By Dr. David A. Rustebakke
Although nature has equipped horses to deal with extremes in temperature, there are a number of things you can do to make winter easier on your horse. While you are winterizing your home and vehicles, also think of winterizing your horses.
Horses do not perceive cold to the same degree that we do. Nature has equipped the horse with the ability to acclimate itself to the average winter temperature. A healthy horse in a good state of nutrition with a normal, healthy hair coat is perfectly comfortable at temperatures in the 20's and 30's in the Lewiston Clarkston Valley. I was raised in Eastern Montana where winter temperatures were commonly 10 to 40 degrees below zero; the horses there grew much heavier hair coats, and appeared to be comfortable at those temperatures.
In a nutshell, the key to winterizing a horse is to allow him to acclimate to the prevailing temperatures, provide shelter to protect him from the wind and moisture, and minimize other stressors (the cold weather is enough stress, he doesn't need other health problems to add more stress).
Some sort of shelter is necessary. Wind chill and loss of insulating ability due to a wet hair coat make the temperature appear much colder than it is. Horses turned out on the range can find a canyon, bluff, or trees to escape from the wind; a horse confined to a small pasture has only what you provide for him. Shelter does not need to be elaborate; a 3 sided shed with a roof is adequate.
Blanketing is no substitute for shelter. If done improperly, it can actually be detrimental in that it keeps the horse from becoming properly acclimated to the prevailing conditions. The purpose of blanketing is to prevent long hair growth in horses that are being shown, to provide some warmth while trailering or during colder than usual weather, or to cool out a hot horse in cold weather. A good waterproof well insulated blanket is useful during an unusually cold period; horses that are well acclimated to the 20’s and 30’s of a typical Lewiston Clarkston Valley winter will appreciate a warm blanket on those rare nights when it dips down near zero, or below. However, long term blanketing of an un-sheltered horse may actually prevent growth of a proper hair coat, and can actually increase the chances of the horse becoming chilled.
By Dr. Rustebakke
Veterinary Medicine and Animal Nutrition are separate specialties in the animal care industry; however in my career I have found that in order to give good health care advice I need to know something about nutrition. As primary care health providers to these animals, the veterinarian is the one who actually has eyes on the animals or on the herd, and we are in the best position to diagnose a nutritional problem and recommend specific products to help solve a problem. Many of us in practice are not familiar with all of the products available, and few of us actually have extensive training in nutrition. Because of this, our best option is often to refer the owner to a nutritionist to help you formulate a proper ration.
Nutritional based diseases seen in a typical veterinary practice
Malnutrition or under nutrition is by far the most common problem I see. This is often a result of ignorance (as opposed to willful neglect) on the part of the owner. These horses are often presented to look for a reason for weight loss. Most of these horses have dental problems, which we correct as well as possible. However the dental problems are often not severe enough to be the entire reason for the weight loss. To fully work up these horses we do a thorough physical examination including taking the vital signs (temperature, pulse, and respiration, listening to the heart and lungs, assessing body condition, hydration, capillary refill time, look for chronic pain issues, see if the stated age corresponds with the age estimated by the teeth, etc..). If no obvious problems are noted, we recommend a blood test (serum chemistry and CBC) to look for any chronic infections or organ system failure. If we identify a specific disease condition, the recommendations are based on whatever disease we see. Otherwise, the next step is to assess the diet and recommend changes.
From here, this is not rocket science. We know that a horse requires a certain number of calories per day for maintenance, and a few more calories for work or production. This can vary from 15 Mcal per day for an average sized horse at maintenance to over 30 Mcal per day for a horse working hard, or in maximum lactation. The problem with most of these horses is not a lack of vitamins or minerals or other micronutrients or probiotics; the problem is a shortage of calories. They may be lacking vitamins, minerals, etc. but that is not why they are thin; they are thin because they are not getting enough to eat. They may or may not be getting enough pounds of feed (2% of body weight per day is the common recommendation). But many of the forages do not have the energy density to provide the required caloric intake at the 2% level. So the solution is to increase the energy density. That is when I refer them to the feed store to provide them with products that will increase the energy density without causing secondary problems. There are a myriad products out there designed to do just that. It is important to use a product that is safe, which means combining soluble carbohydrates such as found in grain products, with digestible fiber and fat. Most of the commercial products out there, if fed as per the manufacturers label instructions, also include the required vitamins and minerals and often other products to make the entire diet more digestible as well.
Over nutrition and obesity is the next most common problem that I see in practice. This is also often due to a misguided sense of what is good for the horse. A few of these in my practice area are due to the unreasonable breed standards required by halter classes in horse shows. There is nothing I can do to solve the obesity required by the AQHA halter horses...
By Dr. Rustebakke
This is a "Summer Sore" in the corner of the eye causing the eye to be very sore and inflamed. It is caused by a tiny worm called "Habronema muscae" which is carried by flies, and burrows into the tissue; they can occur anywhere on the body, but we commonly see them in the eye. If you have a horse with a sore, swollen and runny eye, or a sore that will not heal we always need to rule out summer sores this time of year.
Prevention is the best medicine; fly control including fly mask, repellent, anything you can do to keep flies off the horse. Once they are established we use oral Ivermectin or Quest dewormer to kill the parasites, try to remove the necrotic debris from the sores, and use corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation.
By Dr. Bell
Spring is Here and with it new puppies and kittens. There are many things to consider when bringing a new puppy or kitten into your home. One of the most important, is vaccinations for your new arrival.
Puppies and kittens as well with all mammals, are born with a limited immunity against diseases from their mothers. They also receive protection via passive transfer from their mother’s colostrum (first milk). However, if the mother was not properly vaccinated prior to pregnancy or the kitten/puppy did not consume enough colostrum, they are at risk for diseases such as parvo virus and panleukopenia.
A mother’s antibodies in a new puppy or kitten are only effective until approximately 6 to 9 weeks of age. Every animal loses their protection at different rates. This why it is so important to start vaccinating a puppy or kitten at 6 to 8 weeks of age, with booster vaccines every 3 weeks until they are approximately 16 weeks old. It is crucial to have two vaccinations over 12 weeks of age in order to get full protection.
Puppies are not considered protected against parvo until after their third vaccine and in some high risk environments, not until the fourth booster. Parvo virus is transmitted by infected dogs via vomit and diarrhea. An unprotected puppy will be infected by touching a contaminated surface and then start showing signs 3-7 days after. Clinical signs usually start with depression, lethargy, then vomiting and diarrhea. There is not a cure for Parvo, only supportive care until the puppy’s immune system can recuperate. The intestinal lining is a very important part of the immune defense system. When the virus destroys the intestinal lining, secondary infections are very likely. Death may occur 50% of cases or more. The younger and smaller the puppy, the higher risk of death.
Parvo is a very sturdy virus and can live in a moderate environment indefinitely. It can be killed by very cold winters and hot dry summers, or by thoroughly disinfecting an environment. Most disinfectants including bleach are inactivated by organic materials, such as grass, dirt, feces, etc., making elimination in yards and carpets almost impossible. It also effects coyote packs and possibly carried by raccoons. Isolated dogs and puppies can have exposure.
Kittens are susceptible to a similar disease as Parvo, called Panleukopenia. Panleukopenia is an older virus and may have mutated into the Parvo virus. Kittens exhibit a similar disease process and elimination problems as puppies with parvo. Kittens often die before the vomiting and diarrhea are noticed.
Parvo and panleukopenia are very difficult to treat due to severity and speed it affects young animals and also because of how contagious it is. It can wipe out whole litters in a matter of days. In the clinic, treatment includes strict isolation for these patients. Veterinary doctors and staff must use very strict protocols to prevent spread to other animals in the clinic and boarding areas. This greatly increases the cost of in hospital treatment. Without vaccines, the only way to prevent infection is to eliminate exposure. That can be impossible due to environmental restrictions. Vaccination is our best defense. Even if your puppy or kitten is on a proper vaccination schedule and is exposed to one of these disease, his or her chance of survival is much greater than with no vaccines.
The next most common time to see parvo and panleukopenia is when the first yearly vaccine is due. Adult animals are also at risk if they don’t have proper vaccinations prior to exposure. Please keep your adult pet’s vaccinations current to help keep them healthy and reduce transmission to other pets.
It is always less expensive to prevent the disease with vaccinations than it is to treat!
I, as most other veterinarians, would love to never see parvo or panleukopenia in our hospitals and communities.
If you have any questions regarding vaccination protocols and what is best for your new pet and your adult pets, please contact us or your regular veterinarian.
I wish everyone a fun and safe spring and summer for you and your four-legged friends.
By Dr. Rustebakke
There are few things more beautiful than watching horses enjoying lush green pasture. Unfortunately the lush green pasture may have a dark side. Every Spring we see a few horses that develop a crippling disease called "Founder" or "Laminitis". There are multiple causes of laminitis; however one of the more common causes is excessive exposure to green pasture by horses that have not been properly acclimated to it. The sugars in the green grass pass into the large intestine where they are fermented by bacteria causing an overgrowth of bacteria; the bacteria produce a chemical called "endotoxin" which is toxic to the small capillaries in the feet resulting in swelling of the sensitive laminae inside the hooves. This causes necrosis and weakening of the attachment of the hoof wall to the coffin bone. The hoof can in extreme cases separate from the coffin bone, and actually come off. The x-ray is of a horse we saw last week whose coffin bone actually came through the bottom of his foot and had to be destroyed. Please be careful when turning your horses out on green pasture!
There are a lot of variables on the ideal way to acclimate a horse to green pasture. Like anything in life, there is always going to be some risk, regardless of how careful you are. In the natural state horses come out of winter eating whatever is available, and their diet gradually changes to green grass; this gives the bacteria in the gut plenty of time to adapt. Also there are variables between individual horses's tolerance to sugar in the hay. Most horses can tolerate green pasture very well, however some researchers claim that about 10% of horses are likely to have problems. Horses with a history of previous episodes of laminitis should not be on green pasture at all. The sugar content rises during the day, and decreases during the night; it is generally at its lowest right before sunrise. Putting your horses out early in the morning and locking them away from the green grass by mid morning works for many people.
The following link is a good read for those interested in more information: http://www.thehorse.com/articles/26766/pasture-sugars
By Dr. Rustebakke
Sometimes the profession of veterinary medicine intersects with other professions; this is an example of the intersection of veterinary medicine and horseshoeing. This horse kicked a horse trailer (bad mistake) and fractured his hoof capsule allowing dirt and debris access to the inside of his sensitive laminae. We removed the overlying sole and hoof wall, cleaned out the debris, stabilized the hoof with a shoe, and applied a bandage to keep everything clean while it is healing. The prognosis is good!
By Dr. Rustebakke
One of the things I love about Veterinary Medicine is that no matter how long one is in practice, you occasionally run into something new. Yesterday I saw a horse in distress with a history of possibly being stung by a swarm of bees; he was in-coordinated, depressed, and obviously in pain. A short distance away was a small tree with a swarm of bees hanging from a branch; he had apparently wandered too close, and was paying the price! I treated him with anti inflammatory medication and heavy duty pain killers; today he is nearly back to normal. The lethal dose of bee stings in horses is 20 stings per kilogram, which would be about 9,000 stings for a 1000 pound horse.
Here is a link to an article about bee stings in horses: http://www.horsedvm.com/disease/equine-bee-sting/
From Dr. Schmerge, Dr. Bell, and Dr. Rustebakke
Rustebakke Veterinary Service is proud to welcome you to our new website. We are launching a new website alongside our new dog and cat wellness plans. We are excited to share the benefits for you and your pet at your next visit. Wellness plans are one way we can help you get the most out of your veterinary care. Our new wellness plans bundle all of our recommendations for annual wellness care for your pet and allow you to make easy monthly payments - all while saving money. Come in and check it out!
Dr. David A. Rustebakke
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Our 5 doctors have nearly 70 years of combined experience to serve you and your animals! We are fortunate to have that level of experience in our doctors and staff. This is a place we can go to get an insight into their thoughts.