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Let’s flush out facts about ‘choke’

By Daniel H. Grove, DVM - January 1st, 2018

AskTheVetChoke in the horse is a common problem we see in equine practice. We were asked about choke and how to prevent it, so let’s discuss what it is, what you can do, what we as veterinarians can do and some tips on prevention and management.

Before we go any further, let’s define what choke is in horses. It is when the esophagus gets obstructed, usually with feed material. The esophagus is the tube that carries masticated (“chewed up”) food and saliva from the mouth to the stomach. When the esophagus is blocked, saliva and food material back up in the back of the oral cavity in the area called the pharynx. When this occurs, the common clinical signs are copious amounts of fluid mixed with feed draining from the nose, a desire to eat but not actually eating, cough, extending of the neck and lowering the head.

The pre-purchase exam

By Daniel M.Grove, DVM - December 1st, 2017

AskTheVetThe pre-purchase exam is done when looking at a horse to buy, and you are looking for a professional, objective opinion on a horse prior to purchasing it.  Each practitioner is most likely going to use their own method to do it and will include or exclude certain things based on their training and experience.  The way I do my exams, they are broken down into two distinct different sections.

The Physical

The first part of the exam, I start with an in-depth physical exam.  I start at the nose and work my way back.  I look in the mouth to check the gums.  Next, I run fingers over the teeth to check for current floating status.  I move next to the eyes.  First, I check the menace response which involves moving toward the eye to see if the horse blinks.  After that, I use my ophthalmoscope to do an exam of the back of the eye, called the fundus.  I examine the optic nerve and the retina.  I move to the ears, looking for parasites or masses.

The diagnosis of pain

By Daniel H. Grove, DVM - November 1st, 2017

AskTheVetLameness in horses is one of the most common issues for which an ambulatory practitioner is called. Horses are athletes that work hard and use four limbs to get that work done. Just as with human athletes, horses get injured. One thing that makes diagnosing the problem more challenging is that they do not tell us exactly where it hurts. This month, let us go through the basics of the lameness exam and some of the more common tools available to us to diagnose the problem.

The lameness exam usually involves first determining which limb(s) is/are sore. This usually involves jogging the horse, as this a symmetrical two-beat gait. Once the limb is identified, now we have to determine where the pain is coming from. Commonly, practitioners start with the hoof and work their way up. The hoof can be visually examined, palpated, and pain can be elicited with hoof testers. Next, you can move up the limb checking for swelling or heat. Often times in the back of the pastern or fetlock, you can feel for an increased digital pulse. This can be an indicator of inflammation in the hoof.

The ‘to-do list’ when Fall arrives

By Daniel M. Grove, DVM - October 1st, 2017

AskTheVetFall is a great time of year. Temperatures start to decrease, the leaves start to change, and the major holidays are right around the corner. Before life gets away from you with family, don’t forget about your horses. In the fall, there are some routine things that you should be looking at.

This time of year, showing is usually still going strong. In order to keep your athlete ready for the task, make sure you are up to date on vaccines and deworming. In the spring, most people get their major vaccines done. Influenza and Rhinopneumonitis vaccines work well, but not for very long. It is estimated that the antibody levels they stimulate subside in seven to eight months. Therefore, it is usually recommended to give a six-month booster in the fall for these two ailments. This vaccine is typically much cheaper than the ones in the spring. There are intramuscular and intranasal products available. Discuss with your veterinarian what will work best for you.

Understanding EPM

By Daniel M. Grove, DVM - September 1st, 2017

AskTheVetEquine Protozoal Myeloenchephalitis (EPM) is a neurologic disease in horses. It can cause a debilitating disease that can lead a horse down a path of changes that can be difficult to diagnose. In this column, let’s discuss what causes it, how we diagnose it, and how we treat it.

EPM is currently known to be caused by one of two protozoans, Sarcocystis neurona and Neosporoa hughesi. A protozoa is a single-celled organism. S. neurona is the most common cause, and we will focus on this particular organism. In the normal life cycle of the organism, the definitive host — or the one where reproduction of the protozoa occurs — is the opossum. The organism also has an intermediate host which can be a variety of animals, such as certain armadillos, racoons and skunks.

AskTheVetThe last year in California has been an excellent year for rainfall. For most of the state, the drought has been declared over. With the extra moisture, plants thrived and grew, but so did the bugs. Flies are buzzing us — and our horses. With them comes a nasty skin condition known as cutaneous habronemiasis, more commonly called “summer sores”.

Hot topic: Summer’s first heat wave

by Dr. Daniel H. Grove, DVM - July 1st, 2017

AskTheVetSummer is here and we are experiencing our first heat wave of the season and it is hot, hot, hot!  I think this is a great time to revisit a couple of different subjects we have talked about in the past, dealing with the heat and traveling with our horses.

Let’s start with tips for the heat. In the hot weather, there are some key points to keep in mind to help your horse through the extreme temperatures:

1. Provide access to plenty of fresh, cool, clean water. Horses can consume large quantities of water in the heat to aid in cooling and staying hydrated. Give it to them!

Insurance and horses today

by Daniel H. Grove, DVM - June 1st, 2017

AskTheVetInsurance. It has become commonplace in today’s society. It has even been legislated into our lives with automobile insurance and health insurance. The idea behind insurance is that many people make small payments into a large pot so that those who need the money for the insured occurrence get a payout for said occurrence.

Well, like almost anything you would like to insure, our pets have insurance available. This includes horses. As medicine advances, it also becomes more expensive. Our pets have newer surgical techniques, advanced imaging modalities, even cutting-edge treatments. All of these things cost more and more money. Society’s view of how we feel and to what lengths we will go for our pets has changed greatly. The length to which we will go to save an animal’s life means we will most likely be spending more money on our animals. Let’s take a peek at what is available to us to help mitigate the higher costs of equine ownership and also protecting the investment we make in these animals.

Equine dentistry

Dr. Daniel H. Grove, DVM - May 1st, 2017

AskTheVetEquine dentistry has exploded over the past 10 to 15 years. When I was growing up, the veterinarian or the farrier would pull out a couple of hand floats or old rasps and grind down the sharp hooks that develop on the molars and premolars of horses’ teeth. Let’s have a look at the type of teeth horses have and why they need to be floated or filed down.

Horses have what are called hypsodont teeth. These teeth have a large “crown” or top portion of tooth that has enamel. Unlike us, where we have enamel on the outside of our crown only, horses have layers of enamel throughout the crown. This design is great for what horses are intended to eat. Horses are grazers that should be eating roughage for around eighteen hours a day. This roughage is very fibrous and can contain silica or other hard materials that are abrasive and wear down the tooth. Not only are these teeth stronger and able to take the abuse, but horses have what is termed “reserve crown”. This reserve crown is below the gum-line and continuously is erupting throughout the adult life of the horse until it runs out. Usually in their 20s or 30s, the reserve crown is exhausted, and whatever is left is what they have to work with.

A look at complementary medicine

by Dr. Daniel H. Grove, DVM - April 1st, 2017

AskTheVetMedicine, whether veterinary or human, is always evolving. New and ancient modalities are constantly being explored to best serve our patients. What used to be called “eastern medicine” or “alternative medicine”, has now earned the term “complementary medicine”. This month, I thought we might discuss complementary medicine and some of the types we may see in our equine patients.

A chiropractor diagnoses and treats problems with our backs and other areas of the body. In veterinary medicine, the term to this type of practitioner is a Certified Veterinary Medical Manipulation Practitioner (CVMMP). Now, that is a mouthful! CVMMPs adjust the backs, hips, necks and other parts of the body. Often times their additional training makes them excellent at lameness detection. They manipulate various parts of the equine body that may be out of alignment. They do an excellent job at keeping our equine athletes at the top of their game!