Latest News Bulletins
Equine Recurrent Uveitis “Moon Blindness”
Ocular diseases are among the most common health disorders of horses. Of these diseases Equine Recurrent Uveitis (ERU) commonly known as "moon blindess" is one of the most common causes of blindness. ERU has a high prevalence across horse breeds in the US and economic impact may be high due to factors including disruption in training, decreased performance, and disqualification of horses from competition due to medication use.
ERU is an immune mediated disease that has an increased incidence in Appaloosa and German Warmblood horses. ERU is a complex disease that is multi-factorial in origin related to the genetic make up of the individual and is strongly immune mediated. ERU involves all aspects of the equine eye however, the origin of the inflammation is centered around the uveal tract. The uveal tract is comprised of the iris (colored portion of the eye), ciliary body, and choroid. The iris you can see with the naked eye (this is usually blue or brown in horses) while the ciliary body and choroid cannot be visualized and are responsible for blood supply to the inner eye structures.
The disease can have three different clinical syndromes: classic ERU, insidious ERU, and posterior ERU. Classic ERU is the most common and the horse will show signs of pain. Insidious ERU involves gradual low-grade inflammation where the horse may not show any clinical signs of pain. Posterior ERU involves the back chamber of the eye and may or may not show signs of pain. Horses can have primary uveitis present due to an infection or inflammatory response without it recurring. Horses that experience an episode of uveitis are at risk to develop ERU however, are not classified as having ERU until 2 or more episodes of inflammation have been observed. If 2 or more years have passed without recurrence of a second episode the risk of developing ERU is diminished.
ERU may be further separated according to the stage of chronicity. “Active or acute” cases have pain associated with an acute inflammatory reaction that can manifest as excessive tearing, blinking, and holding the eye partially closed. “Quiescent” cases are comfortable and show little signs of active inflammation but will have chronic indications of inflammation on ocular exam by a veterinarian. “End stage” cases are usually eyes with chronic ERU with severe changes that lead to shrinking of the affected eye, cataract formation, and other changes that cause blindness.
As an owner is it important to take notice if your horse is displaying signs of pain (tearing, excessive blinking, holding the eye closed), if the eye has an abnormal appearance (grey/blue haze to surface, reddened conjunctiva), or your horse is acting like he is displaying signs of vision loss. If you notice any of these signs then contact your veterinarian to perform an ocular exam on your horse. If your horse is diagnosed with ERU the main goals for therapy are to preserve vision, decrease pain, and prevent or minimize the recurrence of flare-up episodes. This is done with a variety of ocular and systemic steroids and NSAIDS. Response to treatment is unpredictable and acute episodes may last a few days or several weeks. Some recurrences are mild and respond quickly to simple treatment while others may not show the same positive response to therapy. For horses with chronic documented ERU that are not experiencing inflammation and have frequent recurrences after stopping medication, surgery may be an option. Surgery is performed and a Cyclosporin A implant (immunosuppressive drug) is placed in the eye allowing slow release of the immunosuppressive agent. It usually takes 30-45 days for the concentration of the drug in the eye to be effective and can last for 5-9 years.
Unfortunately, the prognosis for ERU is usually poor for a cure to preserve vision. However, the disease can be controlled. One way to control recurrence is via proper stable management to decrease or eliminate inflammatory stimuli. It may be possible to eliminate environmental allergens that trigger recurrent episodes by changing the bedding, the pasture, stabling, increasing insect and rodent control, decreasing sun exposure, etc… You can also reduce trauma to the eye by eliminating sharp edges, nails, and hooks in the barn and taping up exposed handles on feed and water buckets, removing low tree branches in the pasture, and implementing constant use of a fly mask. It has also been reported that some horses with ERU have episodes stimulated by vaccines containing more than one kind of antigen or disease. It is therefore recommended that horses with ERU be given their annual vaccinations in at least 2 sessions spaced a week or more apart. Also pre-treating with NSAIDs such as Banamine 24 hours before vaccinations maybe helpful.
If you have any questions about Equine Recurrent Uveitis please contact your veterinarian or one of the veterinarians at New England Equine Medical and Surgical Center.
Ashley Taylor, DVMJacqueline Bartol, DVM, DACVIM
Food Stamps for Pets?
The federal Food Stamp program provides families with low income to purchase food. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that included about 46.6 million people in 2012. What about their pets?
A new program called Pet Food Stamps provides free monthly home delivery of pet food and other necessary pet supplies to owners receiving food stamps or who are below the poverty line. The program’s founder and executive director, Marc Okon, says that more than 45,000 pets were signed into the donation-based program in just the past two weeks.
“We’re not looking for government funding at this point,” Okon told ABCNews.com. “Should the government be willing to provide assistance further down the line, we will look into it.”
Once a family is approved for funding by Pet Food Stamps, they will receive food for their pets for six months. Food will come from the pet food retailer, Pet Food Direct. The program is geared towards cats and dogs, but some other small animals may be accomodated.
A statement from Pet Food Stamps:
“The Pet Food Stamps program has been created to fill the void in the United States Food Stamp program which excludes the purchase of pet food and pet supplies. In these rough economic times, many pet owners are forced to abandon their beloved pet to the ASPCA, North Shore Animal League or other animal shelters due to the inability to pay for their basic food supply and care. There are over 50 million Americans who currently receive Food Stamps, many with dogs or cats, who simply cannot afford to feed their animals, and these cherished companions are dropped off at animal shelters where they will most likely be put to sleep.” It continues, “The Pet Food Stamps program, due to the generosity of contributors and patrons, are able to eliminate that heart-wrenching decision by making sure these pet owners are given free monthly home delivery of all necessary food supplies to maintain the health and vitality of their pets.”
The Silver Oak Jumper Tournament
Upcoming Events at Touchstone Farm
-February 23 RESCHEDULED, Sleighing Clinic...bring your own horse or use one of ours and Rock A Thon to support Barn Yard Buddies
-February 24 RESCHEDULED....Fun Sleigh Rally & Sleigh Rides, Bonfire...Open to the Public!
-February 23...POSTPONED Murder Mystery Dinner at Stepping Stone Lodge
-March 9...Touchstone Farm Lesson Program Spring Open House & Demonstrations and PF Camp Gathering in NYC for current campers and Alumnae
-March 15, 16, 17...Intro to Carriage Driving Clinic
-March 23...Art Gallery Gathering in MA
-April 12 to 14th...Spring Fling Pony Farm Camp Family Weekend!!!
Volunteer Opportunities at Touchstone Farm for Horse Power and Able Bodied Students
Touchstone Farm is a non-profit educational and therapeutic organization that fosters a community of belonging for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. We offer a rich and challenging variety of experiences that include summer camps, riding and driving programs, a world class instructor training school, specialty weekends and a diverse educational opportunities, all of which culminate in building traditions that are both dynamic and timeless. Our professional staff strive to ensure that the experiences we offer are truly “Building Foundations that Last a Lifetime.”
We are seeking fun loving, energetic people over the age of 12 to volunteer in our 10 week lesson program, starting Monday March 18 thru the end of May. Classes are Monday thru Saturday, with different groups every day. Times vary with the groups starting at 10am running thru the afternoon. No horse experience needed, we will train you. Come be part of an amazing opportunity helping others. It is truly an experience you won’t soon forget. For more information, please contact Terri at 654-8562. Open House is on Saturday March 9 from 1 to 4. Volunteer Training is Sunday March 16 from 10 – 1.
The time of year for foals has already begun or is fast approaching for many owners and barns. Are you ready and prepared for once they arrive?
30 Days Pre-foaling:
- Deworm mare
- Booster vaccines (Equine Herpesvirus killed vaccine [Rhinopneumonitis] should be given at 5,7 and 9 months of pregnancy to prevent abortions)
- Make sure you have a clean, dry stall ready for foaling when the time comes
- Monitor the udder - the udder will usually fill 1-2 weeks prior to foaling and the teats will wax over as foaling approaches
- Try to practice "non-invasive" monitoring to keep the mare calm and comfortable
Stages of Parturition:
- Stage 1 - Onset of contractions
- May look like colicky behavior or may be un-noticeable
- Stage 2 - Expulsion of foal
- Duration should be 15-30 minutes
- Veterinarian should be called if you do not see 2 feet and a nose first
- The umbilical cord should break on it's own as the mare stands up within the first few minutes, do not cut the umbilical cord, if you notice it is bleeding then it can be tied
- Stage 3 - Passage of the fetal membranes
- The fetal membranes should pass within 3 hours from foaling
- If this does not occur then a veterinarian should be called
Normal Progression for the Foal
- Normal respiration within the first minutes
- Gain righting reflexes within 5 minutes
- Suckle reflex within 5 minutes
- Attempt to stand within 30 minutes, should stand unassisted within 2-3 hours
- Begin nursing in 1-3 hours
- Should pass meconium (first manure - dark and very sticky) within 6-12 hours
***If any of the above does not occur as it normally should, a veterinarian should be contacted immediately***
A relationship with a veterinarian should be established throughout the pregnancy process so that he/she can support the mare and you, as well as the foal. If everything proceeds normally with the parturition process a healthy foal exam should be performed within the first 24-48 hours. During this exam the veterinarian will complete a full physical exam. This exam ensures that everything is proceeding normally and identifies any congenital or other abnormalities. Foals can have a heart murmur for the first few days of life normally, but this should slowly disappear and should be monitored by a veterinarian. They can also have congenital defects associated with their eyes, nose and limbs that a veterinarian can evaluate. The umbilicus should be evaluated to ensure that it closes normally and is free of infection. Shortly after birth the umbilicus should be disinfected with iodine or chlorhexidine to prevent infection and facilitate proper closure. This procedure should be performed several times a day for the first few days. If the foal does not pass meconium within 4-6 hours or is seen to be straining, a saline enema should be administered. Monitor for urination as well. If the foal has any difficulty nursing and/or passing meconium or urine, call your veterinarian.
A blood sample to measure the foal's IgG (antibodies) levels should be taken 12-24 hours post foaling. This is a measurement to ensure that the foal received enough colostrum from the mare. Foals do not get all their antibodies until after being born and drinking the mare's first milk (colostrum) that is full of antibodies. The foal is only able to absorb these antibodies during the first 8-12 hours of life. If their levels are low they should be administered colostrum or plasma to protect them from getting sick. Low levels indicate an immature immune system which puts the foal at risk to infection. Foals often look healthy and act fine until they are very sick so it is important to identify problems early to start treatment early and ensure a good prognosis.
If you have any questions regarding preparing for the arrival of a foal or any complications that can occur early in a newborn foal's life, please contact your veterinarian or the veterinarians of New England Equine Medical & Surgical center.
Kimberly Brothwell, DVM
Jacqueline Bartol, DVM, DACVIM
New England Equine Medical & Surgical Center
Dover, New Hampshire
Touchstone Farm Reschedules Sleighing Weekend
Rescheduled for February 23/24
Saturday and Sunday, February 9-10, Touchstone Farm in Temple, NH, hosts a full weekend of fun and informal sleighing events with horse-drawn sleighs.
Boo Martin drives a one-horse open sleigh at Touchstone Farm in Temple, NH.
On Saturday, Dave Bradham of Uncasville, CT, will teach a day-long sleighing clinic for beginner to advanced drivers. Plenty of time is built in for sleighing on a prepared track through the farm’s open fields. Participants can bring their own horse and sleigh or use Touchstone Farm’s horses and sleighs.
Saturday evening features a home-cooked dinner and a presentation, “Sleighing in the Old Days.” This event takes places in Stepping Stone Lodge at Touchstone Farm. Overnight accommodations are also available at the Lodge.
Sunday is the farm’s first annual sleigh rally, which kicks off with a parade of sleighs at 11:00 AM. Participants can register for up to 10 classes, including obstacle courses, classes for miniature horses and ponies, and a dueling sleigh competition. Participants in a special Currier and Ives class receive points for costumes and how well their hitch portrays the days of old. The public is cordially invited to attend the rally on Sunday.
Admission is free to spectators, who can watch the competition, enjoy sleigh rides through farm fields, and warm up with hot chocolate around a bonfire. Connelly Brothers Dairy Farm of Temple will be on site to offer hot food and drinks for sale.