AAEP Ask the Vet: Preparing for a New Foal

Preparing for a New Foal
  1.  I am an owner of an equine facility. I require my boarders to have appropriate vaccines instructed by our veterinarian. Many of our boarders haul in and out for events, hence exposed to different environments. However, it is not local protocal to require proof of vaccines for horses that are hauling in for lessons or an event held at my facility. How do I assure my boarders that haul in horses do not put the board horses at risk of additional exposure without proof of vaccinations? I am also concerned about diseases to broodmares that are present at my facility. 

    This is a good question and a common concern in facilities with many horses that come and go. Couple that with haul-in lessons and shows or events that occur at your facility, it can get complicated. I will give you some recommendations that you might want to consider. 

    It is widely accepted and usually required that all horses coming to a facility for an event or show should have a negative coggins test within 12 months. This should not be difficult to require. For return clients, such as those taking lessons, you can keep a copy of the coggins in your file, and request a copy annually.

    Vaccine requirements are a bit more difficult. To keep this simple, I would limit vaccination requirements to Influenza and EHV1 and EHV4 (equine rhinopneumonitis). There has been much press about EHV outbreaks at racetracks and equestrian events. There are event facilities in my area (Texas) that require proof of vaccination within 6 months. FEI regulations are to be vaccinated no closer than 21 days before a competition and no later than 6 months.

    These two viral infections are highly contagious and have caused quarantine of affected facilities. Vaccine protocols can vary for other diseases and you likely do not want to impose your requirements on those whose veterinarian might have a different protocol. For example, some veterinarians may recommend Strangles vaccination (another respiratory contagious disease) for all show horses. Others may consider those over 5 years old, or, those that have had the disease unnecessary to vaccinate.

    EHV is a cause of abortion in mares, and it is common to vaccinate pregnant mares at the 5th 7th and 9th month of pregnancy. Just one other reason you might want to require all horses entering your facility to have proof of vaccination within 6 months.

    Bottom line, you can require whatever you wish on horses coming to your facility. You can make it so complicated that you lose business, or, rational requirements will keep your boarders happier and help minimize disease outbreaks. Proof of influenza/rhinopnuemonitis vaccine is not overbearing. This would require an updated passport, or a simple invoice from the riders veterinarian that states what vaccine was given and the date administered. 

    Your question could open a can of worms about vaccine protocol and shows or events. I think this is a practical way to handle your concerns and hopefully keep your boarders happy. Mark Haugland, DVM, DACVS, The Woodlands, Texas

    1.  I have been using Diatomaceous Earth as a daily dewormer. My veterinarian is suggesting adding Equimax and then Quest paste. I was reading about kill overload of dead worms. The worm fecal egg count (FEC) is 115. Do you see any concerns? Would there be any concerns for also using this same routine on a broodmare? 

      Today much more emphasis is placed on individual animal deworming programs as opposed to herd deworming programs, which has been the standard over many years. There is concern of resistance to dewormers and there is abundant evidence to prove this resistance.

      Diatomaceous earth is considered ineffective at controlling parasite load in horses. There are few concerns about using diatomaceous earth, but it is not recommended as a parasiticide. You may ask, if it is not effective then why is the fecal egg count 115, which is considered a light shedder? This would suggest that your horse has good immunity and should only need deworming twice annually. The moxidectin or ivermectin products are a good addition as recommended by your veterinarian. This will also kill bots and, if you get the product with praziquantal, tapeworms are taken care of as well. 

      This program is safe for a broodmare, but the fundamental aspect of your question is parasite control. Guidelines for this are based on a fecal egg count reduction test. You have obviously done this in the horse that has a 115 count. However, deworming schedules change depending on the egg count. For example:

      Light shedder: 200 or less

      Moderate shedder:  200-500

      Heavy shedder:  greater than 500

      Based on the egg count, your veterinarian will prescribe a deworming program tailored to the specific horse. In short, the higher the egg count, the more frequently you should deworm. Therefore, the program advised for the horse in your question could be different than one prescribed for your broodmare or any other horse. It all hinges on the egg count. Consult your veterinarian for his/her protocol on egg counts for your farm. He/she will then analyze the results and tailor a program for all your horses based on which category the individual horse falls into. Mark Haugland, DVM, DACVS, The Woodlands, Texas

      1.  My question pertains to when is the best time to geld a colt. I live in New York with real winters and would like to get my now 9-month-old colt gelded before spring is in full swing. I have contacted my local equine veterinarian to set up a date but was told it was too cold and needed to wait until it warms up. I asked what would be suitable temps and didn't receive a proper answer just that it be warmer when the ground isn't frozen. With that said, there will be mud everywhere and infection risks will increase. I do have shelter for my horses so the procedure wouldn't have to be performed outside in the weather or on frozen ground. Yet they refuse to perform castrations and didn't schedule for an appointment. I was told I could bring him into the clinic and have it done there however, that isn't an option. My question to you is can you give me an idea what temperatures would be needed for getting my colt gelded? 

        It is best to castrate when the temperature is above freezing. Remember, the horse will need exercise and possibly hydrotherapy on the area to minimize swelling and pain. Your veterinarian gave you the correct advice to wait for warmer weather or perform the surgery at the hospital. You may have an enclosed area but it may not be acceptable for recovering a horse from anesthesia. Your veterinarians recommendation has your horses best interest at mind. Remember, castration and anesthesia is a stressful event for a horse. Cold weather, particulary in your area of the states, are experiencing unusual cold, which adds to the stress and can be as likely a cause for infection as mud in the spring. I live in Texas and have a castration scheduled for today (January 24). We have rescheduled that procedure due to cold weather and ice. Our temperature is only in the upper 20's. Your veterinarian is giving sound advice. My personal opinion is that 12 to 18 months of age is the best time to castrate unless the horse is unruly and a danger to himself or other horses. Mark Haugland, DVM, DACVS, The Woodlands, Texas

        1.  We all know that blanketing a horse in the winter is a difficult decision sometimes, especially if it is a mare in foal. Is this a safe option? Also, a blanket flattens the winter coat. What I\'ve never seen answered is how long does the coat take to "fluff" back up? 

          There is no exact answer to how long it will take for the hair coat to "fluff" out after blanketing. Hair coat during the winter months is largely determined by length of daylight and ambient temperature.  Other factors include grooming practices, breed, some medical conditions and some medications. It is safe to blanket a broodmare but advised to remove the blanket when close to foaling. A horse that is blanketed daily when the temperature is below 40 degrees and is groomed daily can take 2 to 4 weeks to "fluff out". If you only blanket intermittently, say only when a freeze is expected, then the hair coat will stay dense. In southern climates, where I am, broodmares are generally not blanketed. In harsher northern climates, many broodmares are blanketed daily and moved into a warm enclosed foaling stall 2 to 4 weeks prior to delivery and the blanket is removed. I have seen mares foal with a blanket on, but this is not recommended as limbs can become entangled in the straps and it can be more difficult for the foal to nurse, not to mention trapping its neck in the straps. Hope this helps. Mark Haugland, DVM, DACVS, The Woodlands, Texas