Common health problems
Bot fly eggs, laid on the horse's coat, are hatched by the moist warmth of the horse's mouth rubbing to relieve the irritation. After hatching, the larvae burrow through the lips and gums and migrate into the horse's stomach. If large numbers are present, indigestion, poor appetite, and colic can occur. Eggs are found mainly on the legs and abdomen. They adhere strongly to the horse's hair and therefore should be cut off with scissors and burnt. You should discuss treatment for bots with your vet.
Colic is abdominal pain that can occur at any time. Common signs are restlessness, patchy sweating, pawing, looking at flanks, lying down, rolling and lying on the back or assuming a dog-sitting position. Common causes can be sudden changes of feed, bad teeth,worm infestation, sand impaction or spoiled feed.
Horses with Colic need prompt attention and should be slowly walked and kept warm until the vet arrives.
A viral disease which is highly infectious, particularly in young horses. The horse typically has a watery discharge from the nose at first, but this gradually becomes more white or grey, and may even become quite a thick discharge. Keep the horse warm, and stop working it. Provide moistened feeds since a sore throat is often associated with the problem. If the horse shows signs of sickness other than the runny nose and minor cough, you should get in touch with your vet.
Equine influenza (EI) is an acute, highly contagious, viral disease which can cause rapidly spreading outbreaks of respiratory disease in horses and other equine species.
Humans do not get infected with equine influenza however they can physically carry the virus on their skin, hair, clothing and shoes, and can therefore transfer the virus to other horses. It is vital therefore that you shower and wash carefully, wash your hair and put on a completely fresh set of clothes (including shoes) after contact with any horses (including your own horses) that might be infected with EI. The virus can also be physically carried on equipment and vehicles.
The main clinical signs to look out for with EI are usually a sudden increase in temperature (38.5°C or higher); a deep, dry, hacking cough; and a watery nasal discharge, which may later become mucopurulent. Other signs can include depression, loss of appetite, laboured breathing, and muscle pain and stiffness.
Lameness can occur without warning and affect one or more limbs. In very severe cases a horse may be unable to move more than a few steps. Foot abscesses due to nail pricks or stone bruises can cause acute lameness. Laminitis or founder, which is a frequent cause of lameness, should receive urgent attention. Sudden changes of food may also cause this condition.
Never ride a lame horse. Even if slight lameness is observed, dismount and lead it.
Lice infestations can occur throughout Australia reache a peaks in late winter and spring. Horses with long heavy winter coats are more prone to heavy infestation. Lice are usually found on the back of the body and head as well as under the mane, tail and fetlocks. Heavy infestations of sucking lice can cause horses to become anaemic.
Lice cause intense itching and irritation of the skin as well as loss of condition. Horses may bite and rub the skin, causing the hair to fall out leaving red, weeping areas. Your vet can advise you on suitable sprays or powder insecticides which can be used to treat horses. Rugs and harness should also be sprayed and left unused for 14 days. A subsequent treatment 17 days after the first treatment is desirable.
Strangles is a highly infectious bacterial disease of the upper airways of horses. Outbreaks of the disease may be expected in groups of horses where there is a changing population. Cold weather and poor ventilation aid the spread of the disease.
Common in young animals, it occurs at any age. The disease is characterised by cold-like symptoms with fever, nasal discharge, depression and reluctance to eat. Hot, tender swellings develop in lymph glands, usually around the head, neck and jaw, as a result of abscess formation. These often rupture and discharge a thick, creamy-yellow pus. Most horses recover but in some cases the infection can cause death or chronic illness.
Vaccination, involving an initial and then yearly boosters, will assist in the control of strangles. Discuss vaccination of your horse with your vet when planning to visit shows, gymkhanas, etc.
Tetanus is a serious disease that horses are particularly susceptible to. Tetanus spores, which occur in soil, enter the tissues of the animal through wounds. The type of wound commonly infected is a deep puncture which may be caused by penetration of a splinter or a nail. Crushing wounds are also dangerous. Some cases of tetanus can commence from wounds that are so small that they are not noticed.
Affected horses become stiff in there movements, the ears are pricked, and the tail is held out stiffly. Generalised muscle spasms may then occur and death can result from paralysis of the breathing muscles.
Tetanus is difficult to treat, even with intensive veterinary care the chances of saving the horse are slight. Tetanus can be easily prevented by vaccination. Vaccination is done via a course of 2 injections at a 4-week interval, and a booster injection within 12 months. A booster dose every four or five years thereafter will maintain continuous protection.If your horse is not vaccinated and it suffers a wound, veterinary attention should be sought immediately.
Regular treatment programmes to control worms are required to maintain your horse's health. The frequency of this treatment is regulated by the horse's age and whether it is continually stabled or in a small yard or a paddock.
The younger horses need frequent treatment to keep the large white round worm under control.
The most serious worm problems are related to the so-called red worms, or strongyles. The larvae of red worms are probably responsible for at least 90 per cent of all colics that horses suffer. In severe infestation, they can cause the death of your horse. Large numbers of adult worms cause anaemia.
Control is based on paddock hygiene and worm treatments.
Paste wormers are satisfactory if the correct drug is used at the correct dose and the treatments are sufficiently frequent. You should consult your vet about the best treatment regime for your particular horse. Medication alone does not give enough protection and you will also need to remove manure regularly from paddocks, keep feed off the ground in racks or feed bins, and segregate animals by age groups.