Monday, May 3, 2021

Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO)

Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO), or heaves, the name which is more commonly known, is a chronic, non-infectious airway condition of horses. Symptoms of this disease are usually seen in horses six to 12 years old and is the result of an allergic reaction to inhaled particles (allergens), such as molds, organic dust, and endotoxins, present in hay and straw. Horses of both genders and all over the world can get heaves.

The allergic reaction that happens after the particles are inhaled causes the small airways in the lung tissue to narrow and become obstructed. A combination of three factors cause this obstruction: bronchiolitis (inflammation and thickening of the tissue lining of the airways), bronchospasm (constriction of the smooth muscles that surround the airways), and accumulation of mucous in the airways. Occasional coughing is one of the first noticeable signs. If the disease is not treated and progresses the coughing will become more frequent, the horse will have an increased respiratory rate even at rest, nasal discharge, wheezing, and can display exercise intolerance. A heave line may become apparent which is caused by the additional workload on the abdominal muscles during the late phase of exhalation. Weight loss and anorexia may be seen in severely affected horses. 

Heaves can be barn or pasture associated. It can also affect horses fed hay in round bales because of the high endotoxin and organic dust content in round bales. If a horse has barn-associated heaves try to maintain them on pasture full-time, while a horse with pasture-associated heaves should avoid access to pastures except during the winter months. Horses with heaves that are maintained in pastures should not have full access to round bales due to the potential cause of treatment failure. Horses with heaves that are kept in stalls should be maintained on low dust bedding. Straw is not recommended as bedding. Stalls should be well-ventilated and kept clean. Avoid storing hay above the stalls and sweeping the floor when affected horses are stalled. Soaking hay in water for approximately 10 minutes and then draining the water before feeding may alleviate the signs of heaves. Soaking grain can also help alleviate signs. Severely affected horses should have all hay removed from their diet and transitioned to a complete pelleted feed. It is very important to remember that although medications can help alleviate clinical signs of heaves, it is pivotal to recognize that without minimizing environmental allergens no long-term benefits will be seen. 

A veterinarian can help diagnose heaves based on the horse's history and clinical signs. They can evaluate the severity of the disease based on the presence and types of inflammatory cells, called neutrophils, in airway secretions. To determine this, fluid samples are taken from the lungs by bronchoalveolar lavage or BAL. The samples taken during a BAL are directly from the small airways, which is the affected part of the respiratory tract in a horse with heaves. Other tests that might be performed are an upper airway and tracheal endoscopy, lung function testing, thoracic radiographs, and ultrasound examination. 

The main medical treatment of heaves is anti-inflammatory medicines, such as corticosteroids and bronchodilators. Generally, these drugs are administered orally or by injection and are usually used together because corticosteroids will decrease inflammation but will not provide immediate relief like bronchodilators. More recently, aerosolized corticosteroids and bronchodilators have become available for the treatment of heaves. Inhaled therapies are beneficial because they target inflammation directly in the lungs and have reduced side effects. Prolonged treatment with oral or injectable corticosteroids can cause laminitis. However, they do require an upfront financial investment to purchase the medications and mask required to administer the medication. 

Many horses affected by heaves are able to be excellent riding partners with a dedicated owner that understands this is a chronic condition that will require life-long management. The course of this disease is largely dependent on the effort put into improving the air quality and decreasing the amount of mold, endotoxins, and organic dust in the environment in which the horse is kept. While there is no permanent cure, complete or near complete recovery from clinical signs may be achieved with diligent management. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Mare Reproduction

 The following article discusses basics of mare reproduction, which as day length continues to increase so will the mare begin to show signs of estrus.

Check out the following article to get more information:

Monday, April 19, 2021

Arthritis in Horses

Arthritis is a common problem in horses, especially older ones.  It is inflammation of a joint and associated with symptoms from stiffness to severe and painful.  It is caused by wear and tear of the joints over time or from injury or trauma.  It can’t be cured and is difficult to treat, but it can be managed.  Some signs of arthritis include swelling of the joints, limited range of motion, stiff gait, lameness, and pain severe enough that horses don’t want to move.  Always consult your veterinary to make sure that it is arthritis and not another condition or disease affecting your horse.  Your vet can also work with you on a plan to manage the pain that works best for your situation.  Treatment can include joint protectants, pain relief medicines and injections.  Also talk to your vet about other therapies such as monitoring weight, exercise levels and stretching to help alleviate the pain.


University of Minnesota Extension has an article on Caring for your senior horse which has a section about Managing Arthritis


The College of Veterinary Medicine University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a series of articles around this topic which goes into more detail about joint function and treatment options available and some recent research developments to help with treatment.





Hopefully these articles will give you more in-sight into ways to help manage arthritis in your horse.

Monday, April 12, 2021

10 Questions When Buying Horse Hay

Ask these 10 questions when buying horse hay

This article originally written by C.J. Weddle, for Hay and Forage Grower e-newsletter

When purchasing horse hay, one must be mindful of a number of considerations before any money exchanges hands. Krishona Martinson, extension equine specialist at the University of Minnesota, provides 10 questions to ask when securing hay for your horses in her Horse Newsletter.

1. Have you sold to horse owners before, or do you specialize in hay for horses? How much hay do you have or bale each year?

Horses are prone to health issues related to hay consumption. Weather events, how the hay is grown, and the way it is harvested and stored can all impact a horse’s health. Farmers that regularly produce hay for horses know what can cause health issues and try to prevent them. Asking how much hay a farmer grows can help you ensure that they can be a consistent supplier.

2. What kind of bales are available (small or large square bales and/or round bales)? What is the average weight of the bales?

Not all hay farmers have each type of bale available for sale. Similarly, not all horse owners are properly equipped to feed all bale types. With your preference in mind, make sure to ask hay suppliers how much of each bale type is available.

Knowing the average weight of bales will help you calculate the best bang for your buck. As Martinson explains, buying 50-pound bales at $6 each ($240 per ton) is a better buy than 35-pound bales at $5 each ($286 per ton).

3. What species are present in the hay?

Legume and grass species have very different nutrient values, which are both important in a balanced diet.

“Legumes, like alfalfa, tend to be higher in crude protein, energy, and calcium, and lower in nonstructural carbohydrates and fiber values compared to cool-season grasses,” says Martinson.

4. How mature is the hay?

Maturity is the main driver in forage quality. More mature forages have larger stems and flowers (legume species) and seedheads (grass species), which are by no means “bad forages.” However, they are better suited for idle horses, while less mature forages tend to be better for horses with higher activity levels and caloric requirements.

5. Where was the hay harvested?

This question helps you confirm that the hay was not harvested from road ditches, which can contain roadkill carcasses, garbage, and weeds.

6. Was the hay rained on?

Martinson states that rained on hay can actually be a good choice for horses with metabolic problems, as it tends to be lower in nonstructural carbohydrates. Although, hay that receives excessive rainfall is usually not a good option for horses in general.

7. Was the hay stored inside or under cover after baling?

Proper storage helps to preserve the quality of the hay and prevent a loss in volume. Hay that is uncovered is more susceptible to mold and bale deterioration.

8. Was the hayfield fertilized and/or sprayed for weeds?

“Fields that have been fertilized show good management and likely produce a better quality hay,” notes Martinson.

Weed control is very important, too, considering that hay for horses should have less than 10% nontoxic weeds; there is zero tolerance for poisonous plants in horse hay. Being able to identify desirable forage species can help hay growers and horse owners identify weeds in the hay.

9. What is the price?

Knowing the price of the hay you intend to buy is important for many reasons. As stated earlier, comparing prices can save you a significant amount of money when buying in bulk. Inquiries about bulk and cash discounts are other ways to save a few dollars. Additional payment options may include monthly installments or other plans to be discussed between you and the hay supplier.

10. Is delivery available?

If so, at what cost? Find out if onsite assistance will be available for unloading and stacking. These questions are often overlooked but are very important and can help you manage hay transportation.

While some of these questions may not be first on your list to ask hay suppliers, none of these issues should be overlooked. Most importantly, find a hay supplier who you can develop a good working relationship with from year-to-year.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Troxler encourages horse owners to act now to vaccinate against mosquito-borne diseases and rabies


Troxler encourages horse owners to act now to vaccinate against mosquito-borne diseases and rabies
Mosquito-borne diseases are more common during the summer months

RALEIGH – Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is encouraging equine owners to have their animals vaccinated against Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis and West Nile Virus.

“Mosquito-breeding season in North Carolina lasts from spring until the first frost and horses are at risk if not properly vaccinated,” Troxler said. “EEE is fatal 90 percent of the time in horses and WNV has a fatality rate of 30 percent. But, both diseases are preventable by vaccination.”

Last year, North Carolina saw its first case of EEE in late July. There were nine recorded cases of EEE in 2020.

State Veterinarian Dr. Doug Meckes recommends that equine owners talk to their veterinarians about an effective vaccination protocol to protect horses from mosquito-borne diseases. The combination vaccination initially requires multiple injections for horses, mules and donkeys that have no prior vaccination history.

“Nine cases of EEE is a relatively high average for the year. Horse owners need to act now to vaccinate their animals,” Troxler said.

Mosquitoes can breed in any puddle that lasts for more than four days, so removing any source of standing water can reduce the chance of exposing animals to WNV or EEE. Keeping horses in stalls at night, using insect screens and fans, and turning off lights after dusk can also help reduce exposure to mosquitoes. Insect repellants can be effective if used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Symptoms of EEE include impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow, irregular staggering gait, paralysis, convulsions and death. Once a horse has been bitten by an infected mosquito, it may take three to 10 days for symptoms to appear.

Symptoms of WNV include fever, weakness or paralysis of hind limbs, impaired vision, head pressing, seizures and aimless wandering.  

“If your horses or other equine animals exhibit any symptoms of EEE or WNV, contact your veterinarian immediately,” Meckes said.

People, horses and birds can become infected from a bite by a mosquito carrying the diseases, but there is no evidence that horses can transmit the viruses to other horses, birds or people through direct contact. 

“It’s also a great time to make sure your animal is current on its rabies vaccination,” Troxler said. “In North Carolina, we see about five cases of rabies in livestock each year. Horses are naturally curious animals, which puts them at risk for a bite if a rabid animal gets through their fence line.”

Monday, April 5, 2021

Protecting your horse from vector borne disease

 As we move into warmer weather, protecting your horses from vector borne diseases should be at the front of your mind.  A vector borne disease is a disease that is transmitted by biting or blood sucking insects such as mosquitos, flies and ticks.  

Making sure your horse is up to date on their core vaccines is a great place to start.  The core vaccines for horses are Rabies, Tetanus, Eastern/Western/Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis(EEE/WEE/VEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV).  Of these vaccines, EEE/WEE/VEE and WNV are vector borne.  Your veterinarian may also recommend additional risk-based vaccines for your area.  To learn more about the core equine vaccines click here --> or about the other risk-based vaccines click here --> should always work with your vet to develop a vaccine schedule that suits your farm and horses’ specific needs. 

Another way to protect your horse is to make sure every horse on your farm, or at the facility where you board your horse, has an up-to-date negative Coggins test.  A Coggins test is a blood test done by your veterinarian to test for Equine Infectious Anemia(EIA) and is typically a requirement to enter a horse show or to travel across state lines.  EIA can be transmitted by insects as well as contaminated needles or instruments.  To learn more about Equine Infectious Anemia and how to prevent it click here-->

Fun Fact: Did you know that the Coggins test was developed by a veterinarian at NC State University?  To read more about Dr Coggins click here-->  

Have a wonderful Spring and stay safe!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Getting Started with Rotational Grazing


Getting started with rotational grazing is as simple as dividing one pasture into two pastures so you can manage grazing.  It is very important this time of year to wait until the pasture is 6-8 inches in height before you allow grazing.  A good rule of thumb is to take half, leave half and to never allow grazing below 3-4 inches.  Once the horses have grazed a pasture down then you rotate them to the next pasture to allow the first pasture to rest and regrow.  You simply repeat this process throughout the growing season and anytime your pasture is not growing, consider feeding hay in a dry lot to preserve your pasture.  Check out the short video and publication below for more information on rotational grazing.