For many of the 2 million Americans who own horses, animals are a part of the family. And just like human family members should see their doctors regularly for preventative check-ups, horses need preventive care, too. Regularly scheduled veterinary laboratory testing is vital to horses’ health and safety. In addition to official check-ups, there are also veterinary diagnostics tests that can be performed outside the vet’s office to make sure your animals stay healthy in between visits.
Just like cats and dogs are prone to certain diseases, horses are at special risk of certain infections and diseases. Here are four common health risks horse owners need to watch out for:
There are many different types of colic that present themselves in different ways. No matter the cause or type, however, colic can quickly turn fatal, so immediate action must be taken. Intestinal blockages, excessive intestinal gas, or intestinal twisting can cause horses to exhibit signs of pain, constipation, salivation, distress, or other odd physical behaviors. To prevent colic, food safety is paramount. Make sure your horse is fed a proper diet and always has clean water free of dirt and sand. You should also introduce any dietary changes gradually and ensure that your veterinary laboratory services include regular deworming.
Horses spend their days (and nights) on their hooves, and untreated problems can have serious consequences. You need to check hooves regularly for cracks, odor, abscesses, shifted shoes, and other abnormalities. More serious conditions like laminitis (inflammation of a hoof’s internal structure) can be very painful and can eventually lead to lifelong lameness. If you suspect your horse has hoof pain or hoof-related problems, contact a professional (either your farrier or your vet) to see if your horse needs any veterinary laboratory procedures or orthotic devices for treatment.
Equine infectious anemia virus
Although uncommon in the U.S., equine infectious anemia (EIA) virus is very serious. The disease is often referred to as swamp fever or horse malaria and is spread by the horse fly. EIA leads to significant destruction of red blood cells, causing weakness, anemia, and even death. Infected horses exhibit fever, decreased appetite, abdominal swelling, rapid breathing, excessive sweating, and signs of depression and lethargy, among other symptoms. The only way to confirm a diagnosis of equine infectious anemia is by performing an equine infectious anemia virus antibody test. EIA is highly contagious, so if you suspect your horse may have contracted the disease, you should have them tested immediately to ensure the safety of your other horses. Doing so can save the life of one horse or the entire herd. It’s imperative to catch the condition early, but it’s even more important to take steps to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Keep stable areas clean, utilize equine infectious anemia virus antibody tests regularly during routine vet examinations, and take extra precautions with horses who travel regularly or come into contact with horses not in your care.
While tetanus can be fatal, it is also one of the most easily prevented health problems in horses. Yearly vaccinations are key in preventing the disease. If your horse gets a cut or puncture wound, have them tested immediately for tetanus. If the condition is caught early, treatment options are available.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of these four common equine health problems can help you keep your entire herd healthy and happy for years to come.