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NEWS ITEMS

Neurological Equine Herpes Virus 1 update.

We must advise that an outbreak of EHV-1 has been confirmed at a premises in Hampshire. This premises is taking veterinary advice and is managing the situation extremely responsibly including posting on their own website warning people that have attended the premises with their horses for competition. The warning applies to any horse attending the premises on or after the 20th December 2019.

Sampling and laboratory testing is underway and the exact extent of infection will be known likely early next week if not by the end of this week. It is only then that we can establish the true risk to horses that attended events there and then returned home. It is considered safest to take a precautionary but pragmatic approach. To this end it is advised that at risk horses be placed in isolation for 14 days (to avoid direct and indirect contact with other horses), undergo daily clinical monitoring (ideally including twice daily rectal temperature recording) with a blood sample for serum antibody testing at the beginning and then again at the end of isolation. A swab should be taken from inside the nose (nasopharyngeal swab) by your vet towards the end of the isolation period and tested for viral DNA. Only if this is negative can the horse be released from isolation. To confirm, a horse is at risk if it attended the premises on or after the 20th December 2019.

Horses that develop clinical signs whilst in isolation, which may include just fever, off food and lethargy but also nasal discharge, coughing and limb swelling through to neurological signs, should undergo veterinary examination with samples taken at the time for EHV-1 including a nasopharyngeal swab for PCR (DNA). Horses that remain clinically normal throughout the isolation and don’t have signs that they’ve been recently exposed to the virus on their blood samples, or a positive nasopharyngeal swab can be considered non-exposed and non-infectious and can be released from isolation.

IT IS ADVISED NOT TO COMMENCE VACCINATION in horses that may have been exposed or that are undergoing the isolation or screening process.

Obviously this is all pretty complicated so please don’t hesitate to contact the practice and ask to speak to one of the vets for clarification or with any questions.

To confirm, EHV-1 is not a “notifiable” disease so none of the above can be enforced, so we rely on everyone to do the right thing here and do as they’d wish others to do in the same situation.

The Animal Health Trust keep us informed of any confirmed new cases or outbreaks by text and we will be passing this information on straight away. Hopefully this outbreak will prove an isolated one.


Blackthorn

Blackthorns have chemicals in the outer waxy surface of the thorn which cause severe reaction and painful swelling when the thorn punctures the skin. Some thorns can penetrate deep into the tissues including the tendons, tendon sheaths or joints and can case very serious problems.

To prevent long term swelling and lameness it is important to remove the thorn as soon as possible. Ultrasound is usually required to detect the blackthorn in deep tissue. If blackthorns penetrate a synovial cavity (joint, bursa or tendon sheath), synovial sepsis (infected joint) may ensue, which almost always needs to be treated surgical.

 


Mud Fever

Mud fever is a skin problem, which usually occurs on the lower legs of the horse, and especially in horses kept in damp, muddy conditions. 

Signs to look out for include scabs on the lower limb (pastern and fetlock) that peel off to leave red sores underneath. In more severe cases, the legs can swell, the skin can split and there can be reddened oozing patches. 

General treatments include:

• Removal from wet ground and ensuring legs are kept dry

• Clipping out feathers

• Your vet may prescribe more specific treatments which can include steroid creams or antibiotics

Keeping the skin clean and dry so it can maintain natural defences is the best method to prevent recurrence; mud fever may recur if the conditions in which the horse is kept are not altered.

 


How to avoid impaction colic

As cold conditions are set to move in, here are some tips on how to try and avoid your horse getting impaction colic:

• In this freezing cold weather horses tend to drink less. Please make sure your horses are drinking well. 

• Check troughs regularly. If there is any ice, break AND remove it (bring a fork or scoop – not a job for bare hands!)

• Check your horse is passing their normal number of droppings and consistency… not too hard or dry

• If you’re feeding hard feed, add extra water… preferably warm!

• Avoid prolonged periods of stabling on straw bedding, to prevent your horse from eating it

If you have any worries that they are not producing enough droppings, then please contact your vet.

 


Hoof Abscesses

It’s that time of year again! Wet muddy conditions mean we’ve seen a rise in foot abscesses (also known as pus in the foot or gravel).

Pus in the foot is one of the most common causes of lameness. The horse will usually become suddenly and severely lame, sometimes intermittently. There may be heat in the foot and raised digital pulses. The abscess will need to be found and opened to allow drainage, followed by poulticing the foot. It is also important to ensure that the horse’s tetanus vaccination is up to date.

 


Age is just a number!

The longest living horse on record is thought to be Old Billy, a barge horse from Manchester who died in 1822 at the astonishing age of 62. Old Billy was a rarity back then, living way beyond the average equine life expectancy. 200 years ago, once they were put to work horses usually only survived for 3-4 years.

Today the average lifespan of a domestic horse is around 25-30 years old with growing numbers leading healthy, active lives well beyond this age. This is largely thanks to better management, nutrition and veterinary case, as well as increasing recognition by owners of the pleasures of keeping their horses in retirement. 

Every horse is different but if you can spot the signs of ageing in good time and manage your horse’s needs to provide pain-free quality of life you should be able to enjoy your happy partnership for much longer.

 


Thrush in horses

Thrush is an infection most often caused by a consistently damp environment. If left untreated it can cause lameness and damage to the deeper structures of the foot. The characteristic black discharge around the frog is usually easy to spot and the pungent smell is hard to miss! If your horse has thrush you will need to scrub out the foot daily and then keep the foot dry until it clears.

How to prevent thrush:

• Keep your horse’s hooves clean

• Pick out your horse’s hooves at least once daily

• Make sure the bedding in their stable is clean and dry

• Avoid your horse standing in a wet/muddy field

• Regular feet trimming by your farrier

Speak to your vet or farrier for further advice.

 


Tetanus – is your horse up to date?

All horses and donkeys should be vaccinated against tetanus. Tetanus is a potentially fatal condition in the horse and is caused by toxins produced by the bacteria, Clostridium tetani. The spores of this bacteria are commonly found in soil and may be in horse’s faeces. Deep puncture wounds are particularly dangerous as they provide an ideal site for infection as the bacteria thrive in anaerobic (low oxygen) environments. Spores may lie dormant in tissues after wound healing and signs of tetanus may become evident later. 

Effective immunity against tetanus requires a primary course of two vaccinations given 4-6 weeks apart, followed by a booster 12 months later. Thereafter subsequent vaccinations can be given at 2 yearly intervals. Tetanus vaccination is often given as a combination vaccine with equine flu.

It is a very dangerous policy to leave your horse unvaccinated as treatment for tetanus is rarely successful.

 


A horse's sense of taste

Horses have a highly evolved sense of taste, which allows them to pick through the grass to locate the things they want to eat. If palatable food is scarce then horses may be forced to eat less palatable plants which could be toxic to the horse. 

Horses have evolved as trickle feeders and if allowed will eat for over 16 hours a day, enabling a steady flow of food through the gut. 

 


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