In an Emergency


Contact ABJ Equine if your horse exhibits any of the following:...more.

Horse Health FAQ's

What is Laminitis or “Founder”?

Laminitis or “founder” (from the maritime term meaning to sink) occurs when there is inflammation of the laminae, the folds of tissue that connect the pedal bone to the hoof.  The inflammation interrupts the blood supply to the laminae, causing it to degenerate.  Eventually this can interfere with the bond between the hoof wall and the pedal bone.   Over time the pedal bone detaches and rotates towards the sole and in very severe cases it can even pass through the sole.  Although the exact mechanism of this disease has yet to be determined, there are some common risk factors that have been identified.  Overweight ponies with large crests and access to lush pastures are at risk.  Also horses that have access to excessive amounts of grain, hay, pasture or pelleted feed are also at risk.  Other known causes of founder include systemic infection, severe colic, sole injury, retained placenta, or excessive weight bearing on one limb.

“Acute laminitis” is a sudden onset of founder, that may be life threatening and is considered an emergency.  “Chronic founder” on the other hand, is an ongoing low grade case of laminitis.  Although the initial signs of chronic founder appear less dramatic, these cases contribute to long term damage.  This is evidenced by rings in the hoof wall, dropped soles with dished hooves giving an “Aladdin’s slipper” appearance, and a wider white line between the hoof wall and the sole.

Founder can occur in all limbs but is commonly seen in both forelimbs.  Increased heat and pulse can be felt in the feet.  Due to the pain, a horse that is foundering is reluctant to walk and appears to “walk on eggshells”.  It may also stand rocked back with its front legs extended to take weight off of its toes.  The horse may even refuse to walk or stand and prefer to lie down.  Foundering horses are also often seen shifting weight from one limb to the other.

Preventing Founder:
Many cases of founder can be prevented by following these guidelines.

* Feed a well balanced appropriate diet.  Prevent access to excessive feed intake.  Limit access to unaccustomed pasture, hay, grain, or pelleted feed.
* Regularly exercise your horse (ride, lunge, or lead walk)
* Monitor your horses weight and body condition.
* Add a founder preventative to the regular feed.
* Provide regular Farrier visits and hoof care, some cases may require a hoof supplement.
* Institute any changes in feed gradually.


What is Colic?

Colic is a term that refers to acute abdominal pain in the horse.  There is no single cause of colic and it is often difficult to distinguish in the early stages mild colic from the potentially fatal.  In many cases it is difficult to determine the underlying reason.  Some of the more common forms of colic include:

Impaction Colic- This occurs when the intestine becomes blocked by a firm mass of food (i.e. sand colic).  It is relatively common and resolves fairly easily with assistance from a veterinarian.

Gas Colic- A frequent form of colic where gas builds up in the intestine causing abdominal pain.

Spasmodic Colic- This type of colic occurs when there is increased intestinal motility in the horse.  These spasms cause belly pain and discomfort in the horse due to the increased frequency and intensity of intestinal contractions.

Enteritis/Colitis- Sometimes inflammation of the small and/or large intestines causes horses to colic. This is a serious medical case that must be quickly addressed by your veterinarian.

Displacement/volvulus/torsion- In “displacement” a portion of the intestine moves to an abnormal position in the horse’s abdomen.  In a “volvulus” or “torsion” a segment of the intestine twists, causing a blockage that obstructs blood flow to that area.  This is a severe form of colic that requires immediate veterinary attention.

Gastric distention/rupture- This type of colic usually occurs after a horse has gorged itself on grain or dried beet pulp, or ingested any substance that expands when wet.  This causes the horse’s stomach to swell and because horses cAnneot vomit the stomach can rupture under this extreme pressure.  This is also an emergency that can result in death.  Seek immediate veterinary advice.

Signs of Colic
-Pawing at the ground
-Kicking or biting abdomen
-Repeatedly lying down and getting up
-Standing stretched out as if to urinate
-Sitting like a dog
-Repeated lip curling
-Generally violent behavior

What to Do
If your horse is exhibiting any of the above signs, call your veterinarian immediately.  Take all food away from the horse until the vet arrives.  Walking the horse can distract him from the pain, but there is little you can do to prevent insistent rolling.  Remember that violent behavior corresponds to great pain.  If it appears to be a milder case of colic, you can take a few minutes to observe the horse’s appearance to answer the following questions for your veterinarian.

* Describe the horse’s behavior (distressed, lethargic, gassy, rolling, lying down, etc.)
* What is the horse’s temperature, pulse and respiration rate?
* Is his appetite normal?
* Drinking normally?
* What is the consistency and frequency of defecation?
* Are his gums a normal color?


What is “Tying Up”?

“Tying up” is a term used to describe chronic tension and spasms in the horse’s muscles.  It is usually associated with overwork because there is an abundance of lactic acid built up in the muscle tissue.  Excessive lactate reduces the muscle pH and efficiency of metabolism resulting in fatigue.  As a result, the muscle cAnneot relax properly after contraction, causing major muscle groups (neck, back, shoulders) to seize up.  Mild cases cause soreness and stiffness, while severe cases the horse is completely immobilized.

Signs of Tying Up

* Muscle stiffness and contraction
* Obvious discomfort and irritability
* Abnormally short strides
* Profuse sweating
* Difficulty moving
* Increased pulse and respiration rates
* Brown colored urine (from the kidneys filtering large quantities of myoglobin, a muscle protein)
* Inability to sleep


What is COPD- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?

COPD is also known as “heaves”, broken wind, recurrent airway obstruction, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or small airway disease.  It is common in mature horses in cold climates where hay is often moldy and horses are stabled for long periods of time during the winter months.  Horses usually react to allergens in their environment, feed or medication.  It is called “heaves” because horses with COPD often heave at the end of exhalation to expel air from their lungs.  This may cause enlargement of the abdominal muscles known as “heave lines”.  Other signs of COPD include wheezing at the end of exhalation, coughing, weight loss, lack of energy, and exercise intolerance.  Sometimes a mucopurulent discharge (mucus with inflammatory cells) drips from the nose of a horse with COPD.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease causing lameness in horses.  It occurs when the cartilage protecting the bones of a joint is destroyed.  It most commonly affects the upper knee joint, front fetlocks, coffin joints and hocks.  The disease process begins when the synovial fluid that lubricates healthy joints thins.


What is Cushing’s Syndrome?

Cushing’s Syndrome, or hyperadrenocorticism, is a common condition in older horses that is caused by a small benign tumor in the pituitary gland.  There are many endocrine changes associated with this condition, including enhanced glucocorticoid action on the body.
Common symptoms associated with Cushings include:

* Sudden increase in drinking and urination
* Abnormal hair growth and shedding (horses with Cushings Syndrome often have heavy, coarse, dull coats that do not shed out in the summer)
* Appearance of a swayback and pot belly
* Dull eyes and general malaise
* Increased appetite
* Chronic laminitis
* Compromised immunity and increased susceptibility to various respiratory and skin conditions

If your horse exhibits any number of these symptoms ask your veterinarian to look into possibility of Cushings Sydrome.  There are a number of medications available to manage this condition.


What is Osteochondrosis (OCD)?

Osteochondrosis is a common but painful disease in horses.  While it is not a form of arthritis, OCD often contributes to it.  The term OCD is used to describe abnormal cartilage-to-bone transformation in the horse’s joints.  It is a congenital defect that leads to the development of a loose flap of cartilage.  This fragment may break off into the joint space causing secondary degenerative joint disease.  Large breeds of horses that grow quickly are more likely to develop OCD.  Osteochondrosis is often characterized by stiffness, lameness, and pain in the affected joint, although not all horses with OCD experience pain).  The horse may try to compensate by restricting movement of the affected joint (i.e. swinging its leg outward in a circular motion to avoid bending the joint).


What is Navicular Syndrome?

The Navicular bone in the horse is located directly behind the coffin bone and is held in place by tendons and ligaments.  Its function is to protect the joint and tendons from pressure by acting as a pulley to take stress off the coffin bone.  It also serves as a valve for blood flow to the coffin bone and sensitive laminae of the hoof.  Repeated compression and cartilage erosion eventually causes the underlying bone to be exposed, inflicting damage to the navicular bursa and deep digital flexor tendon.  Horses with Navicular Syndrome first exhibit mild, intermittent lameness in both front feet.  It usually occurs in both front feet but one may appear sorer than the other.  Pain is often localized to the heel and symptomatic horses often stumble and walk with a “tiptoe” gait to avoid putting pressure on their heels.
There is no single cause for Navicular syndrome and the degenerative changes that take place are irreversible.  This disease is best managed by alleviating pain, and slowing the progression of degeneration with proper shoeing and medication.


What is Dermatitis?

Dermatitis is a general term for any inflammatory skin condition that affects the overall health and sheen of the coat.  Depending on the cause, the horse may exhibit red, flaky skin, dull coat, hives, papules, scales, and crusts.  There are a number of causes that contribute to equine dermatitis including bacteria, viruses, or various environmental allergens.  A symptomatic horse will usually scratch, rub, chew or bite the affected region.




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