News letter - Winter 2006 / 2007
Let us first take the opportunity to wish all our clients Seasons Greetings and remind you all that despite the short, dark days; bottomless mud and cracked heels Spring is just around the corner! We are intending to have a practice meeting in late winter/early Spring. One of the topics will doubtless be about worming - a subject that every one thinks has been done to death - with new thoughts and theories that will make us reappraise our approach to the subject. Once other topics, venue and hopefully sponsorship have been arranged we shall advertise further
Whatever ones views on global warming there can be no argument that we have had a series of long summers and mild winters. This has led amongst other things to an explosion in Tick numbers - a problem particularly for those bordering on the moor. It has also meant an increasing number of cases of a disease hitherto rare in horses called Louping Ill. Ticks are an important vector of the disease, caused by a virus, with the virus transmitted by tick bite. The greater the tick burden the more the chance of disease. Louping Ill is usually a disease of sheep with occasional cases in cattle and more rarely horses. It is a neurological disease causing encephalitis and meningitis. Affected animals show tremors and abnormal head carriage along with incoordination and weakness and variable paralysis of the hind end. Diagnosis can be confirmed by means of a blood test. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for the condition. Symptomatic treatment will often be effective in allowing animals to overcome the disease, although some more severely affected animals may need to be euthanased on humane grounds. Control of ticks is an effective way of minimising risk though unfortunately there are no specific equine products licensed for use. Several small animal products are effective but as they are not licensed for use in horses have to be used "off licence" at the owners' own liability. For advise about such products please contact the clinic. It should be strongly emphasised that this disease is still rare but shows just another result of climate change to worry about.
Those of you preparing to breed from your mare in 2007 will undoubtedly have chosen your preferred stallion and will be waiting impatiently for the "off". We would make a strong recommendation that an early and in-depth visit to the stud be conducted to satisfy yourself of the cleanliness and management practises of the establishment. The great majority of commercial studs are extremely well run but one still encounters instances where mares are returned to their owners in thin condition with neglected feet etc. Overcrowding of mares can lead to bullying, transmission of conditions such as ringworm and so on. Satisfy yourself that the owners of studs are proud of their standards and welcome such enquiries. Increasing numbers of people are attracted by the use of Artificial Insemination (AI) to reduce the length of time their mare needs to board at stud or even to have them "covered" at home. With modern standards and technologies conception rates can approach those of natural service. However do not be deluded into thinking that it is a cheap option. The amount of veterinary involvement can be considerable and timing of insemination can be critical. Be sure that the process is carried out by individuals with specialised qualifications in stud medicine. Check with the stud well in advance of sending your mare what samples are required for assurance of freedom from venereal disease. The recent outbreak in Ireland of Equine Viral Arteritis (Swamp Fever) has led to a tightening up of regulations relating to pre-mating tests. As a practice we like to check over the mare and foal on the day of foaling to perform a general health check, ensure that the mare has not been torn and has cleansed etc. Please keep the afterbirth in a safe place so that we can "grub about" in it and make sure that it is intact. The foal needs the limbs and navel checked and we administer antibiotics and tetanus antitoxin. There is considerable debate now as to whether the latter has any real value but we take the view that it is better to be safe than sorry until it becomes totally discredited.
This is a topic about which most people have a view, indeed the horse world is teeming with experts on the subject. New and hitherto unconventional views are now emerging which may make us re evaluate our approach which is why we hope to hold a meeting in the later winter/early spring. Briefly it is maintained that modern wormers are so effective that they "blitz" all redworm. Thus most horses and ponies have rarely been challenged by natural infestation and have no natural immunity. There have been vanishingly few instances of worm resistance to the new generation worming preparations but should this occur in time the results could be potentially catastrophic. The righteous enthusiasm with which we "poo pick" our paddocks similarly helps to remove worms from the environment leaving our animals "na´ve" to infestation. The current argument is that we should use worm egg counts from droppings, or in the case of tapeworm infestation a special blood test to identify the presence of parasites and thus "target" our worming more accurately. We look forward to expanding this topic at the meeting.
Finally we would like to thank you for your support in 2006 and look forward to seeing you in 2007. We wish you a trouble free and successful season.