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DENTAL CARE FOR GERIATRIC HORSES
I think we can all agree that geriatric horses (over 20 years) are more often than not an honored member of any barn. However, with advanced age they often possess teeth that are worn, irregular and even missing, which brings the need for extra special care.
A quick review of equine dental anatomy tells us that horses have a tooth growth pattern known as hypsodont, which means they are constantly growing (well, technically they are erupting), throughout their lifetime. As a result, later in life we find that some teeth have either worn improperly, or just fallen out.
What are some of the most common problems that may be found in a geriatric mouth?
Shallow, or cupped teeth - this can make proper mastication (chewing) difficult.
Missing teeth (step mouth) - watch for remaining fragments if fractured, hay packing in socket, or extra growth of the opposing tooth.
Wave mouth - condition in which, front to back, the upper teeth become shallow halfway back, and the bottom teeth rise up to meet them.
Loose teeth - teeth that are just hanging on, but only enough to be a nuisance.
Dental care in older horses should be approached with realistic expectations, and striking a balance between preservation of remaining tooth and maximum functionality. Keep in mind some general concepts:
More frequent care: an older horse’s mouth can change quickly, so it is recommended that they are examined every 6 months.
Oral exam: It is important that your veterinarian perform a full oral exam prior to working in the mouth. Each mouth is different and should be approached as such.
Individual tooth care: Many times the dental arcade in geriatric patients is very irregular. In this case each tooth is best worked on and sculpted as an individual, not as part of a row. Power tools usually perform this best.
Feeding plan: An individualized feeding plan should be made following the oral exam and dental work.
I would like to briefly address the idea of incisor reduction, which is a bit of a debate among equine dentists. The goal for filing incisors (front teeth) is to allow the molars and premolars to better meet up and grind. However, filing them too much can cause issues with the mastication of the cheek teeth. Make sure you are comfortable with the idea of having the incisors reduced before it is done.
Lastly, it is important to discuss how a geriatric horse should be fed. As we have learned, no two patients’ mouths are alike, so logically no two feeding programs are the same. Generally, with an older horse we look to feed for both safety and nutritional requirements:
- Safety: Older horses are often at risk for choke, especially when teeth are missing. Always make sure you are careful with long cut or coarse hay, as they may ball up and become lodged in your horse’s throat. Alternatives may be soaking the hay to soften it, or feeding short cut hay, alfalfa cubes, or just good old grass.
Nutritional requirements: It goes without saying that every horse should be fed to meet their nutritional, energy, and roughage requirements, which may be harder in geriatrics due to limited feeding options. Generally supplements such as senior feeds or grains serve the purpose well, but be sure to always consult with your veterinarian or a nutritionist prior to updating any feeding plan.
Geriatric horses should be celebrated, so don’t let dental issues spoil the party. Proper and frequent care can most often make even the worst of mouths both functional and comfortable. Careful care coupled with proper feeding can allow them to enjoy the golden years that they have worked so long for.
Michael Marshall, DVM
Touchstone Farm Open House 9/7
Touchstone Farm, in Temple, NH, is hosting a Fall Lesson Open House on Saturday, September 7 from 1 to 4 pm.
Visitors can take guided tours of the farm’s riding and carriage driving facilities. They can meet the friendly Touchstone Farm horses, including Gruffy the 18-hand Clydesdale. Instructors Cris Sullivan and Andi Snow will conduct brief demonstration riding lessons and be available to chat with students and enroll them in lessons.
Carriage driving instructors and instructors from the farm’s Horse Power Therapeutic Horsemanship programs will also be on hand to talk about lessons in these programs.
The Touchstone Farm volunteer manager will be there to answer questions about the many kinds of volunteers needed at the farm. In addition, light refreshments and pony rides for children will be offered through the afternoon.
Touchstone Farm, home of Horse Power and Pony Farm, is a non-profit educational and therapeutic organization that fosters a community of belonging for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. Touchstone Farm offers a rich and challenging variety of experiences, which includes summer camps, able-bodied and therapeutic horseback riding and carriage driving lessons, an instructor training school, and equine-related specialty weekends. Grounded in a sense of place, mutual respect and well- being, the 28-acre farm is a sanctuary that nurtures connections, cooperation, self-confidence, and personal growth.
Potomac Horse Fever
Potomac horse fever is a disease caused by a rickettsial organism known as Neorickettsia risticii. This disease is most commonly seen in the late summer and early fall and is most commonly characterized by fever and diarrhea. Potomac horse fever (PHF) is prevalent along rivers and waterways and can affect horses of any age and breed. The transmission of PHF is still being studied but it is thought to be transmitted to horses through the ingestion of caddisflies, mayflies, and slugs and snails. The organism infects and survives in the horse's white blood cells, specifically the monocytes and macrophages and its target organ is the gastrointestinal tract lining or mucosa.
Potomac horse fever is characterized by inappetance, depression and fever. Approximately 75% of horses with PHF will also have diarrhea which is often moderate to severe and dehydrating. Horses may begin to show signs of sepsis including fever, low white blood cell count and low protein. Affected horses will have a low serum protein due to loss of protein through the inflamed intestinal lining. Approximately 30% of horses that have PHF subsequently develop laminitis. Infection with N. risticii in pregnant mares has been associated with abortions, however this is unusual.
Confirmation of PHF can be difficult by clinical signs alone as these are nonspecific. There are a few diagnostic tests available. The PCR test is the most sensitive and specific test of whole blood samples to detect N. risticii DNA in white blood cells. An IFA or indirect immunofluorescence test is also available but in order to confirm disease paired samples are necessary to detect acute and convalescent antibody levels.
Treatment of PHF usually consists of intensive supportive medical therapy and intravenous antibiotic (Oxytetracycline) administration twice daily for 4 days by a veterinarian. Horses with severe clinical signs and very low protein may need intravenous fluids and plasma transfusions. Once treatment with Oxytetracycline is initiated, fever should resolve within 48 hours. Diarrhea will usually resolve within 24-72 hours of treatment.
There is a vaccine available for PHF which seems to have decreased the incidence of PHF but is not 100% effective at preventing the disease. Vaccination may decrease the severity of the disease. It is often recommended in endemic areas and particularly in areas where horses are kept near bodies of water.
If you have any questions about Potomac Horse fever and associated risks for your horse contact your veterinarian or any of the veterinarians at New England Equine Medical & Surgical Center.
Genevieve Comeau, VMD
Jacqueline Bartol, DVM, DACVIM
Paul O'Shea and Primo De Revel win $75,000 Grand Prix at SOJT
Ireland's Paul O'Shea and Primo De Revel Capture $75,000 Equestrian Estates Planning Group
Grand Prix at Silver Oak Jumper Tournament
Hampton Falls, NH - August 11, 2013 - The inaugural edition of the Silver Oak Jumper Tournament drew to a close
"It was a big, long and wide opening galloping course, but then at the end, it was a short turn to home for a tight triple combination, so you really had to get your horse back and under control," said Course Designer Olaf Petersen, Jr. "But I was surprised that so many people had trouble through there to be honest."
When Paul O'Shea entered the ring he had his eye on the prize with his experienced mount Primo De Revel. The luck of the Irish was on his side, as he quickly made his way around the arena, never wasting a second in the air and leaving each rail in place in a time of 45.112 seconds, and just his first round four faults.
O'Shea continued, "We have this format a lot in Europe, and sometimes it has worked to my advantage and sometimes it has not, but today it really did, so I was very happy about that."
Ramiro Quintana was a not about to let Wylde capture the win though. He and his experienced mount Ollywood Des Horts picked up a fast gallop and never held back. They rolled back very short to both of the double combinations and sped easily through the last line, never touching a fence and crossing the finish line in 59.191 to claim the victory while Wylde placed second.
Paul O'Shea and Instant Karma win $20,000 ESP Welcome Stake.
Paul O'Shea and Instant Karma Race to Victory in $20,000 ESP Welcome Stake
A half a second behind, Charlie Jacobs finishes
Hampton Falls, NH - August 8, 2013 - Irish eyes were smiling on a day that started with overcast skies and a hint of rain, but ended in brilliant sunshine in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, as Paul O'Shea and his long-time partner Instant Karma topped a strong field of fifty-five competitors to take the win in the $20,000 ESP Welcome Stake class, the first of the big money classes headed into the big weekend here at the Silver Oak Jumper Tournament.
Munich, Germany's Olaf Petersen, Jr. is designing the tests out on the huge grass field and today came up with the perfect course, one that yielded fourteen clear rides from the fifty-five that went to the post. Of those fourteen, eight horse and rider combinations went on to be double clear in the chase for the title over the short course.
"I think it worked out pretty well," said Petersen. "The thing is, it's only a 1.40m class, but it has to be a little more difficult. It was technical enough with three combinations and some of the jumps at 1.45m. Also, I'm trying to judge how good is the level of riders and horses for the grand prix. My plan was not to scare them already, but to see what I had in the class," he said.
Petersen always builds in a progression, leading up to the main event, which in this case is the $75,000 Equestrian Estate Planning Group Grand Prix afternoon. "And this is really the only chance that I can see the horses and see how to judge for ."
Speaking of the facility here at Silver Oak, Petersen said, "It's great. It's amazing. There are not many places like this in all of the world and the footing is very good. Though it was raining a bit early this morning, the field is still perfect and there's not one place to complain."
That's pretty much been the sentiment of all of the riders competing here this year. Leslie Howard called Silver Oak, "the Spruce Meadows of the East." Another rider said the grass footing is "like a carpet."
Those ideal conditions led to the fourteen clear, but in the jump-off it was decided right away with the first three to return for the tiebreaker taking the top three spots in the final order.
The first to master the first round course and first pair to return, Charlie Jacobs and CMJ Sporthorses' Flaming Star made it look easy the second time around as well, dodging the in-ring photographer and still putting up a stellar time of 45.025 seconds, a time that in the end, would be a half a second too slow.
Darragh Kenny challenged next with the flashy chestnut Quiz, owned by Oakland Ventures, but crossed the finish line 9/10ths of a second off the pace set by Jacobs, tripping the timers in 45.961 seconds.
And then, as the third to go, O'Shea and his mare sealed the deal on the Welcome Stake.
With a quick start over fence #1, O'Shea and Instant Karma were off and running and never let up until the end. Neat and tidy all the way around and then a great cut to the double combination headed for home and a fast gallop to the final oxer set O'Shea up for the win as he raced across the finish line in 44.547 seconds, the only rider on the day to break through the 45 second barrier.
"She's been a great mare for me," said a beaming O'Shea following his victory gallop. "I've had her since she was a foal, so a long time. I bought her with a friend of mine and she's been a really, really successful mount for me."
O'Shea talked about his winning ride.
"I thought to come to the first jump on the left rein. I thought that would be a faster approach and it turned out to be right," he explained. "It gave me a straighter line to the second fence. Coming around to fence #9, it was important to stick close to the oxer in passing and we did that. Fence nine was a big enough oxer, that's for sure. And then it was a matter of keeping the pace through the turn for home, over the double combination. Finally, it was eight very long strides to the last fence. I saw Charlie Jacobs, the first to go, was able to get the eight, so I thought I'd have a go at it too," he said.
O'Shea found a great gallop to that final fence and Instant Karma gave him a huge effort to seal the win. "Walking the course, that was actually a normal ten stride walk, so you think, going against the clock you could do nine, right? But to get the eight strides, you really have to go to get that and we did."
"She's very good in her turns, very rideable, very balanced and that's makes it a lot easier to get the job done," O'Shea added. "But, I really think I won it going to number one, I think I saved a lot of time coming off that left rein."
"I love this place. I think it's the nicest show I've ever been to really," O'Shea commented. "It's a beautiful setting. It's a dream for any horse or rider. The ground is absolutely fantastic and they have everything for us. Food, fruit, water, they even have carrots for the horses, they just really want to look after us and make sure we're happy. The stalls are huge. I can't say enough nice things about this show."
Speaking of the big grand prix field O'Shea noted, "A good grass surface is very rare these days. The horses love it and we riders really love it, so it's great to have that."
"Hopefully I'll have three horses ready to go and we can bring that one home as well," he said in conclusion.
As we mentioned the first three were all alone at the top of the leaderboard.
Finishing in fourth place, almost four seconds off the winning pace was Ramiro Quintana and St. Bride's Farms' Whitney. Quintana tripped the timers in 48.416 seconds. Fifth place went to Goodwin's Loyalty, owned and shown by Kevin Babington. They crossed the finish line in 48.531 seconds. Babington nailed down sixth place as well, stopping the clock in 49.119 seconds on Shorapur, owned by Shorapur LLC.
Ziedento, another St Bride's Farm entry, finished seventh with Ramiro Quintana in the irons and eighth place went to Lilli, owned by the Gotham Enterprizes and shown by Georgina Bloomberg.
Earlier in the day, Paul Halpern guided Super G to victory in the Open Jumpers 1.30m Power and Speed.Halpern was clean through the Power phase and raced home in the Speed phase in 34.724 seconds for the win.
It was a narrow victory as Leslie Howard finished just 2/10ths of a second off the pace to take home second place honors with Moon Doggie and then finished third with Zaragoza. Howard broke the beams in 34.954 seconds with Moon Doggie for the red ribbon and crossed the finish line in 35.518 with Zaragoza.
Halpern returned to pick up the white ribbon for fourth place with Marquis, finishing the speed phase in 36.549 seconds.
Kevin Babington and Lauren Tisbo rounded out the top six placings with Tamina and Sting Van de Withoeve.
, Open, Junior-A/O Jumpers and the popular Pro Am team competition takes center stage.
The $75,000 Equestrian Estate Planning Group Grand Prix dominates the schedule in Hampton Falls as an elite group of top riders will vie for big prize money in the class and the $25,000 Boston Strong Bonus. The $25,000 cash prize will go to any horse and rider combination that win both the $75,000 Equestrian Estates Planning Group Grand Prix at Silver Oak and the Grand Prix at Fieldstone next week. Sunday's Grand Prix is preceded by the $15,000 Agero Speed Classic.
Saturday's session features a number of exciting show jumping competitions, including the Show Jumping Hall of Fame Classics for top Junior and Amateur Owner Jumpers and the $15,000 DG Ventures Speed Derby, a challenging test over 18-20 obstacles in a race for the title.
$20,000 ESP Open Welcome Stake
1-277 $6000 Instant Karma - O'Shea, Paul - O'Shea, Paul 0-0/44.547
2-102 $4400 Flaming Star - CMJ Sporthorse LLC -Jacobs, Charles 0-0/45.025
3-155 $2600 Quiz - Oakland Ventures - Kenny, Darragh 0-0/45.961
4-251 $1600 Whitney - St Bride's Farm - Quintana, Ramiro 0-0/48.416
5-227 $1200 Goodwins Loyalty -Babington, Kevin Babington, Kevin 0-0/48.531
6-230 $1000 Shorapur - Shorapur LLC -Babington, Kevin 0-0/49.119
7-252 $900 Ziedento - St Bride's Farm - Quintana, Ramiro 0-0/49.37
8-109 $900 Lilli - Gotham Enterprizes LLC Bloomberg, Georgina 0-0/60.034
9-240 $700 Tic - Tac - Forbes-Clark, Jane - Howard, Leslie 0-4/46.33
10-173 $700 Wayfarer - Lionshare Farm - Leone, Peter 0-4/47.345
11-204 $000 Wizz O'Shea, Paul -O'Shea, Paul0-4/52.097
12-112 $000 Ak's Clowney - Societe Civile De L'ecurie - Peter Wylde 0-4/48.309
Open Jumper 1.30m II2c - 27 entries
1-221 Super G Kathleen Kamine Paul Halpern - 0/34.724
2-168 Moon Doggie Leslie Howard Leslie Howard - 0/34/954
3-169 Zaragoza Leslie Howard Leslie Howard - 0/35.518
4-219 Marquis Kathleen Kamine Paul Halpern - 0/36.549
5-229 Tamina Kevin Babington Kevin Babington - 0/38.999
6-275 Sting Van de Withoeve Tequestrian Farms Llc Lauren Tisbo -0/39.301
7-113 Apple 3Z Aram Ampagoumian Aram Ampagoumian 0/39.927
8- 284 South Street Georgina Bloomberg Ramiro Quintana - 0/40.627
My horse doesn't sweat...why and what can I do?
The clinical condition where horses lose the ability to sweat in response to an appropriate stimulus is called anhidrosis. Anhidrosis is seen most commonly in horses stabled in hot, humid climates most often in the Southern United States. The estimated prevalence in the United States between 6-20%. This condition can have dramatic effects on the use and performance of horses.
Sweat is the primary mechanism by which horses cool their bodies. A horse in work will dissipate almost ¾ of his metabolic heat production with sweat. In hot, humid climates the vapor pressure in the air retards the evaporation of moisture from the horse’s skin and thus impairs the evaporative cooling mechanism. These horses can lose up to 45L of sweat per day and as much as 12% of their body weight. The sweat not only contains moisture, but valuable electrolytes as well. When a horse loses the ability to cool himself, core body temperature can rise to a dangerously high level. Horses may display depression, poor performance, rapid breathing, hair loss and a dry hair coat. Because of their inability to sweat appropriately, horses with anhidrosis are susceptible to heat stroke and life threatening hyperthermia.
There is no associated age, breed or sex of horse that is affected by anhidrosis. This condition is often seen in horses which are moved from temperate climates to more hot and humid ones, but it is also present in horses native to the region in which they are affected.
Sweat glands in horses are controlled by beta-adrenergic receptors. There is an endocrine and a neural component. Suggested causes of anhidrosis include either a lack of appropriate receptors to stimulate the sweat response, or perhaps the receptors exist, but they are refractory to stimulation. There is evidence to demonstrate actual histological differences between the sweat glands of normal horses and those affected by anhidrosis. In affected horses, secretory cells of sweat glands have a flattened appearance with a markedly thickened basal lamina in comparison to normal horses. The proportion of abnormal cells increases with the degree to which the horse is affected.
Clinical signs usually begin with rapid breathing, flared nostrils and a fever. The skin will become hot and dry to the touch. These horses often maintain an appropriate heart rate and drink less water. If hyperthermia develops collapse and sudden death may occur. In chronically affected horses the skin may become dry and scaly with subsequent hair loss. These horses may retain the ability to sweat under their jaw, at the base of their ears and around their perineum, but the classic pattern of sweat along the neck and chest will be severely decreased or lost altogether.
If you recognize these clinical signs in your horse your veterinarian can perform a test to confirm the diagnosis. He or she can administer an intradermal injection of epinephrine or terbutaline. A normal horse will start sweating, horses with anhidrosis will either not sweat or have a delayed response.
Unfortunately there is no long term cure for anhidrosis. These horses do best if they are moved to a cooler climate and if their exercise programs are modified to prevent overexertion. If moving the horse to a cooler climate is not an option, other strategies can be implemented. Management considerations for horses with anhidrosis include fans, air conditioning and access to shade. Supplementation of electrolytes may be beneficial, but it is not considered an appropriate cure for this condition. Hyperhydration of horses prior to exercise has been shown to be of little benefit and can actually disrupt the horse’s appropriate acid-base balance. In an acute episode a horse should be moved into the shade and cold hosed. A veterinarian should be contacted immediately to prevent the development of life threatening hyperthermia.
If you have any questions regarding anhidrosis or other medical conditions in horses, please consult with your veterinarian or any of the veterinarians at New England Equine Medical & Surgical Center.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Lordan, DVM
Jacqueline Bartol, DVM, DACVIM