Health & Wellness Exam
We strongly believe that every horse should have an annual physical exam. Exams are usually done at the same time as vaccinations. It is best for you to be present so we can discuss your animal’s condition . We listen to heart and lungs, examine the eyes with an ophthalmoscope, and check the teeth (see dentistry). Weight, hair coat and feet are all observed and discussed. The purpose is to catch small problems that can be easily fixed before they become major.
Pre Purchase Exams
Whether you are buying an expensive imported world champion, or getting a backyard pony for your daughter, a pre purchase is critical in the process. Buying a horse is not unlike buying a house — It is your job to fall in love, and ours to look it over with a critical eye. We check the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, vision, teeth, conformation, attitude, soundness, and neurological system. Sometimes we take radiographs. We always draw a blood sample for future testing if it becomes necessary. Pre purchases are an involved process that takes over an hour, and, while there are no guarantees with horses, it can save you thousands of dollars and years of heartbreak down the road. I recommend a pre purchase for any horse owner, even if the exam costs more than the horse (and yes, people do that!).
The AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) recommends that each horse receive the following “core” vaccines annually:
- Eastern and Western Encephalitis
- West Nile
There are many other vaccines available, and whether we recommend them or not depends on where you live and what you will be doing with your horse this year. Following is a list of the more common ones:
- Potomac Horse Fever
- Venezuelan Encephalitis
We believe in risk based vaccinations. That means that we only want to vaccinate when there is a reasonable risk that your horse might need protection from a particular disease. We do not believe in giving vaccines that are not necessary to your situation. We are conscious that over vaccinating can be a problem. It is our intent to discuss this with you on a horse by horse basis before we ever stick a needle in a vaccine vial.
Sometimes physical exams don’t tell us everything we need to know about an animal’s condition. Blood or tissue samples (biopsies) taken from your horse may help us come to a diagnosis. The basic lab test is the CBC and blood chemistry. We get about 30 different values from this blood test. It is so informative that it has been described as a body scan and includes:
- The numbers and types of white and red cells
- Types of protein and their ratios to other types
- Electrolyte values such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium
- Enzymes levels that tell us about muscle or organ damage
- Blood sugar
Lab work can be expensive, but the results are often invaluable because we get help in knowing how to proceed with your horse’s treatment. We send our samples to a number of different labs across the country, depending on what we are testing for and the relative strengths of each lab. There are also a few simple lab tests we do right here in the office. When we feel that taking a sample from your horse would be important, we will discuss it with you. It will always be your decision whether to proceed.
We have learned the hard way. Horses will always have parasites. We used to try to kill them all by worming every 8 weeks, and it just didn’t work. In fact, the result has been tougher worms, resistant to most wormers. We are now following the recommendations of parasitologists who suggest identifying the 10% of horses that harbor 90% of the parasites on any one farm. Once we identify those “shedders” we de-worm them more frequently. The rest we de-worm minimally. For more information see the article “Changes in De-worming” written by Dr J.
We identify who is carrying the high worm load with a fecal exam. To do this properly we need to do the test on every equine in the barn, even the little pony who is just hanging out. We need just one manure ball from each horse in a ziplock bag with your name and the horse’s name written with permanent marker on the bag. You can mail the samples or put them in the styrofoam box in our barn (call ahead to let us know when you are coming). In either case we should get them by Thursday. Click here to download and print the fecal submission slip to go with the sample.