Equine Latest News

Colitis in Horses

Monday, July 24, 2017

What is Colitis?
The rapid onset of diarrhoea, with horses often being normal one day then becoming ill and passing watery diarrhoea the next. It is called Colitis as it is the large colon and/or caecum that is involved.

The large colon of horses is full of microorganisms that help the horse digest and absorb food. One type of bacteria has a toxin (endotoxin) attached to its cell wall. In the normal horse, this is not a problem but if there is compromise to the gut wall these bacteria and endotoxins are absorbed into the blood stream and can cause a massive inflammatory response (endotoxaemia) in other organs and tissues. The large colon of the horse is responsible for absorbing a large volume of fluid back into the circulation, so losses can quickly lead to severe dehydration.

Acute diarrhoea in horses can be life-threatening and requires immediate veterinary attention.

How do horses get Colitis?
Factors that are thought to predispose horses to acute diarrhea include stressful situations such as transportation, new environments, rapidly changed management, excessive grain engorgement and antibiotics. It is the overgrowth of bacteria and damage to the gut wall that leads to the diarrhoea and these horses quickly deteriorate.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Colitis?

Horses that have developed acute diarrhea will often appear dull, have a high heart rate, injected gums, increased temperature and have signs of dehydration. These horses can also show signs of colic, often preceding the diarrhoea, but they might also remain uncomfortable throughout the disease. On a blood profile, these horses often have extremely low white cell counts and can also have signs of kidney damage due to the poor circulation to the kidneys.

How is Colitis Treated?
Treatment needs to be rapid these horses will often need large volumes of intravenous fluids to replace deficits and keep up with the losses in diarrhoea. Careful use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as flunixin is often used to provide pain relief and to reduce the effects of the endotoxin. Complications of Colitis include laminitis and therefore constant icing of the distal limbs and sole support is required until the endotoxaemia has resolved.

As the cause of the diarrhoea is often infectious, horses are required to be isolated and proper biosecurity protocols observed to avoid infection of other horses, as well as their handlers.

On a positive note, recovery and return to athletic function of these horses is usually very good, provided there has been no secondary effects such as laminitis or renal failure.

My Horse has been referred to U-Vet Equine Centre for Colitis, what do should I do next?
You can contact U-Vet Werribee Equine Centre on 03 9731 2268 and speak to one of our friendly receptionists who will make sure we have all the relevant information for your horse including your referring veterinarian details.

When you arrive with your horse it is important to leave your horse on the float and come see Equine Reception first. One of our dedicated Equine Nurses will then assist you to admit your horse into our isolation stables. As Colitis is often infectious it is important the correct biosecurity measures are taken. Once your horse has been admitted to hospital our team of Specialist Equine Medicine Veterinarians will be in regular contact with you and your referring veterinarian to work out the best plan of action for treatment. The U-Vet Werribee Equine Centre is a 24 hour hospital, while your horse is in hospital with us you can be assured they are receiving the best care and treatment available 24 hours of the day.     

Deworming Horses

Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Resistance of intestinal parasites in horses to commonly used dewormers is becoming increasingly recognised. Therefore deworming recommendations for adult horses have changed in recent years to reduce resistance of parasites to dewormers in our horses.

The main intestinal parasites of concern in horses are the small strongyles or cyathostomins. These recommendations are for cyathostomin control in ADULThorses; i.e. they DO NOT APPLY TO FOALS. Small strongyles cause disease because larval stages burrow into the wall of the colon where they form cysts around themselves and can remain dormant for extended periods of time. This can interfere with normal function of the colon, or if mass emergence of larvae from the cysts occurs severe colitis (diarrhoea) can result.

The main goals of a deworming strategy are to prevent parasitic disease by minimising pasture contamination with parasite eggs, and minimise the development of parasite resistance to dewormers.We can do this by reducing the numbers of eggs laid by adult worms, and also where possible removal of faeces from paddocks before eggs develop to infective larvae. The preservation of refugia (population of worms that have not developed resistance to dewormers) can be achieved by NOT deworming all horses. Selective deworming acknowledges that horses don’t need to be parasite-free in order to prevent clinical disease, and in fact, that achieving a parasite-free horse is neither possible nor desirable. It also considers egg reappearance periods (the length of time from deworming until eggs can be found in faeces again) in determining when and how often to use different anthelmintics.

This method relies on the identification of horses that are shedding large numbers of parasite eggs onto the pasture, as these horses are the main culprits contaminating the pasture for everyone. Only these individuals are dewormed, thus minimising pasture contamination. A faecal egg count (FEC) is performed on each horse at intervals according to the egg reappearance period of the dewormer being used, and horses are categorised as high shedders (those with a FEC of greater than 500 eggs per gram [EPG]), moderate shedders (200-500 EPG) and low shedders (FEC of less than 200 EPG). All the high shedders are selected for treatment. In some instances, some moderate shedders may also require treatment, for example if they are showing clinical signs of parasitic disease. Dewormers are selected based on an initial faecal egg count reduction test, which makes sure there isn’t already resistance to the dewormer selected, so we know it is effective.

What do you need to do?
  • Talk to your vet about starting a selective deworming program on your farm.
  • Perform faecal egg counts. Start by doing a faecal egg count reduction test (take a FEC, deworm your horse with the product you wish to use, then repeat the FEC in 14 days’ time). This will tell you if you have resistance to that particular dewormer. Faecal egg counts should then be repeated at regular intervals – talk to your vet about the egg reappearance period of your dewormer, most are around 8 weeks. 
  • When you get your FEC results, select the horses with high FECs (>500 EPG) for deworming. Talk to your vet about any horses that have a moderate (200-500 EPG) FEC about whether they should be dewormed as well.
  • Avoid using dewormers that target the encysted larvae, such as moxidectin, on a regular basis. These dewormers should be reserved for horses that need treatment for parasitic disease.
  • Keep pastures as clean as possible. It takes at least 2 days (longer in cold weather) for eggs to hatch and develop to infective larvae that horses ingest. This is an ideal window to remove faeces from paddocks if possible, which will go a long way to reducing the number of worm eggs and larvae on the pasture.
  • Once a year, preferably in autumn, all horses should be dewormed with a product containing praziquantel for possible tapeworm infections.
  • Tell your friends! This works best if everyone does it, so spread the word!



Behavioural Clinics

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Dr Andrew McLean is widely considered one of the leading academic experts on horse training. He is a winner of Australia’s highest science award, the Eureka Science Prize and in 2013 won the John H Daniels Fellowship to the USA sporting library and was instrumental in forming the International Society for Equitation Science, for which he is an Honorary Fellow. Andrew has written 5 books on horse training, including one academic text, Equitation Science. He has also made 5 contributions to The Encyclopaedia of Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare and has authored and co-authored 36 papers for scientific journals.

Andrew has had a strong competitive career in horse sports spanning 25 years. In 1989, Andrew won Australia’s premier Horse Trials, the Gawler Three Day Event, and represented Australia in Horse Trials that year. In 1990 he was short-listed for the World Championships in Stockholm. In dressage he has competed to FEI level and trained horses to Grand Prix and he has trained and ridden to Grand Prix in Show-jumping. He has also held a race trainer’s license and has ridden in bareback races in Australia and New Zealand.

Andrew has been an equestrian coach for over 25 years and owing to his broad knowledge of equine psychology, has coached some of the world’s greatest riders, coaches and trainers and reformed internationally competitive horses up to Olympic Games and World Championship level, as well as some top Australian racehorses. Andrew is most widely known for his work in behaviour modification in sport horses and his development of the Australian Equine Behaviour Centre. In addition to training horses, Andrew has also developed successful foundation training programmes for working elephants implemented in Nepal, India, Thailand and Myanmar through his co-founded charity foundation, Human Elephant Learning Programs (HELP).

More information about Andrew’s training programs and the Australian Equine Behaviour Centre can be found here www.esi-education.com
If you would like further information about booking an appointment with Andrew, please call the Equine Centre on 03 9731 2268 during business hours.

Foaling Season Tips- U-Vet Equine Centre

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Foaling Season Tips

Foaling season is now in full swing and many of us are smiling as we watch happy healthy foals bouncing around the paddocks! Sadly not every foaling will go to plan and we have already had a number of sick foals in our hospital. Below are a few tips of what to look out for at this exciting but critical time of the year.  
The normal gestation period for horses is 340 days but mare’s can foal normally 1-2 weeks (or longer!) either side of this. Each mare tends to have the same gestational length each year and knowing this can help estimate the due date much more accurately for an individual mare. The mare’s udder begins to develop (‘bag up’) roughly 3-4 weeks prior to foaling and will ‘wax up’ (with a waxy deposit appearing on the teats) sometime between a couple of days and a few hours before foaling.

The foaling process itself can be broken down into 3 stages with mares often foaling in the early hours of the morning (much to the despair of those on foal watch!).

Stage 1, prior to delivery, the mare can appear restless, sweaty, urinate frequently, and show mild discomfort or colic. This stage can last up to 12 hours.

Stage 2 begins when the mare’s water breaks and the powerful waves of contractions that deliver the foal begin. The white amniotic sac should be seen within 5 minutes of the water breaking, followed by the front hooves and the muzzle. Stage 2 should last no longer than 20-30 minutes.

Stage 3 is the expulsion of the placenta (“afterbirth”). This should occur within 30 minutes to 3 hours of the foetus being delivered. If the placenta has not been expelled within this time-frame, you should contact a veterinarian immediately, as serious complications can occur in mares that retain their placenta. It is always good to assess the placenta for completeness to ensure none has been left behind as this too can lead to devastating problems for the mare.

For each of the three stages, if there are any signs of severe pain or haemorrhage or the stage lasts longer than normal, the mare should be carefully assessed as it may indicate a serious complication.

Following birth, the foal needs to be monitored closely to ensure that it is healthy and making appropriate progress. A normal foal will sit upright within the first few minutes after birth and should stand within 1 hour. The suckle reflex develops within 20 minutes and most normal foals will successfully nurse within 2 hours. Healthy foals should be bright and inquisitive and interact with the mare and surroundings. It can take more than 24 hours to pass meconium (first manure) and more than 12 hours to urinate for the first time. However, if there are any signs of abdominal discomfort (colic) or abdominal distension, a vet should be called to examine the foal as soon as possible.

When should you call a veterinarian?

A veterinarian should be called before the foal is born if:

  • the mare begins running or leaking milk (“premature lactation”) or the udder develops too early as this can indicate infection within the uterus
  • the mare experiences recurrent colic (abdominal pain) or serious disease during pregnancy
  • there is sudden abdominal enlargement
  • gestation is longer than usual
  • the mare is in poor body condition
  • there is inadequate udder development prior to the expected delivery date

A veterinarian should be called during foaling if:

  • the foal gets stuck in the birth canal (“dystocia”)
    - This is a real emergency and a veterinarian must be called immediately if the foal is to survive! 
  • a “red bag delivery” (premature placental separation) occurs.
    - In a Red Bag deliver, a red velvety tissue appears at the vulva instead of the normal white amniotic sac. In these situations, the foal must be delivered as quickly as possible so it can start breathing!
  • the foal or foetal fluids are stained with meconium
  • the placenta (“afterbirth”) appears abnormal or hasn’t been passed within 3 hours
    - You can also weigh the placenta - a placenta weighing more than 11% of the foal’s body weight or less than 8% is abnormal

A veterinarian should be called after foaling if the foal:

  • has not stood within 2 hours
  • has not nursed from the mare within 3 hours
  • shows signs of colic or abdominal discomfort or the abdomen becomes distended
  • has a reduced suckle or seems to have lost interest in nursing from the mare
  • is nursing less frequently or the mare’s udder appears full (squirting milk)
  • is sleeping more than normal
  • appears jaundiced (yellow discolouration of the gums and around the eyes)
  • has swollen joint or becomes lame
  • develops diarrhoea especially if the foal appears depressed or sick
  • has swelling, discharge or pain of the umbilicus (navel)
  • is not gaining weight and, especially, if it is losing weight
    - Thoroughbred sized foals should gain 1-1.5 kg daily
  • has a immunoglobulin G (IgG) concentration of less than 800 mg/dL at 24 hours of age
    - Most vets will be able to test this and this is part of the normal post-foal check performed by many veterinarians


Dummy Foal Treatment - U-Vet Equine Centre

Friday, February 26, 2016

Alice is a 2 week old Warmblood foal owned by Coldstream Park Warmblood Stud, she was foaled early in the morning of the 28th of January. Staff at the stud realised she wasn’t right when she was unable to stand, they immediately rushed the mare and foal to U-Vet Equine Centre, Werribee.

Alice went under the care of our specialist medicine team Dr Brett Tennent-Brown, Dr Jenny Bauquier, Dr Cristina Rosales and Dr Nick Bamford who diagnosed her with Neonatal Encephalopathy (Dummy Foal Syndrome).

Twenty four hour intensive care was required over the first 5 days of hospitalisation including turning her every 2 hours whilst in recumbency, assisting to stand, nutritional support via a nasogastric tube, intravenous fluid support, intranasal oxygen and antimicrobial therapy.

Alice improved slowly and by day 10 of hospitalisation she started to show normal behaviour and suckle from her dam.

Alice returned home to Coldstream Park Warmblood stud and was monitored closely by stud staff and her regular veterinarian at Yarra Ranges Animal Hospital.

Prompt recognition of symptoms of Neonatal Encephalopathy such as the inability to stand within an hour and the inability to nurse within 2 hours along with admission to a 24 hour emergency care hospital are essential factors in the survival of dummy foals.


Strangles diagnostic testing
& outbreak control

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Strangles diagnostic testing and outbreak control:

Centre for Equine Infectious Disease (Melbourne University)

  • Strangles is caused by Streptococcus equi (S. equi).
    Strangles is the most frequently diagnosed infectious diseases of horses world-wide.
  • In Victoria strangles is a notifiable disease under the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994, and must be reported within seven days.
Diagnostic testing
  • Antibody testing: (Please call James Gilkerson 03 83449969, or Nino Ficorilli 03 8344 7370). CEID currently offers an ELISA test (developed at the Animal Health Trust in the UK) to determine if horses have been recently exposed to S. equi. Requires two blood samples collected 10-14 days apart.
  • Bacteriological testing: (Please call J Gilkerson 03 83449969, or N Ficorilli 03 8344 7370). CEID currently offers bacteriological culture from nasal swab, naso-pharyngeal swab, guttural pouch lavage, or nasal lavage samples to detect infectious S. equi. Polymerase chain reaction testing (developed at the Animal Health Trust in the UK) to detect the presence of S. equi DNA will be available by Christmas 2015. Aspiration of pus from an unburst, abscessed lymph node is the sample of choice from which to culture to make the initial microbiological diagnosis.
Clinical signs of strangles
  • Include fever, loss of appetite, depression, coughing, thick nasal discharge and pain, swelling and abscess formation in the lymph nodes under the jaw and in the throat region.
  • Not all horses in an outbreak will develop all of these clinical signs.
Treatment of cases of strangles
  • Primarily supportive therapy.
  • Includes nursing care and anti-inflammatory medication.
Management of strangles outbreaks 
  • Strict biosecurity policies are recommended to reduce the spread of the disease, including isolation of affected horses, screening in contact horses by blood tests and determining if exposed horses are infectious by bacteriological testing.
James Gilkerson
BVSc, BSc (Vet), PhD
Professor of Veterinary Microbiology
Centre for Equine Infectious Disease