When I think of the Fourth of July, I think of a fun time with my family and friends. Typically, I am not thinking of the potentially hazardous effects the fireworks may have on my animals…. Why would you? However, the truth is, the boom of the fireworks and the bright and sudden flashes can not only cause our horses severe anxiety but may also lead to injury.
Have you ever been in the dark and someone shines a flashlight in your eyes? What happens? You see spots. You are momentarily unable to see. Your balance gets thrown off and you can’t tell what is right in front of you. Well, imagine a horse. He is in a dark paddock and suddenly flashes of light momentarily blind him and add in the boom…recipe for disaster. Not only can he barely see but he spooks from the noise. The results could be anxiety to tripping and breaking a leg. That being said, I have included some useful information below for ways to safeguard your horse this July 4th.
For the past 6 weeks, my horse has been receiving Ozonetherapy to aid in his chronic back leg related issues- dermatitis (“scratches”), previous DDFT tendon laceration, a history of Lymphingitis, and the residual scar tissue from his DDFT injury. Due to his age (27), he lacks proper circulation in his hind end which does not help him fight his pastern dermatitis.
According to the American Academy of Ozonetherapy, Ozonetherapy is described as;
“Ozonotherapy is the use of medical grade ozone, a highly reactive form of pure oxygen, to create a curative response in the body. The body has the potential to renew and regenerate itself. When it becomes sick it is because this potential has been blocked. The reactive properties of ozone stimulate the body to remove many of these impediments thus allowing the body to do what it does best – heal itself.”
“Ozonotherapy has been and continues to be used in European clinics and hospitals for over fifty years. It was even used here in the United States in a limited capacity in the early part of the 20th century. There are professional medical ozonotherapy societies in over ten countries worldwide. Recently, the International Scientific Committee on Ozonotherapy (ISCO3) was formed to help establish standardized scientific principles for ozonotherapy. The president of the AAO, Frank Shallenberger, MD is a founding member of the ISCO3.”
“Ozonotherapy was introduced into the United States in the early 80’s, and has been increasingly used in recent decades. It has been found useful in various diseases;
- It activates the immune system in infectious diseases.
- It improves the cellular utilization of oxygen that reduces ischemia in cardiovascular diseases, and in many of the infirmities of aging.
- It causes the release of growth factors that stimulate damaged joints and degenerative discs to regenerate.
- It can dramatically reduce or even eliminate many cases of chronic pain through its action on pain receptors.
- Published papers have demonstrated its healing effects on interstitial cystitis, chronic hepatitis, herpes infections, dental infections, diabetes, and macular degeneration.”
After doing research and speaking to one of my good friends, we determined that Chance’s flare up of Lymphingitis, after almost 3 years of not a single issue, could possibly be caused by his immune system’s response to Ozonetherapy. Let me explain.
Chance suffers from persistent Pastern dermatitis (“scratches”) since I purchased him in 2000. I have tried everything- antibiotics, every cream and ointment and spray for scratches, diaper rash ointment, iodine and vaseline mix, Swat, laser treatments, scrubs and shampoos, shaving the area, wrapping the area, light therapy…you name it, I have tried it. So, when we began Ozonetherapy to help break down the left over scar tissue from his old DDFT injury, I noticed that his scratches were drying up and falling off. We continued administering the Ozonetherapy once a week for about 6 weeks. The improvement was dramatic!
However, one day Chance woke up with severe swelling in his left hind leg and obviously, he had difficulty walking. He received Prevacox and was stall bound for 24 hours. The vet was called and she arranged to come out the following day. The next morning, Chance’s left leg was still huge and he was having trouble putting weight on it. I did the typical leg treatments- icing, wrapping. The swelling remained. I tried to get him out of his stall to cold hose his leg and give him a bath but he would not budge. He was sweaty and breathing heavily and intermittently shivering. So, I gave him an alcohol and water sponge bath and continued to ice his back legs. I sat with him for 4 hours waiting for the vet to arrive. He had a fever and wasn’t interested in eating and his gut sounds were not as audible. He was drinking, going to the bathroom, and engaging with me. I debated giving him Banamine but did not want it to mask anything when the vet did arrive.
The vet arrived, gave him a shot of Banamine and an antihistamine and confirmed that Chance had a fever of 102 degrees and had Lymphingitis. There was no visible abrasion, puncture, or lump… I asked the vet to do x-rays to ensure that he did not have a break in his leg. The x-rays confirmed that there was no break. The vet suggested a regiment of antibiotics, steroids (I really am against using steroids due to the short-term and long-term side effects but in this case, I would try anything to make sure he was comfortable) , prevacox, and a antacid to protect Chance from stomach related issues from the medications. It was also advised to continue to cold hose or ice and keep his legs wrapped and Chance stall bound.
The following day, Chance’s legs were still swollen but his fever had broken. The vet called to say that the CBC had come back and that his WBC was about 14,00o. She suggested that we stop the steroids and do the antibiotic 2x a day and add in Banamine. I asked her if she could order Baytril (a strong antibiotic that Chance has responded well to in the past) just in case. And that is what we did.
Being as Chance had such a strong reaction to whatever it was, I did some thinking, discussing, and researching…first and foremost, why did Chance have such an extreme flare up of Lymphingitis when he was the healthiest he has ever been? And especially since he had not had a flare up in 3+ years…plus, his scratches were getting better not worse. The Ozonetherapy boosted his immune system and should provide him with a stronger defense against bacteria, virus’, etc. So why exactly was he having a flare up? And that is when it hit me!
In the past when Chance began his regiment of Transfer Factor (an all natural immune booster), he broke out in hives. The vet had come out and she felt it was due to the Transfer Factor causing his immune system to become “too strong” and so it began fighting without there being anything to fight, thus the hives. My theory- Chance started the Ozonetherapy and his body began to fight off the scratches by boosting his immune system. As the treatments continued, his immune system began to attack the scratches tenfold. This resulted in his Lymphatic system to respond, his WBC to increase, and his body temperature to spike. Makes sense…but what can I do to ensure this is not going to happen again?
My friend suggested attacking the antibiotic resistant bacteria by out smarting them…okay, that seems simple enough…we researched the optimal enviroments for the 3 types of bacteria present where Chance’s scratches are (shown in the results of a past skin scape test). The bacteria – E. Coli, pseudomonas aeruginosa and providencia Rettgeri. The literature stated that PA was commonly found in individuals with diabetes…diabetes…SUGAR! How much sugar was in Chance’s feed? I looked and Nutrina Safe Choice Senior feed is low in sugar…so that is not it. What else can we find out? The optimal temperature for all three bacteria is around 37 degrees celsius (or 98.6 degrees fahrenheit), with a pH of 7.0, and a wet environment. Okay, so, a pH of 7.0 is a neutral. Which means if the external enviroment (the hind legs)pH is thrown off, either to an acidic or alkaline pH, the bacteria will not have the optimal enviroment to continue growing and multiplying. How can I change the pH?
Vinegar! An antimicrobial and a 5% acetic acid! And…vinegar is shown to help kill mycobacteria such as drug-resistant tuberculosis and an effective way to clean produce; it is considered the fastest, safest, and more effective than the use of antibacterial soap. Legend even says that in France during the Black Plague, four thieves were able to rob the homes of those sick with the plague and not become infected. They were said to have purchased a potion made of garlic soaked in vinegar which protected them. Variants of the recipe, now called “Four Thieves Vinegar” has continued to be passed down and used for hundreds of years (Hunter, R., 1894).
I went to the store, purchased distilled vinegar and a spray bottle and headed to the farm. I cleaned his scratches and sprayed the infected areas with vinegar. I am excited to see whether our hypothesis is correct or not…I will keep you posted!
References & Information
Hunter, Robert (1894). The Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Toronto: T.J. Ford. ISBN 0-665-85186-3.
Your horse comes in from being outside and is barely able to move. His legs are swollen, he has a fever, is sensitive to the touch, and has a loss of appetite. He has chills- intermittently shaking. He wont touch his hay, his eyes are dull, and he looks depressed and tired. You call the vet and they run hundreds of dollars worth of tests- CBC, x-ray his legs to ensure there is no fracture; they diagnose him with Lymphingitis. You begin a course of antibiotics. You cold hose. You give him Banamine. Your wrap his legs while he is on stall rest. A week later, the swelling has subsided, his fever has dissipated, and his appetite is back.
You get a text saying that your horse “ran away” when he had been let out earlier that day. But when you get to the barn, you notice when he turns he looks like his hind end is falling out from under him..remember when you were little and someone would kick into the back of your knees and your legs would buckle? That is what it looks like. So you watch him. You are holding your breath, hoping he is just weak from stall rest. You decide, based on the vet’s recommendation, to let him stay outside for the evening. You take extra measures- leaving his stall open, with the light on, wrapping his legs, etc- and go home. Every time your mind goes to “what if..”, you reassure yourself that your horse is going to be okay and that you’re following the vet’s advice and after all, your horse had been running around earlier that day.
The next morning your horse comes inside and it takes him an hour to walk from the paddock to his stall. All four legs are swollen. He has a fever (101.5). He is covered in sweat. He won’t touch his food. He has scrapes all over his body and looks like he fell. You call the vet- again- and they come out to look at him. They note his back sensitivity, his fever, the swelling at his joints (especially the front). They note that his Lymphingitis seems to have come back. The vet draws blood to check for Lyme. They start him on SMZs and Prevacox. You once again wrap his legs, ice his joints, give him a sponge bath with alcohol and cool water to bring down his fever. You brush him, change his water, put extra fans directed at his stall. You put down extra shavings. And you watch him.
A few days go by and you get a call saying that your horse has tested positive for Lyme…and while your heart sinks, you are also relieved that there is an explanation for your horse’s recent symptoms. You plan to begin antibiotics and pretty much not breathe for the next 30+ days while your horse is pumped with antibiotics. You pray that he doesn’t colic. You pray that you have caught Lymes in time. You pray that the damage is reversible. You research everything you can on the disease. And you sit and wait….
Below are resources on Lyme Disease in horses- treatments, symptoms, the course of the disease, and the prognosis.
Today Chance had swelling of his back right fetlock. He had a fever around 104 and didn’t eat his feed. His eyes were dull and he was lethargic. He wasn’t limping but was walking slower than normal (he usually runs to the paddock or back to the barn). I decided, due to the Lymphingitis flare up on his back right leg, I would give him a shot of 5 mls (or 5 cc) of Banamine and wrap his leg. Once the medication set in, I would bring him in to give him a bath (it was 80 degrees today). So, that is what I did. By the time he was back at the barn he was covered in sweat. I cold hosed him and drenched the wrap in cool water and let him roam around the barn.
Thankfully, the vet was able to meet me at her veterinary practice so that I could pick up Baytril and more Banamine. Since Chance just had Lyme Disease (and had finished his medication less than a week ago), we are not 100% if this is a Lyme reaction or something else. The plan is to administer 25 cc of Baytril either orally, in his feed, or via IV for 6 days and Banamine 10 mls (or a 1000 lbs) twice a day for 3 days. The vet suggested that I do 5 cc of Banamine if his fever remains between 101-103 degrees and 10 cc if his fever is 103 degrees or above. During this time I will begin Prevacox- one 1/4 of a tablet once a day. After 3 days, I will discontinue the Banamine and continue the Prevacox. If his fevers are not down in two days, I will continue the Baytril but start the doxycycline as it maybe a Lyme disease symptom.
While researching Lyme Disease, I found that many people do two+ months of doxycycline instead of 30 days to ensure the disease has been erraticated completely. However, since Chance had shown such improvement after 30 days, I decided to not do another month. Maybe I should have…
However, Chance had similar symptoms when we found a small laceration in the DDFT tendon of his back left hind- swelling, Lymphingitis, fever, lethargy, no appetite, etc. If he does have an issue with his tendon I will most likely do another round of Stem Cell treatments which proved to be helpful last time. Thankfully I stored his stem cells in a Stem Cell Bank (via Vet-Stem) and can easily have them shipped.
True North Equine Vets www.truenorthequinevets.com 540-364-9111
Genesis Farriers: Dave Giza www.genesisfarriers.com 571-921-5822
Ken Pankow www.horsedentistvirginia.com 540-675-3815
Full Circle Equine www.fullcircleequine.com 540-937-1754
Farriers Depot: (Farrier related supplies) www.farriersdepot.com 352-840-0106
StemVet (Stem cell acquisition and storage) www.vet-stem.com
SmartPak Equine Supplements www.smartpakequine.com
I walked outside to sit on my porch and enjoy the evening, when I realized that the time is fast approaching where I can not longer do so without bundling up first. I decided it was time to get ready for the winter months ahead especially for my equine friends.
I have included articles, lists, resources, etc to help you make sure you and your horse are ready for the dropping temperatures!
Preparing Your Horse for Winter
By: Dr. Lydia Gray
Hot chocolate, mittens and roaring fires keep us warm on cold winter nights. But what about horses? What can you do to help them through the bitter cold, driving wind and icy snow? Below are tips to help you and your horse not only survive but thrive during yet another frosty season.
Your number one responsibility to your horse during winter is to make sure he receives enough quality feedstuffs to maintain his weight and enough drinkable water to maintain his hydration. Forage, or hay, should make up the largest portion of his diet, 1 – 2 % of his body weight per day. Because horses burn calories to stay warm, fortified grain can be added to the diet to keep him at a body condition score of 5 on a scale of 1 (emaciated) to 9 (obese). If your horse is an easy keeper, will not be worked hard, or should not have grain for medical reasons, then a ration balancer or complete multi-vitamin/mineral supplement is a better choice than grain. Increasing the amount of hay fed is the best way to keep weight on horses during the winter, as the fermentation process generates internal heat.
Research performed at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine showed that if during cold weather horses have only warm water available, they will drink a greater volume per day than if they have only icy cold water available. But if they have a choice between warm and icy water simultaneously, they drink almost exclusively from the icy and drink less volume than if they have only warm water available. The take home message is this: you can increase your horse’s water consumption by only providing warm water. This can be accomplished either by using any number of bucket or tank heaters or by adding hot water twice daily with feeding. Another method to encourage your horse to drink more in winter (or any time of the year) is to topdress his feed with electrolytes.
It may be tempting to give your horse some “down-time” during winter, but studies have found that muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness and overall flexibility significantly decrease even if daily turnout is provided. And as horses grow older, it takes longer and becomes more difficult each spring to return them to their previous level of work. Unfortunately, exercising your horse when it’s cold and slippery or frozen can be challenging.
First, work with your farrier to determine if your horse has the best traction with no shoes, regular shoes, shoes with borium added, shoes with “snowball” pads, or some other arrangement. Do your best to lunge, ride or drive in outside areas that are not slippery. Indoor arenas can become quite dusty in winter so ask if a binding agent can be added to hold water and try to water (and drag) as frequently as the temperature will permit. Warm up and cool down with care. A good rule of thumb is to spend twice as much time at these aspects of the workout than you do when the weather is warm. And make sure your horse is cool and dry before turning him back outside or blanketing.
A frequently asked question is: does my horse need a blanket? In general, horses with an adequate hair coat, in good flesh and with access to shelter probably do not need blanketed. However, horses that have been clipped, recently transported to a cold climate, or are thin or sick may need the additional warmth and protection of outerwear.
Horses begin to grow their longer, thicker winter coats in July, shedding the shorter, thinner summer coats in October. The summer coat begins growing in January with March being prime shedding season. This cycle is based on day length—the winter coat is stimulated by decreasing daylight, the summer coat is stimulated by increasing daylight. Owners can inhibit a horse’s coat primarily through providing artificial daylight in the fall but also by clothing their horse as the temperature begins to fall. If the horse’s exercise routine in the winter causes him to sweat and the long hair hampers the drying and cooling down process, body clipping may be necessary. Blanketing is then a must.
There are a number of health conditions that seem to be made worse by the winter environment. The risk of impaction colic may be decreased by stimulating your horse to drink more water either by providing warm water as the only source or feeding electrolytes. More time spent inside barns and stalls can exacerbate respiratory conditions like “heaves” (now called recurrent airway obstruction), GI conditions like ulcers, and musculoskeletal conditions like degenerative joint disease. Control these problems with appropriate management—such as increasing ventilation in the barn and increasing turnout time—and veterinary intervention in the form of medications and supplements.
Freeze/thaw cycles and muddy or wet conditions can lead to thrush in the hooves and “scratches,” or, pastern dermatitis, on the legs. Your best protection against these diseases is keeping the horse in as clean and dry surroundings as possible, picking his feet frequently, and keeping the lower limbs trimmed of hair. Another common winter skin condition is “rain rot,” caused by the organism Dermatophilus congolensis. Regular grooming and daily observation can usually prevent this problem, but consult your veterinarian if your horse’s back and rump develop painful, crusty lumps that turn into scabs.
I was one of those few. His name was Beau. He was an off-the-track thoroughbred with a heart of gold and the chest of a draft horse. Tall, dark, handsome, loyal, always in tune with my thoughts—he was the best partner a girl could ask for.
We spent hours, days, weeks, months, training together. Athletically, we were on point. Emotionally, we were more in tune than most married couples. In every way, he was my other half. My confidence stemmed from him, and vice versa. There was nothing we couldn’t do when we were together. We literally climbed mountains.
Then, too soon, Beau passed away.
It was sudden. Unexpected. One day he was there, the next I had to make the decision to have him euthanized at the age of seven. That day I lost not only my partner, but a part of myself.
Saying goodbye to a partner is hard. For a while, there’s a hole. It never really gets filled. You keep riding, keep hopping up in that worn-out leather saddle that still smells like him. But it’s never the same. That same passion, love and commitment you shared for one another will never be replaced.
That’s a hard thing to get over. But it’s something every single equestrian will one day have to face. I hope none of you need to face it so soon. I hope your partners grow to be old and gray and pass in the most dignified and peaceful sense. I hope you have time to sit on the ground with them, no matter how hard it may be, hold their head in your lap for the last time and say goodbye.
I hope you get the chance to tell them thank you for the heart they gave you. For the confidence, experience, and love they shared with you every time you stepped into their world. But most of all, I hope you appreciate every single ride.
Go out to your barn and hug your horse.
Let them have that extra snack. Next time they decide they aren’t going to listen, or kick up their heels because they feel fresh, laugh it off. Someday you’ll miss it. You’ll miss the green stains on your white shirt from their grassy kisses. You’re going to miss braiding that mane until your arms ache. You’ll miss hitting the dirt because you couldn’t quite sit their power over that jump. Enjoy every moment of your partnership.
For those who have experienced this and said goodbye, I feel your pain. Don’t be afraid of feeling it, too. Sometimes it’s good to sit down and look at all those old photos and have a good cry over the life you had with your best friend. It’s okay for it to hurt a little bit every time you walk in the barn and they aren’t there waiting for you.
Just remember, they gave the best years of their life to you. They loved you with every ounce of their being. And you returned the favor.
About the Author
Megan Stephens is small-town equestrian from the hills of New York. She first hit the saddle at the age of four and the obsession has grown ever since. She is mom to a Hackney gelding and competes in hunter/jumper divisions for a local farm. She enjoys freelance writing about her favorite topic in her spare time.
An interesting article I came across about Guttural pouches in horses. Must read for those who work with or around horses.