Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

Don't Forget to Leave The Lights On

I am not referring to those coming home for Christmas. It is your broodmare that I am concerned about. As you know, mares generally do not cycle through the winter months. Their ovarian cycle is influenced more by day length, then by ambient temperature. As the day length becomes longer in the spring, it triggers the mare to resume normal cycling. Since getting the mare cycling is the first step in getting her bred, now is the time to start "tricking" your mare into thinking the days are longer than they really are. The trick is to provided a total of 16 hours of light every day. If the mare is turned out during the day, then she needs to be stalled at night with the lights left on long enough to give her 16 total hours of light.

As a word of caution, it does not work well to just leave the lights on all the time. Some period of darkness is still necessary. Also, the light has to be fairly bright. The easiest way to assess if there is adequate light is to grab a newspaper and try to read the print in the darkest part of the stall. If you can not, then you either need a higher watt bulb or additional light sources.

It takes, on average, 70 days for a mare to have a breedable cycle after starting exposure to prolonged light. Mares will typically start to shed some of their hair with 30 to 60 days of starting lights. If you plan to breed your mare in February, she should already be on lights. If you do not care how early the foal is born, you do not have to mess with artificial lighting. Most mares will start cycling on their own by late March or early April.

As mares go from not cycling in the winter to having normal cycles in the spring, they go through a period of transition. During this period of transition they may have very irregular, non-fertile heats. If necessary, we can encourage them out of transiton more quickly with the use of certain medications.

If you intend to breed your mare early in 2011, make sure that right now she is seeing at least 16 hours of light every day.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Welfare Reform

I spent most of this past week in Baltimore attending the 56th Annual Convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners ( This meeting brings together some 5,000 equine health professionals and has evolved into the premier source of the latest advances in equine veterinary medicine. I hope to share some of the highlights from this meeting with you over the next couple of weeks.

The conference opened with a talk about the latest buzzword: welfare. The continually growing issue of unwanted horses is bringing a significant amount of attention to how we can provide for the welfare of these horses. A recent survey attributed the rapid increase in ‘unwanted’ horses to the closing of horse slaughter facilities, a crippled economy, euthanasia costs and indiscriminate breeding.

Since the ban on horse slaughter a couple of years ago, the ‘unwanted horse’ problem has become a significant issue. Despite the work of some legislatures, it appears unlikely that horse slaughter will ever return to the U.S. While very little horse meat is consumed in the U.S., worldwide the demand for horse meat is at an all time high. Every year there are approximately 5 million horses processed for meat. That is a 28% increase from 1990.

So what are the solutions to the problem? That is the problem, currently there are not any easy ones. Current suggestions are to re-open domestic slaughter facilities (seems unlikely that will ever happen), increase the number (and funding) of horse sanctuaries and educate the public on responsible horse ownership. Some would like to see an increase in the number of adoption facilities, but nationwide only about half of the horses that enter an adoption facility are every adopted out. So it does not take long for an adoption facility to turn into a sanctuary.

Our views of animal welfare are conditioned by our personal knowledge base and life experiences. People view welfare in different perspectives: what is the healthiest for the animal vs. what allows the animal to ‘feel’ the best, or have the least amount of stress vs. what the natural behavior of the animal is. As the public has become progressively more disengaged in animal agriculture their personal knowledge base and life experiences have shifted which one of these perspectives they value most. In the end, if society perceives something is wrong, science and logic are unlikely to change that perception.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In Death as in Life

This is a picture of two mares carrying fetuses that I ultrasounded last week. Which in and of itself is really no big deal. We do that all the time. The exciting thing about these conceptions is that the stallion has been dead for 13 years, the semen was collected and frozen 15 years ago, the mares have no genetic tie to the pregnancies they are carrying and the pregnancies were conceived in vitro using a fairly high tech procedure referred to as ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection). The procedure involved harvesting unfertilized eggs (oocytes) from the ovary a donor mare. That egg (oocyte) is then placed in special media where it is manually injected with a single sperm cell. The egg then starts dividing, just as it would if it were fertilized naturally. Then after a couple of days of growing in an incubator, the embryo is implanted into an unrelated recipient mare that will care the foal to term and raise it until it is weaned.

The ICSI technique is probably best suited for circumstances where there is a very limited quantity of frozen semen available. Usually, this means the stallion is dead. The beauty of this technique is that multiple pregnancies can be obtained using a single straw of frozen semen. Under normal circumstances, several straw of frozen semen are required to get a single pregnancy. Through the use of this technique it is now possible to establish pregnancies from an extremely limited supply of semen.

The ICSI technique is also useful for situations where, for whatever reason, the mare is no longer producing embryos. This technique bypasses the oviducts and uterus of the donor mare. If the infertility is resulting because of a problem with these structures, this technique takes those problems out of the equation.

It is truly astonishing what is now possible through the use of these advanced reproductive techniques. Congratulations to Jim, Matt and Kathryn Bergren on the anticipated arrival of their foals next year.

You can read more at:

Below is a picture of the famed stallion Ruminaja Ali. He is the sire of the pregnancies discussed in this article. He died in 1997.

Monday, November 22, 2010

COW: Quarter Crack Repair

This is a collection of images showing how I like to repair quarter cracks. Quarter cracks appear in the hoof, usually as a resulf of too much heal compression, causing the quarter to bulge out. The repetitive loading and unloading of the foot, causes a crack to form at the point of the bulge. It can be challenging to get these cracks stopped because of the repetitive motion they sustain. Consequently the best strategy is to 'lace' them up. This repair method is one of the best ways to stabilize the crack so that it can grow out. Here is how it is done.

This picture is of the hoof at the start of the repair. The crack has been cleaned out with a small rotary burr. It is very important to get these thoroughly cleaned.

Here apposing eye hooks have been placed on each side of the crack.

The next step is to weave wire in between the eye hooks, lacing it up much like a shoe lace. This provides a very strong, stable repair. Also note, that an antiseptic wax has been placed in deep crevice of the crack.

Once the wire is placed, the 'eye' portion of the eye hooks is cut off. The remaining stem is peaned over to hold the wire firmly in place.

Finally, the patch is covered and held together with a hoof adhesive.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Live & Learn

I spent a good part of the day today hearing about the some of the most current research projects being undertaken by the veterinary school at Michigan State. Here are some of the things I got out of it:

1. I am very glad that I no longer have to spend my days sitting in a dim room listening to lectures all day.

2. There is a lot of exciting and clinically relavent research ongoing within our state pertinent to improving the health of the animals around us and also improving the lives of us who share our world with these animals.

3. There are a lot of people at MSU who are smarter than I am, and are deeply passionate about what they do.

4. Michigan State is a great resource for those of us who care deeply about the health of our horses.

One of the most exciting (at least to me) presentations was concerning some very preliminary studies exploring the potential use of a drug called Ethyl Pyruvate for the treatment of endotoxemia in horses. Endotoxemia is caused by certain types of bacteria that produce and and release substances called endotoxins. These endotoxins cause severe deleterious affects on multiple body systems. Endotoxemia results when bacterial produced endotoxins gain access to the blood stream. Once in the bloodstream, they have profoundly negative affects of multiple body systems. Endotoxemia usually occurs in association with severe infections or a severely compromised intestinal tract. This is a condition that, as of yet, we do not have a highly effective therapeutic option for. Researchers at MSU are looking at the potential use of this drug called Ethyl Pyruvate that looks to be very promising for the treatment of endotoxemia.

This is the first time Ethyl Pyruvate has been looked at in horses. The intial studes were primarily focused on demostrating safety and that is has a measurable indended affect. All of this work is VERY preliminary as it is not yet available and there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered about its potential use. With that said, it is very exciting to get a glimpse of a potentially very useful and effective durg that may be used in the future to battle many of the negative affects of endotoxemia.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Magical Fruit

Here is a picture of a bean (not the kind that goes in chilli) that I harvested from a gelding today. This is not the biggest one I have ever seen, but it is close. The bean forms in a little 'pocket' at the end of the penis, called the urethral fossa. Stallions and geldings secrete oils that attract dirt and debris, the resulting mixture is referred to as smegma. If you have a gelding, you know what I am talking about. Usually they develop a deposit of this smegma that develops in the urethral fossa. The smegma that forms in this area is called a 'bean.' These beans can become quite large and impinge on the end of the urethra- much like holding your thumb over the end of a garden hose. Because of the adverse affects this buildup of smegma can have, it is advisable to clean the sheath periodically. How often it needs to be cleaned depends on the horse. Here is a link to a more indepth article on the topic.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Purina Coupons

I was cleaning my desk this morning and found a book of coupons for select Purina products. In all there are 20 coupons for Well Solve, 20 for Ultium Growth and 20 for Equine Senior. All of them are for $10 off. The coupons limit them to one per customer. If you have any interest in one, it can be picked up, on a first come first serve basis, at the large animal reception desk in Coopersville. The catch is they expire on Sunday (10/31/2010). If you're coming to Coopersville for the coupon, the elevator/hardware store downtown sells Purina products.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Enter the Digital Age:

As of this month, we have now officially ushered in the age of digital radiographs. While we are still getting used to the new format, the convenience and ability to manipulate images is astounding. The most exciting aspect for us is the ability to review images stall side, which greatly expedites the treatment and management of lameness. This technology now allows us to diagnose and treat all in one visit, where previously we had to take the films back to the office to be processed and reviewed. I believe it also greatly improves our ability to articulate to the owner the details of the radiograph when we can both look them together. It was sometimes very challenging to explain over the phone to a client what we were seeing on plain x-rays. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Also, because the images are now in an electronic format, it is very easy to make copies to a disc or send them via e-mail.

The advantages of digital radiography over plain films is certainly significant. However, it also has its limitation. One of the biggest challenges with a digital format is that the resolution of the image is limited by the resolution of the system and the resolution of the monitor. You have probably experienced this with your own digital camera. The resolution of the camera on your phone is much less than the digital camera you have at home which is less then what the camera a professional photographer might use. As you make the image larger or zoom in on a specific portion of the image, the clarity quickly starts to fade to the point that pretty soon all you see are a bunch of little boxes. The same idea holds for radiographs obtained with a digital system. While the resolution of this system is excellent, it is not perfect. On the other hand, plain radiographs are not limited by pixels and computer monitors, so for ultra fine small details, they still win. In most cases all of this resolution discussion is largely meaningless. But when fine detail really counts, like with venograms (I promise another posting at some point in the near future about venograms), nothing beats the plain films.

There is no doubt that obtaining and viewing images in a digital format will revolutionize the way we diagnose, manage and treat orthopedic conditions. We are extremely excited to now have this modality added to our diagnostic tool belt.

Monday, August 30, 2010

EEE continues...

The recent EEE outbreak in SW Michigan (see previous post) continues to grow significantly. There are now over 18 confirmed cases with an additional 56 suspected cases. The virus appears to be spreading eastward, with several new cases being reported in the counties downwind of Barry County (the epicenter of the outbreak).

Given there is still plenty of mosquito season ahead of us yet, it is very likely this most recent outbreak will only continue to spread. The importance of vaccination cannot be overemphasized. Generally the vaccine is considered protective for at least 6-8 months. So if your horse was vaccinated very early in the year (early March or before), it may make sense to consider getting a booster vaccine now.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

COW: Navicular Bursa Injection

Here is an interesting radiograph from the other day. This x-ray shows the proper placement of a spinal needle into the navicular bursa. Because the target area is so deep within the foot, it is best (though not always necessary) to confirm proper placement with a radiograph. The navicular bursa is a little sack of fluid around the deep digital flexor tendon at the level of the navicular bone. It serves to lubricate the tendon as it glides over the navicular bone. This is the area of discomfort in horses with navicular disease. Other structures associated with this bursa, aside from the navicular bone, could also be a source of lameness.

Navicular bursa injections are not our first choice for treatment of navicular disease, but in cases that are refractive to other treatments, this can be a highly effective method of delivering anti-inflammatory medication directly to the source of discomfort.

The most significant potential complication with navicular bursa injections is the risk of infection. We go to great measures to do this under sterile conditions, however, anytime we stick a needle in to something the risk for infection is present. The problem with the navicular bursa is that, if it gets infected, it is much more difficult to treat then a regular joint, because of where it is anatomically within the hoof capsule. The other risks are damage to the deep flexor tendon. Because of those risks, it is not something we jump right to, but in certain situations, it can be the best option.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fall Reminders

That’s right, I said FALL. I know Labor Day has not quite greeted us yet, but the days are getting noticeably shorter. It is not too early to think about the Fall visits. These are especially important reminders for equestrian teams and if you are getting out and about with your horses later this year.

The recent outbreak of EEE in Michigan (see post below) has been a poignant reminder of the importance of regular vaccinations. If your horse has not yet been vaccinated against West Nile and Sleeping Sickness, run to the phone now to schedule to get this taken care of. This is the time of year that the incidence of these diseases peaks out. With the many cases of EEE, now confirmed in West Michigan, the importance of vaccination cannot be overstated.

This is also a good time to get fall vaccines done. Influenza and Rhinopneumonitis vaccines are included with our Spring vaccines, but they do not afford protection much beyond 5-6 months. So if your horses were vaccinated in April or before, now is the time to schedule the fall visit. This is also the ideal time to make sure your horses are current on their Rabies immunizations as well.

This is also a good time of year for regular dental care. It is especially important for the older horses before we get into the thick of winter.

Do not forget about getting the fall fecal sample submitted. The ideal time to submit a fecal is around the middle of September. If you have not yet made the switch to the new program, now is the ideal time. The details of our parasite control recommendation can be found at Do not forget the Parasite Control Kits, available at the office. They are a great way to save significant expense on the dewormers and fecals, all while making the program easier to follow.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Weekend in the Hamptons

One of the farms we have the pleasure of servicing is having an open house this Saturday. If you have not had the pleasure of touring their lovely facility in the past, this is the perfect opportunity. They will be showcasing some of the dressage talents of their people and horses. Included below is their press release. You can get more details at

Hampton Green Farm of Fruitport, Michigan – one of the nation’s foremost breeders of Pure Spanish Horses and home to champion dressage stallions - will open its doors to the public for a unique fundraiser to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lakeshore. In conjunction with a rare “Top Ten” auction of some of the Farms’ finest young horses, Hampton Green Farm will host a public Open House on Saturday, August 21 from 1:00 to 4:00 PM.

Guests are invited to tour the beautiful 185-acre grounds and paddocks, view the majestic horses in the fields, watch champion dressage demonstrations by Olympic level trainers, and enjoy a fabulous buffet dinner on the grounds by French chef Frederic Boyer. Guests will be asked to make a $10 donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lakeshore at the door, with proceeds to support mentoring programs for at-risk children in West Michigan.

Perhaps one of West Michigan’s best kept secrets, Hampton Green Farm is located at 5440 E. Farr Road, Fruitport. The farm is dedicated exclusively to breeding and training Pure Spanish Horses – for centuries considered the horses of kings and renowned for their strength, beauty and gentle grace. All the Farm’s stallions compete in the top dressage circles of Spain and the United States, trained by some of the country’s top Olympic dressage competitors. For more information on the Farm and photos of the horses and grounds, visit

The Open House and buffet are open to the public, with no reservations necessary. The buffet will be available throughout the afternoon, with guests invited to stroll the grounds, enjoy the ambience and take in the sights at their leisure. “This is an amazing opportunity to see some of the top show horses in the world right here in our backyard,” says Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lakeshore CEO Brian Obits. “This is one of the true hidden treasures of West Michigan. We’re grateful to Hampton Green Farm for allowing us to be part of this wonderful event!”

Friday, July 30, 2010

EEE. It's Here!

Last week I talked with a veterinarian friend in southwest Michigan who mentioned that he had recently seen a case of suspected EEE. As of 2 days ago, there were 3 confirmed cases of EEE in horses in SW Michigan, as well as several other highly suspicious cases, that are awaiting the completion of further testing to confirm the diagnosis. Infected horses have been identified in Cass, Barry & Calhoun counties.

Veterinary medicine is notorious for using letter abbreviations for disease names. This alphabet soup may seem a little silly, but with diseases like Eastern Equine Encephalitis you can see why we all call it EEE. The more common name for this disease is Sleeping Sickness. That name is a bit of a misnomer since it implies a peaceful, resting state. It is anything but. This is a very nasty disease, characterized by neurologic deficits with symptoms including fever, depression and weakness that rapidly progress to lack of coordination, head pressing, a “sawhorse” stance, circling, paddling and/or convulsions. Affected horses can be very irritable with aggressive behavior, they may be excitable, blind, and/or have abnormal sensitivity light and sound. 75 to 90% of affected horses will die from the disease.

It can be difficult to sort out EEE from some other neurologic diseases. Rabies is the most significant other possibility for horses exhibiting these symptoms. Other possibilities include West Nile Virus, Western EE and Venezuelan EE (VEE is not know to exist in the northern regions of the U.S.) Because of the potential human health concerns with these viruses, definitive conformation of the disease is critically important. While there are blood tests for some of these diseases, a brain specimen (post mortem) is required to definitively confirm the diagnosis.

The fortunate thing about EEE, WEE, WNV & Rabies is that we have very effective and safe vaccines readily available to prevent infection. The caveat to vaccination is that they must be properly administered using a properly handled and stored product well in advance of exposure to the bug. Immunization against these diseases is a staple of our current vaccine programs. These are vaccines all horses should always get, every year, regardless of where they go or what they do. Vaccination is by far and away the most effective single measure to undertake to prevent infection.

EEE, WEE, and WNV all are viral diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. Because of that, we usually do not start to see cases until late summer (August or September) because it takes a while to get enough virus circulating through mosquitoes to result in an infection. EEE is carried by birds, that usually are not affected by the virus. Mosquitoes bite the bird and then transmit it to horses or humans. Because mosquitoes are the major vector in the spread of the disease, measures to control the mosquito population are crucial to successful control strategies. But given that several cases have been reported while it is still relatively early in the summer, means that we are sure to see more cases as the summer progresses.

The other reason these disease are of such great concern is that humans can also be affected. With EEE, affected horses are not a source of infection to people or other animals, but Rabies certainly can be. That said, if a horse is affected with EEE it is a pretty good indicator that the virus is present in the mosquito population in that area. So other horses in the same proximity are certainly at risk as well.

One of the scariest things about these cases, is that it is still relatively early in the summer to start to see this mosquito vector borne disease. The importance of proper vaccination cannot be overemphasized. It is not too late to get your horse(s) vaccinated if it has not already been done. Annual vaccination is considered protective. The other disease prevention strategies really center around limiting exposure to mosquitoes. This has been a very wet summer, especially in SW Michigan, where these cases are emerging. It would be prudent to eliminate sources for standing water around your barn or property. Bringing horse into the barn, especially around dusk can be helpful as well. Fly and mosquito sprays can be beneficial, but none of them seem to last very long. Stay tuned for further updates.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

All In the Name of Progress

Last week I had the opportunity to spend a day at Horse Progress Days in Topeka, IN. Okay, so it may not quite be on the same plain as the upcoming Word Equestrian Games, but it is a pretty fun event. It is traditionally the Friday and Saturday before the 4th of July. The event draws in excess of 10,000 people each day. The idea behind Horse Progress Days is to showcase innovations revolving around the use of horses in agriculture. Because of that, the annual event has a strong Amish influence.

There are not a lot of places you can go anymore to see a hitch of 18 horses pulling a 4 bottom plow, or a hitch of four abreast baling hay, or a team dragging a 30 foot log. Horse Progress Days is the place that affords those opportunities. There are also many seminars throughout the day on draft horse related topics. Attendees also are give the opportunity to drive a team of horses, regardless of past experience. Of course there is also a large trade show of numerous vendors showcasing anything and everything related to draft horse and farming with horses. The highlight of the event is the breed presentation at the end of the day. This showcase gives all those is attendance a brief history and demonstration of almost all breeds used for draft, including some light horses, like Morgans, Arabians, Saddlebreds, Dutch Harness horses, and pretty much all of the draft breeds- even the fairly uncommon ones.

The ‘homemade’ ice cream is always a crowd favorite. The reason I put ‘homemade’ in quotes is that, as you can see in the picture below, the people in the tent are tending to the ice cream machine being powered by horse on a treadmill, and the dozen or so empty boxes of GFS soft serve ice cream mix!

This really is a fun, family friendly event that gives the opportunity to see how farming with horses really works. Next year’s event is in Lancaster, PA. For more info check out

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

COW (Case of the Week): Glaucoma

Here is a picture of a horse I saw a week or so ago. This is probably one of the most extreme examples of an eye with chronic glaucoma that I have seen in quite a while. Glaucoma is when the pressures inside the eye become much higher than they should be. As you can see in the picture, the left eye is considerably larger than the right. The left eye has become so large as a result of chronically high pressures within the globe. When an eye experiences this much damage they are difficult to salvage.

This horse reportedly has had a long standing history of ‘eye problems.’ Most cases of glaucoma in horses are the result of uveitis, as was the case with this horse. There are many different things that can cause uveitis in horses, but the most common form is recurrent uveitis or ‘moon blindness.’ Glaucoma is a condition that usually develops as a consequence of uveitis. It is critically important to evaluate these ‘eye problems’ early on in the course of the disease. When an eye reaches this stage, it is impossible to undo all of the damage that has been done.

Eye problems in horses should not be taken lightly. It is critically important to treat these cases early and aggressively. Diseases of the eye are also extremely difficult to sort out over the phone. We commonly get phone calls from clients asking what they should treat a watery or swollen eye with. It is not possible for us to make treatment recommendations without examining the eye, because one medication that might be the right treatment for one condition could be the absolutely wrong treatment for the other. A good treatment plan always starts with a diagnosis.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Life

One of the most exciting things about the world we live in, is its ability to continually create new life. New life, whether plant or animal, is enthralling and exciting to most everyone. Participating with and observing the generation of new life in horses is one of the more rewarding parts of being an equine vet.

Breeding season is just about wrapped up for the year, except for a few problem breeders and some performance horses. Overall, we noticed a significant decline in the number of mares being bred this year. This is certainly an understandable, given the current economic climate, especially here in Michigan, and the challenge of marketing horses in this environment. That said, we continue to do a significant amount of breeding work.

This year we have had good success breeding mares with frozen semen. It seems the industry trend is starting to shift toward the use of frozen semen, rather than fresh cooled, though the vast majority of mares are still breed with fresh cooled semen. Breeding with frozen semen is a bit more challenging, because the sperm do not survive after thawing nearly as long as what they do with fresh cooled. Because of that, it is very important to be ‘spot on’ with the timing of breeding. We work very hard to breed these mares within 6 hours of ovulation. In our experience, mares bred with frozen semen tend to have more of a uterine inflammatory reaction than those bred with fresh cooled. Because of this, we usually lavage (rinse out) the uterus of these mares after breeding.

Most mares, however, are still bred with fresh cooled semen. With fresh cooled semen the stallion is collected and the semen is sent to us for delivery the next day. This continues to be the industry standard for breeding mares and we see very good conception rates with this method. The biggest challenge we have had this year with this seems to be the growing unreliablity of fed-ex to get the shipment here the next day. We have had a number of instances, where for whatever reason, the package has not been delivered on time. Then when the package does finally arrive the mare has already ovulated. These occasionions are extremely frustrating for both the mare owner and us. The reason for most of these delays fed-ex ascribes to 'circumstances beyond our control' (i.e. inclement weather) or mislabeled packaging from the sender.

If you have a mare in foal for next year, now is a good time to think about follow up ultrasounds to monitor fetal development, spot potential problems and determine the gender of the foal. After the initial pregnancy check, done with ultrasound between 14 and 18 days of pregnancy, we recommend a second ultrasound between 25 and 30 days of pregnancy. By this time, we are able to visually see a heartbeat in the fetus. This check is best done before day 35 of pregnancy, because if there is an abnormality with the pregnancy, it can be difficult to get mares back into heat to rebreed after day 35-40 of pregnancy.

Fetal gender determination has becoming increasingly popular over the past several years. In my hands, this has been extremely reliable. I have had the opportunity to do several hundred of these over the past several years, and to the best of my knowledge have not been off track on one. In order to have accurate results, it is critical that this ultrasound evaluation take place between 60 and 70 days of pregnancy. This check also allows us to get a good assessment of fetal development and viability, as the head, legs, heart, skeleton and several other structures are clearly distinguishable. We cannot do anything about changing the gender, but it does provide knowledge and allows the farm to plan for what is coming for next year (whether to paint the stall pink or blue).

It is also wise to reconfirm pregnancy at 90-100 days. Once mares reach this stage of pregnancy, they are generally secure. This is also the time that we start pregnant mares on their ‘pregnant mare vaccines.’

In some mares, especially those deemed high risk pregnancies, we will ultrasound them late in pregnancy to both assess fetal stress and measure placental thickness. We do not do these late term ultrasounds as a matter of routine, but in certain cases, these checks can provide invaluable information.

So for those of you expecting foals for next year, there is a quick recap of what can do and what we recommend to monitor fetal development. If you are not expecting a foal for next year, it is never too early to start planning for next year. Going through the experience of breeding and raising your own foal can be one of the most exciting aspects of having and managing horses.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Along the way...

One of the things I have grown to enjoy about ambulatory practice is the view along the way. I drove by a gas station this morning that had this sign out front. Here is how you know you might have a PR problem.

New Import requirement for horses coming in to Michigan:

This past spring the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) has updated/changed their requirements for horses entering Michigan from another state. These new requirements do not apply to most horse owners in Michigan, because their horses are already here. Currently, if you take your horse out of state and return within 30 days, the health certificate that you had done when you left is valid for re-entry into the state as well. However, if you take your horse out of Michigan for an extended period of time (greater than 30 days) then you would have to comply with these requirements when a new health certificate is issued for the return trip. Also, if you purchase a horse from out of state, that horse would have to meet these new requirements. Here are the new/current requirements for horses entering Michigan.
1. Negative Coggins (EIA) test within the current calendar year.
2. Health certificate issued no more than 30 days prior to arrival.
3. If originating from a state that has had at least one case of Vesicular Stomatitis within the previous 12 months, a special statement must be included on the health certificate.
4. If originating from any state in which there has been a case of piroplasmosis in the past 12 months, any horses coming into Michigan must have tested negative to prioplasmosis nor more than 30 days prior to arrival, and have a special statement written on the health certificate.
5. Any horse with evidence of tick infestation must be treated by an approved product.
6. Any horse originating from a premise currently under quarantine for piroplasmosis is not eligible for importation.

The Coggins and health certificate part is nothing new. The stuff about piroplasmosis is what the state is really trying to ward off. Fortunately, this is a relatively rare is not known to exist in Michigan. In fact, Texas is currently the only state to have known cases of piroplasmosis.

The take home message is that if you plan on bringing a horse into Michigan from a state that is known to a have a horse infected with piroplasmosis within the past year, then be sure you plan ahead to allow sufficient time to get the piroplasmosis test back, but still not be more than 30 days from coming to Michigan.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Catching My Breath

I have been extremely busy the past couple of weeks, which has made it difficult for me to keep up with this blog. The strains of breeding season and colics are taking their toll. I hope to do some catching up here in the next couple of days. Here is a shot I snapped last evening. Isn't West Michigan a great place to live?

Pergolide: Before & After

Pergolide is a medication given daily to manage the symptoms of Equine Cushing's Disease. Cushing's disease is the result of overproduction of cortisol by the body. This has a dramatic impact on a number of body symptoms. The most common being an excessively long hair coat that does not shed out. Affected horses also tend to have regional fat distribution. They tend to deposit excessive amounts of fat in the neck, around the base of the tail, in the sheath and behind the eyes. All of that gives them a cresty necked, bug eyed appearance with what looks like a swollen sheath (at least in the geldings). Affected horses also tend to develop a 'pot-bellied' appearance or 'hay belly.' The most serious consequences of the disease is a strong propensity toward the devlepment of laminitis and dental disease. Pergolide has come to be the most common and most effective treatment we have to date for the management of this diesase.

Here are a couple of pictures that a client graciously shared with us. These pictures demonstrate how some of the symptoms of this disease have been suppressed through the use of pergolide.

Here is what this horse looked like prior to starting daily pergolide.

Here is a picture of the same horse, one year later, after being treated with pergolide.

Cushing's Disease is a very common disease of middle aged and older horses. If you think your horse might be affected, be sure to talk to your regular veterinarian about what can be done both to diagnose and treat this conditon.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

West Nile Vaccine Recall

You may have heard or seen some information in past couple of weeks concerning a recall of West Nile Vaccine. The specific vaccine affected by this recall is marketed under the trade name of PreveNile® and is manufactured by Intervet Schering-Plough. The recall has been issued due to an increased number of adverse event reports associated with the use of this vaccine.

There are several different companies manufacturing and marketing a vaccine against West Nile Virus. However, this particular vaccine being recalled is NOT one that we have been using. If we have administered West Nile Vaccine to your horse(s), or if you have purchased a West Nile vaccine at our office, you have nothing to worry about. The only reason I wanted to bring this recall to your attention is that so if you hear about it elsewhere, you can be aware of the recall and know that it is nothing to worry about.

Get Involved in the Equine Metabolic Syndrome Research Project

The following info came from Michigan State. I thought some of you may be interested in this, so thought I would pass it along.

Nichol Schultz DVM and Molly McCue DVM, MS, PhD, DACVIM

The Equine Genetics research group at the University of Minnesota-College of Veterinary Medicine is collaborating with Drs. Ray Geor (Michigan State) and Nicholas Frank (University of Tennessee) to investigate the disease occurrence and genetics of equine metabolic syndrome (EMS). EMS is a devastating disease characterized by three main features: obesity, insulin resistance, and laminitis. Certain breeds or individual horses are predisposed to EMS, and are often referred to as "easy keepers.” These horses are very efficient at utilizing calories and often require a lower plane of nutrition to maintain body weight than other horses. The difference in EMS susceptibility among horses managed under similar conditions is likely the result of a genetic predisposition.

The goal of this investigation is to better understand the role of breed, gender, age, environment (diet and exercise) and genetics in EMS. The success of the study depends on the collection of data from as many horses with EMS as possible; therefore, assistance of horse owners and their veterinarians is critical. To identify the underlying genetic susceptibility to EMS, genetic marker information will be compared between horses with EMS and non-EMS control horses. The long-term goal is to use these EMS genetic markers to detect horses susceptible to EMS and laminitis before they have clinical signs. Once susceptible horses are identified, management practices can be initiated to better protect them from developing disease.

Participation in the study involves 3 steps:

The first step is to fill out a brief, 10 question online survey located at Within approximately one month the owner will be notified if the horse is deemed an appropriate candidate to proceed to “step two”. While not all horses will be chosen to proceed to step 2, the information provided will still be used in the initial descriptive study of EMS.
If the horse is selected as a potential candidate, the owner will be sent a link to a second online survey requesting additional information about the horse and its management along with information about another horse on the property not suspected of having EMS to serve as a “control.” An ideal control horse will be of similar age and breed, have no history of laminitis, not be considered overweight, and not showing signs of Cushing’s (delayed shedding, increased drinking/urination). The owner will also be asked to submit several simple body measurements and digital photos for both horses.
Approximately 6-8 months following the second survey, owners of horses selected for inclusion in the genetic study will be asked to work with their veterinarian to provide a blood sample which we will analyzed free of charge for glucose, triglyceride, non-esterified fatty acid, and insulin concentration (both the owner and veterinarian will receive notification of the results). A portion of the blood sample will be used for DNA isolation and stored for genetic research.
Horse owners assisting in the project will be providing information essential to further understanding EMS and ultimately determining ways to better manage and treat horses suffering from EMS. To learn more about the equine metabolic research project and how you can get involved, please visit:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

COW: Umbilical Hernia Repair

Umbilical hernias are the most common type of hernias that we see in horses. We see quite a few of these every year. A hernia is a defect in the body wall. An umbilical hernia is when such a defect occurs at the location of the umbilicus (belly button). There are a couple of different ways that have evolved to correct these hernias, but I still think surgery is the best option. Sorry, I did not get any pictures of this hernia with horse still standing. When this yearling was still standing the hernia sac was about the size of a softball. I could place three fingers through the defect in the body wall. This first picture is of the horse lying on her back on the surgery table. The hernia sac does not look quite as large, because the abdominal contents that are in hernia when the horse is standing, fall back into the abdomen when she is on her back.

Here is what it looks like after the surgical drape is in place.

This is the horse on the surgery table, connected to the anesthesia machine.

In this picture I am removing the overlying loose skin.

Here I am dissecting down to the hernia ring—getting right down to the sides of the body wall on all sides of the defect.

The next step is to place sutures across the hernia, to bring the body wall back together and keep it there.

As in this picture, in most hernias we repair all of the sutures are pre-placed and then they are all tied one right after the other. This is what it looks like with all of the sutures placed.

This is what the hernia looks like once all of the sutures are tied. You can see that the body wall defect is now closed.

All that is left is to close the skin. In this case I reapposed the skin with surgical staples.

The end.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Feed Through Fly Control

If you are into eliminating flies from your barn, now is the time to start adding feed through fly control to your horse’s diet. We have been recommending the use of Solitude IGR, and have excellent results with this product. This product is very safe. Unlike organophosphates, Solitude IGR has no adverse effect on horses, people or other mammals. It will not contaminate water supplies or pastures and is safe for horses of all ages, including breeding stallions and pregnant mares. It is a daily top-dressing added directly to their feed, every day. In order to achieve best results, it is necessary to begin feeding it two weeks before flies would normally appear. It is also important to treat ALL of the horses in the barn. It will not work well if only a few horses are treated.

Solitude IGR is available in 2, 6 and 20 pound containers. One pound will treat one horse for one month. Given the price of fly spray, Solitude IGR is an extremely cost effective means of controlling flies. We can ship the 20 pound containers directly to you at no extra charge. The WMVS price for this product is as follows:
• $34.12 for 2 lbs.
• $94.38 for 6 lbs.
• $262.45 for 20 lbs.
We offer free shipping, directly to your home or barn, on the 20 lb. containers.

There is much more information available at

Severe Grass Founder Watch

The National Grass Founder Association has included West Michigan in the high risk area for grass founder. The watch area includes the counties of Muskegon, Ottawa, Allegan, Newaygo and Kent counties. Horse owner should exercise extreme caution when turning horses out on green grass for the next month. The grasses that grow well this time of year (cool weather) have a disproportionately high level of fructans. This is one particular type of sugar that has been linked to causing cases of founder (laminitis). Horses that are overweight, have a ‘cresty’ neck or you can not feel their ribs are at particularly high risk. Any horse that has previously had an episode of laminitis should also be considered high risk. High risk horses should not be turned out on any grass pasture.

Okay, so there really is no such thing as the National Grass Founder Association, but maybe there should be. Laminitis is one of the most devastating diseases that we deal with. This is the time of year that we see a spike in those cases. Be cautious about turning horses out on grass. Any change in feed should be made slowly, but much more so when the feed is lush green grass. Grass pasture is an excellent feed source, just be careful that your horses do not get too much too soon.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

COW: Pinworms

Here is an under the tail view of a horse I encountered earlier this week. When I first looked under the tail, a large female pinworm (Oxyuris equi) was sticking its head out of the anus, looking for a nice place to deposit some eggs. By the time I had my camera in hand, she had already done the deed. The yellow creamy looking stuff is what she left behind (no pun intended).

We do not often seen pinworm infections because they are usually easily killed by most conventional dewormers. The interesting thing about this case was that this horse has just been treated with ivermectin two weeks prior. So either the worms were resistant to ivermectin or she became reinfected immediately after treatment. Resistance of pinworms to dewormers has become an emerging concern over the past several years. However, a study done just last year looking at just that, was unable to support any pattern of increasing resistance. That study showed that pyrantel was 91% effective and ivermectin was 96% effective at killing pinworms in horses.

The primary presenting complaint in horses with pinworm infections is tail itching or rubbing. The itching is caused by the eggs being deposited around the anus. There are other things that can cause tail rubbing as well, so an itchy tail does always mean there are pinworms present.

Pinworm eggs do not show up very well on regular fecal exams. If we suspect a pinworm infection we have to use a more creative approach to finding the eggs. One technique that really works well is to dab some scotch tape around the anus and then look at it (the tape that is) under a microscope, specifically looking for the eggs. The scotch tape on this horse showed an overwhelming large presence of eggs.

Treatment usually is fairly straightforward since most dewormers do a pretty good job at killing these pests. It is best to treat all the other horses at the same time, since if one horse has it, their pasture mates are also likely infected as well. Contamination of the environment, especially with heavy and long standing infections can be a concern as well. Occasionally, the more challenging cases, such as this one, require more creative means of treatment. It is best to talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of pinworms if your horse seems to be rubbing his/her tail excessively.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Preventicare Colic Assistance Program (March 1, 1997 - April 14, 2010)

This week marked the passing of a staple health maintenance program for the horse. Preventicare is survived by its parent company Pfizer Animal Health, its cousins Quest and Quest Plus gel and Strongid C 2X. It is preceded in death by the recent passing of Equell Paste and Equimax Paste. Cause of death was suicide. In 2009 the program was changed to require online registration and assessed a $50 enrollment fee. The pulling of that trigger resulted in the program being maintained on life support for the past year. It quietly slipped away on April 14, 2010. The program marked a significant shift in equine health care that encouraged teaming with your veterinarian to address a comprehensive approach to the maintenance of your horse’s health, including spring and fall vaccinations, spring and fall health maintenance exams, dental care, parasite control and discussion of nutrition. This package appeared to greatly reduce the risk for a colic episode in your horse. Participating horses were eligible for up to $5,000 of insurance toward a colic that required surgery to correct. The program required the use of Strongid C2X daily dewormer. Prior to its suicide, it had entered into a depression due in part to the increasing concerns of parasite resistance and the annual cost for maintaining a horse on the daily dewormer, especially when cheaper generics had become available. Details of a memorial service have not yet been finalized. Internment to take place at Pfizer corporate headquarters. In lieu of flowers, annual health maintenance exams of your horses are suggested.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

“I need a Jukebox with a ??? song…”

I walked into a barn this morning and someone had left the radio playing for the horses. It seems a lot of people think horses like to listen to music while they are away. That got me wondering what type of music do horses like the most? As far as I know, no one has ever done a scientific study to answer this perplexing question, though it sounds like the makings of a good PhD thesis. Since we don’t have science to answer the question, we are left to clinical impressions—which can be dangerous.

Here is what I have observed:
o Quarter Horses, Paints and most stock type breeds prefer Country music.
o Arabians prefer Rock or Classic Rock
o Dressage horses prefer Classical music

So far, I haven’t found any horses that prefer to listen to talk radio.

Friday, April 2, 2010

COW (Case of the Week): Long in the Tooth

Here are before and after pictures of an interesting dental case I saw today. This is just one example of some of the different kind of surprises we sometimes find in the mouths of horses. Sorry the pictures are not all that great. This 11 yr. Quarter Horse gelding was in excellent body condition without any history of difficulty eating. He was fairly new to the current owner, but they had noticed a change in temperament over the past couple of months. Time will tell if fixing this tooth fixes the behavioral issue, but my bet is that it will.

My assumption is that this horse has never had any dental work, given the extent to which the third premolar is so overgrown. As you are probably aware, horses continue to erupt new tooth throughout their lifetime. They wear their teeth at approximately the same rate they erupt. However, when the opposing tooth is missing, as was the situation with this case, the tooth continues to grow and given a sufficient amount of time, it begins to resemble a tree trunk. The lower third premolar (second tooth back on the bottom) was missing. As a result the second lower premolar had drifted back a little bit, so you can also see a slight hook forming on the upper second premolar. There is also a fairly deep cut in the cheek caused by this severely overgrown tooth.

It is not wise to correct these severely overgrown teeth in all at one time. The reason being, that if you are overaggressive with correction, it is possible to enter the pulp chamber of the tooth. Thus it is best to do the reduction in two or three stages, giving sufficient time in between reductions to allow the pulp chamber to recede a bit before the next reduction. In 6 months we will further reduce this overgrowth.

The only reason we looked in this horse’s mouth was as part of his regular health maintenance exam. We routinely do health maintenance exams free of charge with spring and fall vaccinations. It is often said that more things are missed in veterinary medicine for not looking then for not knowing. This case is a good demonstration of the value of routine oral exams.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Legend

It is with great sadness that I report to you that Dr. Harold “Red” Sheridan passed away yesterday afternoon. Many of you may not know him or may not have had the opportunity to meet him. You need to know that he had a tremendous impact on not only me but also our practice, his clients, his community and the veterinary profession. It is not my goal to write a eulogy here. Other people in other places will do a much better job than what I could ever attempt. He was one of the founding members of what is now West Michigan Veterinary Service. The leadership and path he blazed has made our practice what it is today. He was a very talented mixed animal veterinarian. He was a true ‘James Herriot’ of veterinary practice. Over his career he had the opportunity to do and see so many things. There was more experience there than what he could fully share. He was a constant source of wisdom and insight. He will be greatly missed by his WMVS family. There are more details at: or

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

COW (Case of the Week): Strangles!

Last week we encountered our first strangles outbreak of the year. As you probably already know, Strangles is highly contagious upper airway infection. Horses rarely die from this disease, though on rare occasion it can be deadly. They do, however, get very sick from it. Typically affected horses have very large lymph nodes under their jaw that get so large they can ‘strangle’ their upper airway—thus the name. After a couple of days, the lymph nodes will break open and drain.

The disease is caused by a bacteria named Strep. equi ssp. equi. This bug is easily spread from one horse to another, usually through nose to nose contact or by sharing water buckets or a common water tank. It is possible for people to carry this bug around on them and transmit it from an infected horse to another horse. Because of the highly contagious nature of this disease, quarantining affected individuals and good hygiene practices are necessary to limit its spread. Horses can continue to shed the bacteria (and thus infect other horses) for up to 6 months after they have recovered. The only way to tell for sure if they are still shedding the bacterial is to get a swab of the back to the throat and send it into a lab.

Immunity to this disease is not life long, even after a clinical infection. Affected horses usually have immunity for 18-24 months. There are several different vaccines available for this disease. The one we are currently recommending is an intra-muscular injection. There is also an intra-nasal vaccine available. Great care must be exercised when handling and administering the intra-nasal product. Protective immunity from the vaccines are probably 6-12 months, at best.

The best way to prevent the disease is to quarantine new horses coming into the barn. A two week quarantine period is usually sufficient. During the quarantine period, the horse should be kept away from direct contact with other horses and not have access to a common water source or share water buckets with other horses. Also, the quarantined horse should be handled and fed, after all the other horses are first tended to.

Aside from quarantining, or preventing exposure, vaccination is the best tool we have to prevent this disease. We recommend strangles vaccination if you take your horse to barns or shows where they are stabled with other horses of unknown background or if there is a lot of traffic of new horses through the barn. When you go to shows or other organized horse events, do not let your horse share water buckets or hay bags with other horses.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

COW (case of the week): Alsike Clover

This week's COW is another feed related toxicity. It seems I have had a run of these lately. This time the offending agent was Alsike Clover. Here is a good picture of what this plant looks like. It can cause the skin to be hyper-sensitive to sunlight. We refer to that as photosensitivity. Photosensitivity causes the skin (almost always only the white skin) to sunburn extremely easily. For this reason we do not usually see these cases in the winter. However, when a horse gets exposed to a significant amount (usually more than 20%) of this in their hay and you get a good run of sunny weather like we’ve had for the past couple of weeks, then you can see these skin conditions. No one knows exactly what it is in Alsike clover that causes this syndrome, but we do know that it affects the liver, primarily the bile ducts, and the photosensitivity is the result of the effects on the liver.

The skin irritation with these cases can become quite extensive. As I mentioned earlier, it almost always just affects the white skin. Sunburn classically affects the muzzle- as it did in the case I saw this week. It also almost always affects the lower legs and at first glance looks a lot like ‘scratches’ of the lower limbs. Again, this usually only affects the white skinned areas. This presentation of lower leg dermatitis can make it a little difficult to sort out from regular ‘scratches.’ If there is any doubt, we can take some samples from the affected areas and look at it under a microscope. The other hint is that when you clip the skin, you will see evidence of diffuse skin irritation that goes beyond just the crusty areas you first noticed before clipping.

There is no specific blood test for Alsike clover toxicity, but we will often see elevations in liver enzymes. Treatment is fairly straight forward: remove the offending agent from the diet and treat the skin. So get a good look at this picture and check your hay or your pastures (once things start to grow again in the spring). If this stuff makes up more than 20% of the hay, find an alternate hay source.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Interesting Article

The April issue of Horse Illustrated has a nice summary article on dealing with parasite resistance. I can't find a web link to it, but if you get this magazine, it's worth looking at. It really puts an exclamation point on our new deworming protocol recomendations. See the February 20, post on this blog.

Spring is Coming!

10 signs Spring is coming (in no particular order):

3.The manure pile stinks again
4.You don’t have to break ice out of the water buckets when feeding
5.Foals are being born.
6.You here birds when you feed the horses in the morning.
7.You don’t have to fight the snow and ice ruts in the driveway when you take the trash to the road.
8.There is some daylight when you feed in the morning, AND some when you feed at night.
9.Your ‘to do list’ is longer then your ‘have time to do list’
10.After brushing your horse, you have more horse hair then your horse does.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


A case of Rabies in a horse in Michigan was recently reported. The horse was from Lapeer county (thumb area of Michigan). The horse first started showing symptoms on Feb. 28, and was euthanized 2 days later. Four individuals are now undergoing post-exposure treatment. It is not know how the horse became infected, though both bat and skunk rabies have been detected previously in that county.

This case highlights how real the threat of Rabies is. Any threat of Rabies needs to be take very seriously not only because the infected individual always dies (there is no treatment), but also because it is highly contagious across species. A horse may contract Rabies from a bat and the horse could then subsequently expose humans. This makes Rabies not just an animal health issue. It has immense implications to public health. That is why your dog has to have a current Rabies vaccine to be licensed. Rabies vaccination of horses is not yet required by law. Just because the law does not require it does not mean it is not necessary. The reality is that Rabies vaccines are some of the cheapest and most effective vaccines we have. Given that the disease is always fatal and can be spread to humans, I think it is crazy to not have your horses properly immunized against this devastating disease. This is especially true if your horse has potential exposure to wildlife or bats and/or has exposure to people. What horse in Michigan doesn’t?

Buying meds online?

Check out this video from USA Today. This short clip expounds on some of the pitfalls with on-line sales. It really is small animal oriented, but the same concepts apply to horses.

Friday, March 5, 2010

COW (case of the week): Monensin Toxicity

One of the more sad cases I encountered this week was a horse that was exposed to monensin. If you haven’t yet heard, MONENSIN IS TOXIC TO HORSES! Monensin is an ionophore that is commonly added to cattle and poultry feeds. It enhances the feed efficiency of feeds. This stuff has been being added to cattle feeds for a long time. The fact that is highly toxic to horses is nothing new either. But apparently there are people who have not yet heard.

Fortunately we don’t often see monensin toxicity since it is generally known that horses should never get this stuff. However, apparently not everyone is aware how sensitive horses are to ionophores. In the case I saw this week, the owner had no idea about the toxicity of monensin. What makes these cases so sad is just how much affected horse’s suffer and how easily preventable it is. Symptoms vary based on how much the horse consumes. Symptoms are progressive and typically include abdominal pain, anorexia, sweating, unsteadiness on their feet, stiff gait and/or a reluctance to move. Affected horses often just look like a severe colic. Often they will have a high heart rate and low blood pressure. If a horse survives, they will likely have permanent heart damage that can cause death, weeks or months after the initial exposure.

Unfortunately, there really is not specific a antidote for ionophore toxicity. If caught early enough, we can administer mineral oil or activated charcoal via a stomach tube to slow or inhibit the absorption. Otherwise treatment consists of supportive therapy. Vitamin E and selenium may be of some benefit.

The moral of the story is do not store any feed with an ionophore, like monensin or lasalocid, anywhere near horse feed. If you have any feeds made specifically for cattle or poultry check the labels to ensure they do not have these products added to them. To prevent accidental exposure, products containing ionophores should never be stored in the same location as horse feed or in any location where a horse may gain access to them. Spread the word to all of your cattle friends who may also have a horse.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New CEM Surveillance Testing Program

If you are into breeding at all, you are probably well aware of the recent ‘outbreak’ of Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM). That outbreak has pretty well been brought under control, though the USDA is still completing follow up testing on some horses. CEM is a sexually transmitted disease of horses that causes infertility in mares. Carrier stallions do not typically show any symptoms. CEM had been eradicated from the United States since the late 1970’s. The most recent outbreak was first detected in December of 2008 in a stallion in Kentucky. The USDA quickly took action to find any other infected horses. That action set off a cascade of testing and trace backs that affected just about every state. We dealt with several exposed mares and a couple of exposed stallions here in West Michigan. Through very thorough testing (maybe even a little over board) by the USDA, with the help of private practitioners, this most recent outbreak has been fairly quickly extinguished.

As a result of that outbreak, the United States is no longer considered free of CEM. The USDA is in the process of trying to do some surveillance testing to hopefully return us to a CEM free state. As a part of that program, the USDA is offering free testing of eligible breeding stallions. The ‘free’ part pays for laboratory and shipping costs. It does not pay for veterinary fees to acquire the samples and do the submissions. However, if you have a breeding stallion and want to be able to advertise him as CEM free, this program could save you a significant amount of expense. Please feel free to contact our office if you are interested in having your breeding stallion tested, or you can check out

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Bridge to Nowhere?

Okay, so this doesn’t have anything to do with veterinary medicine. However, it does have a big impact on my daily practice, so I thought it worthy of comment here. One of the challenges with ambulatory practice is the amount of time I spend staring out my windshield. It seems West Michigan is about to get their own version of a bridge to nowhere. But, in this case I think it’s a good thing. Let me explain.

Our practice area here in West Michigan is bisected by the scenic Grand River. This river is a significant treasure for our area. However, it also provides a tremendous geographical obstacle for those of us who traverse West Michigan on regular basis. The reason the river is such a nuisance to negotiate is because, as the crow flies, it is a little over 14 miles between the bridge in Grand Haven and the bridge in Eastmanville. As my truck flies, it is just short of 20 miles. This accounts for the longest stretch (by a long shot) between any two bridges spanning the river banks. The problem is further compounded by the bascule bridge in Grand Haven. That’s okay, I didn’t know that that means it’s draw bridge either. That bridge has a longstanding reputation for trouble. It is not uncommon for it to get ‘stuck’ open. In such situation, the alternate route means a detour through Eastmanville. If you haven’t been through Eastmanville, it really is a nice drive. My attitude is usually a little different during the week, when on I’m on my way to a call.

MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) announced this week that they intend to start construction later this year or early next, on the long debated new bridge just west of 120th Ave. If you are not familiar with the area, that crossing is just about halfway between the bridges at Eastmanville and Grand Haven. But before you get too excited about a new back way through the county, it seems that the project will be just the bridge, and will not include any actual roads to it. So apparently, when it is done, no one will actually be able to drive over it. Federal funds have been apportioned for the bridge, but not for the roads to actually get to the bridge. That funding supposedly will come from the state, at some future date. With the current fiscal state of affairs in Michigan, I wonder when and how that will happen. I suppose that either way, with such a project, someone has to act first. The state would likely never build the roads to a bridge that is not there. So the bridge project is going forward with federal funding in hopes that some day the state will be able to provide access to this bridge. But for now, it sounds a little like a bridge to nowhere.

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Antibiotic (sort of)

We are excited about the release of Excede, a newer form of a sustained release antibiotic that is now approved for use in horses. Naxcel (ceftiofur) is a broad spectrum antibiotic that we have been using in horses for many years. There is now a formulation of this same antibiotic that is available in a sustained release formulation. A single dose will provide 4 days of therapeutic levels of antibiotic. A second dose given 4 days after the first will give a total of 10 days of therapeutic level of antibiotic. This is a much more appealing option then twice a day penicillin injections or once daily Naxcel injections. Some soreness and stiffness at the injection site is common. Like Naxcel, Excede is not available ‘over the counter’ and thus requires an ‘active veterinary client-patient relationship.’
Pfizer (the makers of Excede) have been working with sustained released formulations for quite some time. However, this is the first time they have obtained a equine label for such a product. Excede has been used quite successfully in cattle for the past 4 or 5 years. The important thing to point out here is that this is not a new antibiotic, it is a new formulation of an antibiotic that we have been using for a long time. Like all antibiotics, this is not a panacea medication for all infections and needs be used judiciously under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. We are excited about the addition of this new weapon to aid in the fight against disease and infection.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

New Method for Dealing with an Old Problem

Since this blogging thing is all new to me, I thought it would be appropriate for the first several posts to also be about what's new. So here's a brief explanation of our NEW parasite control recommendations:

This year, we have made a significant change to our routine deworming recommendations. Our previous deworming program was based on worm prevalence and susceptibility information from the 1970’s. A lot has changed since that time in regards to the types of parasites and how susceptible they are to the deworming medications that are now available. Resistance of parasites to deworming medications continues to be an emerging concern. This is further compounded by the fact that there does not appear to be any new dewormers coming down the pipe. Given the amount of time and effort to get a new drug through FDA approval, it is unlikely we will see any new dewormers come on the market in the near future. All of this just further emphasizes the need for us to be more focused and strategic with our parasite controls programs to lessen the chance for issues related to resistance. Of course, keeping costs under control also must enter into the equation as well. While the new parasite control recommendations are not as straight forward as just deworming all of the horses with the same thing at the same time every 2 months, it is a significant step forward in addressing these concerns. The new parasite control recommendations include incorporating fecal samples from each horse twice per year. An explanation sheet detailing the new recommendations is available by contacting the office or online at .