Winter Care Made Simple

When summer turns to fall and fall to winter, not only do the seasons change, but so do the needs of your beloved pets. As important as it was to guarantee pet safety in the summer heat, it is crucial to note that colder weather also brings health and wellness risks for pets. Dr. Mitsie Vargas, a Veterinarian with the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA), provides seasonal pet tips that can improve the winter wellness of your pets. Continue reading

Be Prepared!

September is National Preparedness Month, so it is a good time for horse owners to make sure their horses are included in disaster plans. The key to remaining calm and keeping your animals safe during an emergency is being prepared.  Natural disasters can strike anywhere at any time, and pet owners have the responsibility of including their animals in their emergency plan. When planning for pets includes horses, it requires even more consideration.

Cindy Gendron, coordinator for The Homes for Horses Coalition, said: “Different types of disasters call for different responses, from evacuating your horses to keeping them safe in a barn or in a field. Once you understand your options, the next steps are developing a plan, organizing your resources and practicing and training for possible scenarios. If a disaster does strike, you’ll be ready to protect yourself and your horse.”  The ASPCA’s Top 10 Disaster Readiness Tips for Horses can help you protect your horses from both natural disasters and ordinary accidents.  In addition, The HSUS offers the following considerations.

Planning for a disaster

  • Permanently identify each horse by tattoo, microchip, brand, or photograph. In your records, include the horse’s age, sex, breed, and color. Keep this information with your important papers.
  • Keep halters ready for your horses. On each halter attach a luggage tag with the following information: the horse’s name, your name, email address, your telephone number, and another emergency telephone number where someone can be reached. At the time of evacuation, consider additional temporary identification such as a leg band.
  • Place your horses’ Coggins tests, veterinary papers, identification photographs, and vital information—such as medical history, allergies, and emergency telephone numbers (veterinarian, family members, etc.)—in a watertight envelope. Store the envelope with your other important papers in a safe place that will be easy for you to access, so you can take them with you when you and your horses evacuate.
  • Prepare a basic first aid kit that is portable and easily accessible.
  • Be sure to include enough water (12 to 20 gallons per day per horse), hay, feed, and medications for several days for each horse.
  • Make arrangements in advance to have your horse trailered in case of an emergency. If you don’t have your own trailer or don’t have enough room in your trailer for all of your horses, be sure you have several people on standby to help evacuate your horses. 


  • It is important that your horses are comfortable being loaded onto a trailer. If your horses are unaccustomed to being loaded onto a trailer, practice the procedure today so they become used to it if or when an emergency strikes.
  • Know where you can take your horses in an emergency evacuation. When possible, make arrangements with a friend or another horse owner to stable your horses well beyond the region at risk.
  • Contact your local animal care and control agency, agricultural extension agent, or local emergency management authorities for information about shelters in your area.

If you cannot evacuate with your horse

  • Have a back-up plan in case it’s impossible to take your horse with you when you evacuate. Consider different types of disasters and whether your horses would be better off in a barn or loose in a field. Your local humane organization, agricultural extension agent, or local emergency management agency may be able to provide you with information about your community’s disaster response plans.
  • Share your evacuation plans with friends and neighbors. Post detailed instructions in several places—including the barn office or tack room, the horse trailer, and barn entrances—to ensure emergency workers can see them in case you are not able to evacuate your horses yourself.

Additional planning is required when moving the following:  exceptionally young, exceptionally old or mobility-impaired equines, stallions, especially high strung horses, or a large number of horses.  Being located far from a main road is an added complication to factor into your plan.

Just Say No!

Although your horse may be begging for a bite of festive corn stalks that you have decorating your jumps and adding a bit of seasonal flair to your barn, it’s best to say no.

POI_Corn_11_13Corn stalks can potentially hold mycotoxins produced by molds that develop when the plant is grown under unfavorable weather conditions. Of the most danger, is the mycotoxin fumonisin, which can cause equine leukoencephalomalacia, causing facial paralysis, ataxia, and potentially death.

It is nearly impossible to determine if your corn you have purchased contains mold or bacteria, as they are rarely visible on the exterior of the stalk.

Fact or Fiction?

I Don’t Need to Test or Deworm During the Winter

Some horse owners have claimed that they don’t test or deworm during the colder, winter months because it isn’t necessary. Over the last 10 years, Horsemen’s Laboratory has tested over 30,000 samples and found that 66.6% were negative (no eggs found on counting chamber) and 33.4% were positive. But are positive fecal egg counts affected by the time of year?

To determine if season of the year affects results, Horsemen’s Laboratory examined results for three years, comparing the month of January to the month of July. For additional insight, Horsemen’s Laboratory compared the percentage of low, medium, and high shedder for the months of January and July for the same three years. July positive test results were 3.7% to 4.2% higher than January positive test results over the three-year period.

Conclusion: It’s a Myth that Testing and Deworming Are Not Necessary

These slightly higher percentages substantiate the belief that there are more positive horses in the summer (July) than in winter (January). However, the difference is not great enough to warrant not doing samples and deworming as necessary in winter.

No More Tummy Aches!

The crisp, cool temperatures of fall are delightful for human and horse alike. But as nature slips toward a dormant state, hay becomes the forage of choice for most horses. Hay is dead grass. Once fresh grass is cut, dried, and stored as hay, its vitamin content, along with valuable omega 3 fatty acids, dramatically declines, making supplementation necessary to fill in nutritional gaps. Plus, hay has very little moisture compared to fresh pasture. Most hay contains approximately 90 to 95% dry matter (only 5 to 10% water), compared to fresh pasture with moisture levels often exceeding the dry matter content. Therefore, as hay becomes a larger percentage of your horse’s diet, colic risk significantly increases.

Colic basically means a “stomach ache.”  It could simply be a mild disturbance, or severe enough to be life threatening. It is the number two killer of horses, number one being old age! Colic isn’t actually a disease; it’s a symptom of another problem. With increased hay consumption, impactions and excess gas production are the most common causes. Enteroliths (stones) are often seen in high alfalfa hay diets. And ulcers often develop when a horse is transferred from day-long turnout, to longer periods of time in the stall.

Here are some important ways ease the transition and avoid colic accordion to Dr. Getty, Horse nutritonist:

  • Simulate the horse’s natural need to graze by providing hay 24/7. Horses that experience an empty stomach between time-separated hay meals will eat their hay very quickly. Horses that are offered hay free-choice will learn that there is always hay available and they will eat more slowly and self-regulate their intake to eat only what they need to maintain condition.
  • Limit winter stalling. Colic episodes increase when horses are brought in from pasture. Being outdoors provides needed exercise to keep the digestive tract muscles in tone.
  • Make changes gradually. This will give the bacterial flora in the hindgut a chance to become accustomed to the forage source.
  • Offer a prebiotic. A prebiotic contains fermentation products rather than live microbes, which feed the existing population in the hindgut. This makes forage digestion more efficient.
  • Provide clean, tepid water. Icy cold water is often rejected, leading to decreased fluid in the digestive tract. It is best to heat the water supply to approximately 50° F to ensure enough consumption.
  • Don’t forget the salt. Salt is needed year round. A full sized horse requires approximately 2 tablespoons (one ounce or 28 grams) of table salt per day, divided between meals, to encourage him to drink to prevent impactions. Salt blocks are often ignored because of the discomfort that constant licking creates. Consider offering table salt, free choice, by pouring some in a nearby bucket.
  • Have your horse’s teeth floated annually. Poor dental health leads to partially chewed hay, which can cause impactions throughout the digestive tract.
  • If possible, have your hay analyzed. If you have two months’ supply or more, it is worth having your hay analyzed for its sugar and starch content, as well as the protein, minerals, and selenium levels.

In summary, continuous grazing without gaps will keep the intestinal motility normal, prevent acid buildup, and protect the vital forage-digesting hindgut microbes. Reduced water consumption (due to increased dry matter in hay and/or cold water temperature) is one of the main causes of colic in the winter. To prevent digestive health problems, be consistently consistent with your horse’s care and feeding, make slow transitions, and allow your horse to be a horse just as much throughout the cold months as you do during the summer.

Boys Against Girls

Scientists at the Vetmeduni in Vienna recently analyzed how horses are affected by thePOI_gender_12_14 gender of their riders. Various parameters of stress were determined in horses when they completed obstacle courses with riders of various genders. The results were surprising: the level of stress on a horse is independent of whether a man or a woman is in the saddle.

Ticked Off

Even during the last weeks of summer, it’s important to remember children and pets are at greater risk of being infected with Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases such as anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  Because people and their pets often spend time in the same environments where Lyme and other disease-transmitting ticks are found, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics  (AAP) are working together to offer advice to households with children and pets.chd_tick_engorged

According to the AVMA and the AAP, people whose animals have been diagnosed with Lyme disease should consult their physician about their own risk. Likewise, people who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease should consult their veterinarian to assess their pet’s risk based on the animal’s lifestyle and possible environmental exposures.
Lyme disease is an infection caused by a bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorfori. It is spread by the bite of the tiny black-legged tick, which is found in forests or grassy, wooded, marshy areas near rivers, lakes or oceans. People or animals may be bitten while hiking or camping, during other outdoor activities, or even while spending time in their backyards.

This disease appears in specific areas of the United States, including southern New England states; eastern Mid-Atlantic States; the upper Midwest, particularly Wisconsin and Minnesota; and the West Coast, particularly northern California. In analyzing a patient’s risk of having or contracting Lyme disease, physicians and veterinarians in other areas of the country will want to know if their patient has visited a place where the disease is found. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a map detailing confirmed cases of Lyme disease throughout the years.

In animals, Lyme disease usually does not cause any clinical signs at all. Symptomatic dogs with Lyme disease might have lack of appetite, lameness, and joint swelling. Recurrent lameness also is possible. The involved extremity may be tender due to joint inflammation that lasts from days to weeks and migrates from one extremity to another.  Also, animals may experience fever and decreased activity.

If a child or pet is diagnosed with Lyme disease, it is likely that other family members or pets also have been in an environment that could lead to exposure. Therefore, the initial case of Lyme disease in a household should serve to flag the risk of exposure and suggest a need for other family members or pets to notify their physicians and veterinarians, who can advise about further evaluation or testing.

There are many things humans can do to avoid exposure to tick bites, including: avoiding areas where ticks are found; covering arms, legs, head and feet when outdoors; wearing light-colored clothing; using insecticides; and checking for ticks once indoors.
Likewise, people with pets are encouraged to speak with their veterinarian about tick preventive products, to clear shrubbery next to homes and keep lawns well maintained, and to check for ticks on themselves and their animals once indoors.

Since it was named after a number of cases were identified in Lyme, Conn., in 1975, thousands of cases of the disease have been reported in humans and animals across the country and around the world. By knowing about Lyme disease and how to prevent it, you can help keep all members of your family—human and animal—safe.

Rabid Rant

This year, as Pea Pod and I wait for the veterinarian to come out for a rabies vaccination, Only the best for my Pea Pod and Me!I wonder if it’s really necessary? I don’t know a single person or pet who has been infected.

However, the statistics say it’s a real threat. Worldwide, more than 55,000 people die of rabies every year and nearly 40% of those who are bitten by rabid animals are children under 15 years of age. The good news is that the vaccine is 100% effective. This simple shot ensures our safety, and prevents the spread of the disease to other pets, wild animals and people – including young children.

According to Dr. Bernadine Cruz, a Veterinarian with the American Veterinary Medical Association, the prevalence of infection in Cats has increased, “Rabies. Just the word conjures visions of Cujo, the Stephen King rabid St. Bernard, and death and denial. Though the prevalence of rabies in the United States in domestic pets has decreased dramatically over the past several decades, in part due to an aggressive vaccination program for dogs, the number of reported cases in cats has increased.  Cats are not more susceptible to rabies but historically have not been required to be vaccinated for this preventable disease.  Even indoor cats have contracted this potentially fatal virus.”

You can protect your pets and your family by talking to your veterinarian about vaccinating your dog and cat. According to Dr. Charles Rupprecht, chief of the rabies program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Your local veterinarian plays a key role in controlling rabies.” Vaccinating your pet is one way that to help stop the spread of the disease. However, it is also important to be cautious around other animals. “Don’t handle wildlife-they are the primary reservoir for rabies,” added Dr. Cruz and always ask before you pet a dog or cats first. Sticking your hand in fences or reaching out to unknown animals is risky and the results could be devastating.

In preparation for this year’s World Rabies Day on September 28th, 2014 remember to keep yourself safe from wild animals and get your pet vaccinated. Learn more by visiting

Heed the Need to Prevent Infectious Disease

Colorado State University veterinarians join state health officials in advising livestock and horse owners to prevent the spread of infectious disease during the fair and similar events.

Of concern is this summer’s outbreak of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) among Colorado horses. Infection has forced the quarantine of 222 properties, where horses and some cattle have tested positive for the disease, the Colorado State Veterinarian’s Office reported on Wednesday. That number is expected to climb.

To help horse owners, Dr. Paul Morley, a Colorado State University veterinarian and director of infection control for the university’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, answers common questions about preventing infection. For more information, visit:

Question: What are the symptoms of VSV?

The main symptoms of vesicular stomatitis virus are blisters, sores, and sloughing of skin in the mouth, on the tongue, on the muzzle and ears, and above the hooves. Lameness and weight loss may also occur. Horses have been hit hardest during this summer’s outbreak in Colorado, although several cows have been confirmed as infected. Weld, Boulder and Larimer counties in northern Colorado have the highest number of confirmed cases. VSV can threaten a number of other livestock species, including sheep, goats and pigs.

Question: Why is VSV so concerning that it is prompting quarantines?

VSV is federally listed as a foreign animal disease, meaning it is among several animal diseases that are highly infectious, are reported to state and federal health agencies, and are monitored closely by health officials because of the potential for widespread illness and devastating economic consequences. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires a specific list of responses to foreign animal diseases, including testing, confirmation of infection, quarantine and monitoring. These steps allow for proper diagnosis and help stop spread of disease.

Question: How is VSV spread?

Flies and midges are the main vectors for VSV. The virus also is spread through direct contact, meaning when an infected animal touches noses with another animal. Indirect contact is also a concern; this occurs when an infected animal sheds virus onto something – like a water bucket, a trailer, a tie-out rail, or grooming equipment – and then another animal picks up the virus from that object.

Question: How is VSV infection prevented?

Fly control is the most important step, and should be taken very seriously. We recommend frequent application of fly repellent approved for animals, including on the face and ears. We also advise use of barriers, such as fly sheets and face masks. Manure management is another important aspect of fly control.

Infection risk may be further reduced by sheltering horses during peak times for biting attacks. Those times typically are mid-morning, with a more intense phase in evening, ending at dusk, according to CSU insect scientists. Biting intensifies at the onset of storms and may persist all day when overcast conditions occur.

In addition, I recommend basic steps to prevent infectious disease when traveling to events with your horse, as outlined in this video: In a nutshell, these steps are:

  • Separate your horse from others during the show.
  • Don’t share tack or feeding, watering, and grooming equipment. Don’t tie your horse where others have been tied. Keep hands off other horses, and avoid letting other people handle your horse.
  • Disinfect all show and travel equipment, including trailer, before and after use.
  • Frequently wash hands and use hand sanitizer.
  • Segregate your traveling horse from others for a week after returning home; monitor your horse for any signs of infection or illness during this time.
  • Contact your veterinarian for more information.

Question: How do you protect horses and other patients at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital?

Our primary mission is to provide the best care possible for our patients and their owners, even during outbreaks such as this. Preventing the spread of infectious disease is central to our hospital’s daily operations, and rigorous standards are always in place to protect patients. During this outbreak we have initiated extra precautions in line with those recommended by the state veterinarian for the Colorado State Fair and other events. Our veterinarians first examine all horses and livestock for VSV symptoms before they enter the hospital. We question owners about travel history to ascertain infection risk. If an animal is admitted to the hospital, it is treated twice daily with insect repellent; our entire large animal hospital is additionally sprayed three times daily. We also use biological insect controls to minimize populations of insect vectors. Housing patients indoors further reduces infection risk. We continuously clean, and all animals are constantly monitored for signs of VSV or other infectious disease. During the current outbreak, we have cared for patients with VSV – and those suspected of having the disease – on their home premises.

Question: What would happen if my animal was at an event or a veterinary hospital when another animal was diagnosed with VS infection?

The Colorado State Veterinarian’s Office and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials would be notified, as is required by law. They would help analyze infection risks and would determine appropriate next steps. If preventative measures, such as those described above, had been followed – and assuming your animal had no signs of infection – your animal would be allowed to travel home.  Officials have worked very hard to help people during this outbreak.

Question: Who determines whether shows and events will be cancelled, and why haven’t we seen more cancellations during this VSV outbreak?

Event sponsors and organizers make those decisions, usually on advice of the state veterinarian and other health experts. Dr. Keith Roehr, the state veterinarian for Colorado, has not recommended event cancellations. Instead, he has encouraged that event grounds be inspected and issued certificates of veterinary inspection before the start of shows and events. This helps ensure that event hosts are taking appropriate preventative measures. Most shows require that competitors have health certificates issued by veterinarians as proof of good animal health. Dr. Roehr has also strongly advised that horse and livestock owners take extra caution in controlling flies, and I agree.