- A POTENTIALLY LIFE-THREATENING DISEASE TO ALL EQUINES!
There can be many causes of this pain ranging from mild to life-threatening.
As Colic is the biggest cause of death in equines it is vital that you are able to recognise the signs, know what to do and how to try and prevent it occurring in the future.
The University of Liverpool (UK) has been at the forefront of colic research and have kindly allowed us to link directly to their informative web pages on colic, aimed at horse owners and vets. The detailed photos, graphics and video clips give a better understanding of how colic develops and why factors including worming, dental care, dietary change and feeding routine must be taken seriously in horses and donkeys.
Please take a look, it might save a life…….
Wild Horses don’t see the Dentist, why does mine have to?
The answer to this frequently asked question is twofold under the combined heading of ‘Human Interference’.
Our first major interference in the equine mouth is THE BIT.
Wild horses are completely free to walk, trot, canter, gallop, swing their heads and necks to balance, spin, rear and buck with absolutely no restriction on the mouth.
Domesticated horses are literally saddled with a seat made of leather on an iron frame, upon which sits a ‘weight’, albeit relatively light, but a discernable weight nonetheless.
In the equines’ mouth is a piece or pieces of steel, plastic, vulcanised rubber, leather, rope, wire, you name it, bits have been made out of it. Attached to which is one or more long thin straps. Holding these straps is the ‘weight’.
Now I’m well aware that your ‘hands’ are as light as a feather, but you would be surprised how many ‘weights’ use these straps rather like the grab-handles on the London Underground Trains to regain their balance and stop themselves falling when their conveyance, train or horse makes a sudden unexpected l
When the bit is forcibly employed it collects large amounts of soft tissue, from the lips, cheeks, tongue and soft tissue within the mouth, collectively known as mucosa and forces this back into a crushing collision with the first molar teeth. If these teeth have sharp points or hooks you may just as well make your bit from barbed wire.
Our second major interference is DIET.
Is it any wonder that domesticated horses have no need to thoroughly masticate their feed? It’s the celery versus banana syndrome.
To extract maximum nutrition, the wild horse chews with a much wider jaw movement. This is known as ‘Mandibular Excursion’. To bring the whole grinding surfaces of the molar tables into action he will swing his lower jaw (mandible) as far as he can. This not only masticates the fibrous food more efficiently it has the effect of keeping the molar surfaces free from the sharp enamel overgrowths that bedevil the domesticated horse.
The domesticated horse only uses 75-95% of the occlusal surface of the molars, always leaving buccal and lingual edges out of occlusion – out of wear, and as the equine tooth permanently erupts to replace natural wear of the enamel surfaces, these unused edges grow into sharp enamel overgrowths.
These overgrowths can cause ulceration to the tongue and cheeks and further restrict the mandibular excursion, compounding the problem.
Just because you can’t see these problems doesn’t mean they aren’t present.
Your horse or pony is a long suffering individual and these are chronic, slow developing conditions and only manifest themselves when the equine is in real distress.
What to look for….
- Dry hay is a good yardstick for dental health.
- Does he get through his entire dry hay ration? Yes; That’s good.
- Does he prefer his hay wet? That’s not so good.
- Does he put his hay in his own water bucket? That’s bad.
- Does he chew mouthfuls of hay, and then spit them out? He’s got a real problem.
Are his droppings loose (apart from spring grass)? Bad teeth can cause this.
Whole grains or long fibres in dung mean poor mastication.
Any of the above with weight loss is bad news.
- Increased bit contact, during transitions, changes of pace and direction causes ears laid back, frightened or angry look in eyes.
- Sudden raising of the head, head shaking, leaning on one rein or stiffness on one or both reins in circles.
- Unable to keep in a collected outline without resistance or apparent discomfort.
- Constant bit chewing and profuse salivation.
- Very strong and pulling, often resulting in mouth bleeds and bit damage.
- Bolting and rearing.
Young equines from two years six months to eight years of age should be examined every six months. From eight to twenty years, every twelve months. Over twenty years every six months.
A competent equine dental practitioner should have a full mouth gag and a good light source to enable a thorough examination of the oral cavity. Plus a full set of molar rasps, picks and forceps. Electric powered instruments are often utilised these days.
You should also be provided with a dental treatment chart, showing the condition of your equines dentition, the treatment that has been carried out together with contact details for the practitioner and his or her qualifications.
Kindly written for ERF by Peter Smith EDT, Equine Dental Services (East Anglia)
- TO READ BEFORE GETTING AN EQUINE
So you are thinking about getting an equine?Something that has come to light recently is the number of people who have moved over to France to a property with a bit more land than a garden, and decide to get a horse or donkey to keep the grass down. Yes, these animals make wonderful companions but please realise that they are not merely there to replace your lawnmower. They are a huge commitment both financially and time wise. The points below are not meant to deter you from getting an equine, just to remind you of all the important facts.So, important things to consider are;* Where will you get your horse/pony/donkey from? If you are thinking of rescuing please be aware that some of the animals at fattening farms/dealers yards may not have been handled well and sometimes not at all. Be honest with yourself as to your own capabilities and what you could offer that animal. Do ensure you get a receipt for the animal. Don’t be fooled by everything you are told, go on your own instincts too. Don’t be pushed into buying something if you are not 100% sure. Remember little cute foals can grow into big strong horses! Research into the breed to learn the characteristics and if that would suit you. If unsure, ERF can always offer advice and assist where we can in the rescue of an equine.
* Will the horse/pony/donkey have company? Remember they are herd animals and need the interaction of their own species. Donkeys often prefer donkey company too!
* Fencing…. Barbed wire and sheep mesh is not suitable for horses. Fencing must be of suitable height and strength for the animal you have to prevent it escaping and causing an injury to itself and others.
* How much land you have. You would be surprised how quick one animal can eat through a grassy field. In the UK 1 to 1.5 acres is recommended per horse so depending on what area you are in you may need a bit more if the grass is sparse. Donkeys and small pony breeds do notrequire lush grass. If you are in an area that is very dry in summer you may have to supplement his diet with hay. If your land is prone to being very wet or flooding in the winter you may need stabling also. Strip grazing is sensible if you have a horse susceptible to laminitis or gaining too much weight. Adequate shelter will be needed in the field for the summer as well as winter. Or are you going to rent the land or put the horse at livery?
* Have you the time to donate to your horse to ensure he has interaction and care from you?
* Don’t underestimate the cost of keeping a horse! Routine farriery, worming, dental care and vaccinations are essential as well as appropriate feeding/hay/water and equipment such as tack and rugs if needed. It is wise to have a contingency fund put by just in case you need a vet in an emergency.
* Ensure that your equine practitioner be it vet, farrier etc. comes recommended and has all the necessary qualifications. Choosing somebody just on their English language skills is not always the best option.
* Microchips are now compulsory in France for ALL equines no matter which country your horse originates from. The fine if you get caught is 450 Euros. Microchips also make it easier to reunite stolen and lost equines and verify ownership.
* What is your lifestyle? Do you live over here permanently or is this just a second home? Do you holiday/travel a lot…if so who will check your horse daily?
* Responsible horse ownership sometimes sadly ends with having to have that animal put to sleep because of old age or sickness/injury. The usual method in France is Euthanasia and then the body is taken away by the Equarrisseur. It is not permitted to bury an animal over 40kg and there are no large animal crematoriums. It is not a nice topic to mention but essential as we do see so many old and sick horses ‘dumped’ in yards before being taken off for meat, the last thing we can do for them is give them a dignified farewell.
Regular care of your equines hooves is imperative! Whether shod or left unshod you will need a qualified farrier to attend to your animals feet anywhere between every 4 to 10 weeks depending on the condition of the hoof , ground conditions and what you are doing with him. Hooves that are left to grow too long can have fatal and irreversible consequences for the animal.The pedal bone can start to rotate downwards which will mean excruciating pain. Donkeys and shetlands are not exempt from regular hoof care too…these are the biggest victims of neglect we see with regard to hoof management.
Foals should also have a farrier to them from a month old as their feet grow very quickly and it also educates them from an early age. Remember… do not leave training your horse to your farrier….a well behaved horse means a happier farrier!
Picking out the hooves regularly will allow you to check for things such as Thrush (foul smell), heat, objects in the hoof, loose shoes and condition of the frog.
Learn how to detect a digital pulse in the hoof (fetlock area) which may indicate laminitis or infection.
Unshod horses are more likely to have a faint pulse than shod ones. A thumping pulse is an indicator there is problem so it’s advised to call the vet in this instance. Ask your farrier to show you how to remove a loose or twisted shoe in an emergency, it may save your horse from injuring itself.
Laminitis is a big problem especially with smaller hardy ponies that were never designed to eat a rich grass diet. It can affect all equines though so be aware of the following contributory causes……obesity, what you are feeding him, stress, concussion, infections, eating frosty grass, steroids in injections (ask your vet for non-steroid as steroids are given more often here than in UK). If you notice a strong digital pulse, a stance of him leaning backwards, difficulty or reluctance to walk or pick up the feet please call your vet. If you can get your horse to stand in buckets of ice cold water as soon as you notice signs of laminitis it can help to stop the symptoms progressing. Learn when the safer grazing times are in the day and stable your horse at high risk times. Grazing muzzles are available in France from saddlery’s and mail order companies and help limit the amount of grass ingested. Prevention is better than cure!