of the ingested blood meal causes OspC to be up regulated and OspA and OspB to be down regulated. The genetic expression of OspC proteins allows the organism to leave the mid-gut and enters the hemolymph and then the salivary glands. The OspC enters the host to cause Lyme disease. When the tick falls off the host OspC reverts to OspA and OspB. The vaccine produces OspA antibodies which kill the spirochete within the gut of the tick before there is a shift of production, therefore prevents transmission from the tick to the host of a virulent organism.
  • LYME DIAGNOSIS
    Lyme disease is the “great imitator”; it resembles other diseases, and is often a fall back diagnosis after ruling out other problems/diseases. Signs may include:
  • • Ill-defined lameness (shifting limb lameness, waxing & waning lameness)
    • Muscle pain (horse seems whole-body sore, muscles painful to palpation, stiffness) • Increased skin sensitivity (dislikes grooming)
    • Behavioral/Personality changes( can mimic gastric/intestinal ulcer symptoms)
    • Poor Performance
    • Anterior Uveitis (inflammation of the interior of the eye)
    • Joint swelling (occasionally)
    • Neurologic signs (rarely)
  • LYME TESTING
  • ELISA (Enzyme-Linked ImmunoAbsorbent Assay)
    • Blood test for antibody level; blood mixed with antigen bound to enzyme, any antibodies present bind to the test
    • Results usually reported as negative, positive or equivocal
    • Equivocal results require Western Blot confirmation
    • Inability to diagnose early infections
    • not able to differentiate between antibodies from infection vs vaccination
    • useful in following course of disease; falling antibody level indicates the horse is responding to treatment
  • WESTERN BLOT
    • Blood test that binds antibody to antigen then separates out the bound complexes using electrophoresis into specific bands; each band corresponding to an antibody to a specific component of the organism
    • Four or more bands required for a positive test
    • Able to differentiate between antibodies from vaccination vs Infection
    • Used as a confirmation test for equivocal ELISA tests
  • C6 ELISA
    • Currently available as the SNAP 4-Dx developed for dogs, quick, in office test
    • Appears to work for horses as well
    • False negatives possible, especially early in the disease
    • Virtually no false positives
    • SNAP test doesn’t give level of antibodies, so not able to follow response to treatment
    • Can differentiate between vaccinated & actively infected animals
  • Lyme Treatment
  • There are a number of treatment regimes, please note that the below are only several that are commonly used, and are not intended to replace a treatment program prescribed by your veterinarian for your horse.
  • LA 200 (oxytetracycline):
    • IV once daily for 30 days
    • Requires IV catheter placement & maintenance
    • May be the most effective treatment
    • Possible side effects may include GI upset, diarrhea, kidney failure
  • Doxycycline tablets/capsules:
    • Oral treatment twice daily for 30 to 90 days or more
    • Usual dose is 50-55 tablets/capsules twice daily for a 1000# horse
    • Higher chance of recurrence
    • Possible side effects may include GI upset, diarrhea
  • Combination:
    • Start with IV LA 200 for 3-5 days
    • Continue with oral Doxycycline twice daily for 30-45 days
    • Anecdotally seems to have higher efficacy than Doxycycline alone
    • Same possible side effects as above
  • Others:
    • Some treatment regimes include DMSO
    • Cetifour (Naxcel), (daily IM injection), and other oral antibiotics, have been used in horses who react badly to the above antibiotics, but efficacy seems to be lower
    • Herbals: “Lyme Formula” from Jing-tang Herbal: may act as additional support
    • Probiotic usage may help ameliorate GI side effects
  • Retesting:
    • Not recommended for 4 months or more after treatment to allow antibody level to decrease.
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  • What should I feed my horse in the winter to help keep him warm?
  • Old-timers always said to feed corn, but the best thing to feed your horse to help keep him warm is more hay. The digestion of hay produces more heat than the digestion of grains, so extra hay will help your horse keep warmer than will extra grain. It will also keep him occupied longer in the winter when there is no grass to graze.
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  • My horse is chewing my barn down! What can I do to stop him?
  • Boredom is a great factor in wood chewing. Often, horses just seem to need to chew on something wooden during the winter, and seem to stop during the warmer months. This may have to do with evolution: horses grazed during the summer, and had to browse more in the winter.
  • One option to protect your barn is to provide a source of wood that is more tasty. Poplar tree logs (horses especially seem to especially like the bark) and “used” Christmas trees are good choices. Another option is to provide hay in a “Nibble Net” or hay net with very small openings so the hay takes longer to eat. A third option is to paint on an anti-wood chewing coating like Dyco-sote. Note: These coatings can stain clothing, blankets and, especially, grey horses before they dry.
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LYME Disease


Tick season will be here before we know it. We will be starting our spring Lyme clinics in late February—stay tuned.

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Evergreen Equine
of Vermont
Dr. Heather Hoyns

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 126
Reading, Vermont 05062

Telephone:
(802) 484-9100
Fax:
(802) 484-9104

evergreenequinevt.com

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