Equine Pinworms

Equine pinworms aren’t as dangerous as other internal parasites, but they do cause intense anal itching. Needless to say, horses don’t find this to be a pleasant sensation. If your horse is rubbing his tail, causing broken tail hairs and bare patches around the tail, suspect pinworms.

Pinworms enter your horse via contaminated water, grain, hay or grass. Young worms mature in the large intestine in three to four months. Adult worms crawl part way out of the anus to deposit their eggs on the adjacent surface. The eggs hatch outside of the horse’s body, fall to the ground and wait for their next host.

Female pinworms make their egg-laying journey under cover of night, so you may not see any worms when you horse’s anal area. To test for pinworms, your veterinarian will use a clear tape to determine if pinworm eggs are present.

The most effective treatment for pinworms is a regular deworming program. Dewormers such as ivermectin, benzimidazoles, moxidectin, or pyrantel pamoate are available and will end the pinworm problem very effectively.

It’s possible that pinworms can cause digestive disturbances and stress, so it’s best to maintain a suitable deworming program.

Tip: Use paper towels or disposable “wipes” for cleansing the dock area. Sponges can harbour eggs and the infection.

Equine Metabolic Syndrome

What is it?
Equine Metabolic Syndrome is a complex equine disease of the endocrine system. It is usually characterized by insulin resistance.

Equine metabolic syndrome typically affects horses aged 6 to 20 years.

What are the symptoms?
A horse with EMS may show signs of obesity, insulin resistance and laminitis or founder. EMS horses typically have fat deposits in the crest of the neck, over the tail head, above the eyes, behind the shoulders and in the sheath of male horses.

Where does it come from?
Equine obesity seems to be the main problem in horses suffering from metabolic syndrome. Body fat is not an inert substance—it contains cells the are very active metabolically and hormonally. In excessive amounts, they can trigger a variety of metabolic disturbances.

How is it diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will perform an easy and inexpensive blood test to measure serum insulin levels. This test will help differentiate between insulin resistance and Equine Cushings disease. High insulin levels indicate EMS.

How is it treated?
There is no cure for horses with EMS and no medications to treat it. Horses can, however, benefit from a diet consisting mostly of grass hay that has a low glycemic index. Learn about horse forage testing here.

Other management techniques include:

• Feed your horse a low sugar/starch diet. Avoid grain and treats like carrots, apples, pears, molasses, wheat bran or sweet treats.

• Regular exercise is helpful but can be challenging if your horse is suffering from laminitis.

• Consider supplementing with antioxidants such as Vitamin E.

• Investigate pelleted feeds for horses with insulin resistance, but check with your vet before switching feeds.

How is it prevented?
Unfortunately, horses at risk for EMS may not have symptoms. They may not be fat, especially if they’re getting regular exercise. The first signs may be the farrier noticing an abnormal white line (“seedy toe”) or hoof growth pattern.

Equine Lyme Disease

What is it?
Equine Lyme disease is a bacterial illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. It is most commonly transmitted by the bite of infected ticks, commonly referred to as “deer ticks” or “black legged ticks”.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of equine Lyme disease appear in less than 10% of horses that are infected with Borrelia burgdorferi. The organism transmitted by the tiny deer tick invades the body and replicates itself in many forms. It often affects several parts of the body at the same time, causing symptoms of many illnesses and complicating the correct diagnosis. Symptoms of chronic Lyme include, but are not limited to:

Poor energy levels
Stiffness, muscle pain
Shifting leg lameness
Swelling of multiple joints
Edema or eye inflammation
Irritability, body-wide sensitivity to touch
Skin problems

Where does it come from?
Horses may become infected with Borrelia burgdorferi from the bite of infected ticks. Although the adult ticks are the ones we generally find most frequently on our own bodies or firmly attached to our horses, it is at the nymphal stage that Lyme disease transmission is the greatest. Lyme disease transmission is highest during May and June, which coincides with peak nymphal stages.

The correct way is to grasp the tick with fine tweezers as close to the skin surface as possible and then pull straight up with a slow, steady force. Don’t squeeze!

How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosis of Lyme disease in horses is difficult for two reasons: horses are subject to many injuries which may result in lameness similar to that seen with Lyme disease. Additionally, the blood tests used for Lyme disease diagnosis only indicates that the horse has been exposed to Borrelia burgdorferi, not that his illness is related to Lyme disease.

Some detective work may be necessary to confirm any diagnosis. Is the horse in a tick-infested area where Lyme disease has been reported? Does it show all the classic symptoms, with other diseases with the same symptoms being ruled out? Answering yes to these and other questions may help pin down the answer.

One of the best ways to determine if you or your horse is a candidate for Lyme disease is to save the tick that has done the biting and have it tested for presence of the infectious bacteria.

How is it treated?
Equine Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics. In addition to antibiotics, some veterinarians will administer anti-inflammatory drugs and/or medicines to help replace the normal intestinal bacteria killed by the antibiotics.

In a small number of animals, there may be an adverse reaction as the toxins released by the toxins released by Borrelia burgdorferi that are killed during the first few days of treatment. Symptoms be get worse for a day or two, and this may precipitate laminitis. Monitor your horse for the signs of laminitis and contact your vet immediately if you suspect it.

How is it prevented?
For horse owners in endemic areas, the most effective preventative is quick removal. Ticks do not transfer the bacteria immediately, so careful daily examination is important. Unfortunately, the nymphs may be very difficult to spot. Ticks can be found about anywhere on a horse’s body, but one should be certain to examine the area along the neck at the base of the mane and around the rectal area.

There are tick repellent products available. While they might decrease the number ticks on your horse, it is still a good idea to continue to check your horse thoroughly for ticks, even if using one of these products

Equine Joint Injury

An equine joint injury can range from a simple bruise to ligament damage. Sometimes a little rest and a kind word is all that’s required; sometimes the vet needs to get involved. How to know the difference? If you see a swollen area on or around your horse’s joints, look more closely to determine the severity of the injury.

Bruises are caused by damaged or broken blood vessels under the skin. Bruises are the result of a blow to the skin. The swelling will yield to slight pressure and there is little discomfort when bending the joint. Your horse will move normally with no signs of lameness. Bruises are not usually serious.

Any injury beyond a bruise may require veterinary attention. Immediately stop all work with your horse if there are any signs of lameness. More serious injuries include strains and sprains and can be the result of missteps, falls, overwork or poor conditioning.

Strains involve the stretching or tearing of muscles or tendons and usually happen during activities that require muscles to stretch and bear weight at the same time. A strained muscle will cause swelling that may be diffuse around the joint and feel spongy. When pressed, your horse will react. Ouch! He may show signs of pain when bending the joint. He will show signs of mild lameness but he will be able to walk.

Sprains usually result from a sudden, twisting force applied to a joint while it is bearing weight. This causes the ligament to stretch beyond its natural limit. Sprains involve a ligament or joint capsule and injuries to these structures can be serious. There will be dramatic swelling on one or both sides of the joint and it is very painful. Your horse will show obvious signs of pain and lameness.

Sprains can be mild or severe. Your veterinarian will need to guide you on the best course of action for treating this equine joint injury.

If you suspect an equine joint injury, immediately stop all work with your horse and contact your vet. During the first 48 hours, do not apply warming linaments or rubs. Apply cold presses and bandage firmly to combat fluid buildup. Your veterinarian may recommend an anti-inflammatory.

Lameness may disappear within a few weeks, but muscle and tendons may take more than six months to fully heal. Your veterinarian will help you design a suitable rehabilitation program for your horse if his injury was severe. Working your horse too hard too soon will dramatically increase the chance of reinjury.

Equine Herpes Virus

What is it?

Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) causes Rhinopneumonitis or Rhino, a contagious respiratory illness that can lead to abortion and, rarely, nervous system disorders. Young horses are more susceptible to EHV because they haven’t built up an immunity. Any horse with a compromised immune system is at increased risk as well. Many horses are asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

What are the symptoms?

Two to ten days after exposure, your horse will show symptoms. Signs may include a runny nose, cough and elevated temperature.

Where does it come from?

EHV is most often spread from horse to horse through saliva droplets in the air or via contaminated surfaces and water buckets. In rare cases, it can be carried on clothing and spread to your horse. It is not contagious to humans or other species.

How is it diagnosed?

Blood test and nasal swaps are used to diagnose EHV.

How is it treated?

Rest is the best treatment for EHV. Keep your horse warm and well fed. Stress can inhibit recovery. If his temperature is very high, there may be a secondary infection. If so, your vet will prescribe antibiotics.

How is it prevented?

Pregnant mares and horses that are in contact with others of unknown medical history can be vaccinated against rhinopneumonitis. Your veterinarian will advise you on the need for a rhino vaccine.

Equine Flu of Horses

What is it?

Equine flu or EVA is a highly contagious viral disease that appears suddenly and can leave your horse in a weakened condition. It cannot be passed on to humans.

It may be an equine reportable disease in your state. Contact your state agricultural department for more information.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of equine flu include a high temperature (103-106deg F) lasting for one to five days and a dry, harsh-sounding cough that may linger for several weeks. There may be a clear, watery nasal discharge which may turn green or yellow as secondary infections develop. Also look for swollen lymph nodes under the jaw, a clear eye discharge, depression, lethargy, loss of appetite.

Pneumonia may develop in the very young and very old. This may be fatal in a few cases.

Where does it come from?

It’s spread through nasal discharge, and the coughing and snorting that go with most chest infections. It is highly contagious. It’s most common in young horses, especially at racetracks, horse shows, and during transport and it is seasonally more prevalent in the summer and fall.

How is it diagnosed?

Blood tests and nasal swabs are necessary for definitive diagnosis, but consistent clinical signs and close proximity to a confirmed property is often enough.

How is it treated?

Infected horses must be kept at complete rest to avoid complications from secondary bacterial infections such as pneumonia. A veterinarian may prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug if the horse’s fever is over 104F. Antibiotics may be prescribed when the fever lasts for more than three or four days or when purulent nasal discharge or pneumonia are present.

Fresh air and rest are important. Avoid dust in the environment, bedding and feed (particularly hay) to minimize the risk of bacterial infections of the lungs and airways.

Affected horses should be confined, and walked for short periods to maintain circulation. This should continue for at least the period of the fever and coughing, followed by gradually increasing exercise.

How is it prevented?

Equine influenza can be prevented by vaccination with the appropriate equine influenza virus strain but vaccinations have to be repeated every few months, as the immunity from the vaccine only lasts about three to four months. Vaccinated horses can still show symptoms, which these will be much milder than unvaccinated horses.

EI is a fragile virus and is easily killed with soap, detergent or disinfectant. The virus is also killed by exposure to sunlight for 30 minutes.