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Horse Diseases

This page will be about all the illnesses horses can get, and links to find out more.

Here is a List of some common Illnesses and Diseases a horse can get.....

*  Stringhalt - a condition that can be caused due to a toxic build up affecting the central nervous system (over eating certain weeds), or an injury to the hind legs, causing the horse to loose control of the back legs. A mild case will show signs of the horse taking larger, or smaller steps with the hind legs, tending to raise them upwards towards the stomach, a severe case will show signs of the horse kicking itself in the stomach when trying to walk, and having trouble walking, showing a bunning hopping action. A Herbal treatment is all that is available, a vet can only operate in extreme cases.

Strangles  Imunize against this every year, see your vet for details. A very contagious disease, spreading by the discharges (pus) from the nose and burst abscesses. Typically, horses suffering from strangles have pus discharging from the nostrils and swellings under the jaw, that often burst and excrete pus. horses can have fever, be depressed and may stop eating. Most animals recover, but horses that contract even a mild case of strangles must be isolated and removed from training. Objects such as water troughs, feed buckets, brushes, reins and other equipment, can also spread the disease. Recovered horses can spread the disease for up to eight months, even though they can appear clinically healthy and normal.

Tetnus  Imunize against this every year, see your vet for details. Horses can get tetanus from a wound that becomes infected with the disease which affects the muscles of the horse. sometimes from a cut or puncture wound so small its not noticed. An affected horse moves with a stiff-legged gait, often with the tail held out stiffly and the ears pricked. As it progresses the muscles become so rigid and stiff that the horse may fall and not be able to get up again. Convulsions may occur and death is caused by paralysis of the breathing muscles.

 Tying up  - Any of us that have played a weekend sport or spent a few hours doing physical work will know about stiff or sore muscles.  This happens to your horse too! TYING UP is the usual term these days, but was commonly known as  “Monday Morning Disease” in the 18th century, due to horses being very stiff after being locked in their stalls on their day off (usually Monday after a busy weekend).  The official term is AZOTURIA, but veterinarians may call it “Myositis” or “Myopathies” Good horse owners know to gradually introduce grain feed to their horse’s diet, along with gradual increased exercise.  But many forget to decrease the diet right away after a vigorous workout/event or such when the horse has a day off the next day.  Also caused by a lack of Sodium (salt or Electrolytes) It can also happen through trauma, such as panicking when tied up, floating or an accident. Symptoms include reluctance to work, excessive breathing, heart rate and sweating, short stride in the hindquarters, and if pressed, can go lame or even collapse. Sometimes the horse is not being disobedient when taking him for a ride or workout the day after, as he could be tied up. There are many different types of tying up, and some breeds are more susceptible to it.  They include Thoroughbred, Standardbred, Quarter horse, Arab and Draft breeds.  Racing, Polo and endurance sports use these breeds, and due to the high level of training and feed involved, theses horses are at high risk. Fillies, and especially mares coming into season are at a high risk too. Remedies include a laxative diet, anti inflammatory, or sedatives, and massage on the affected muscles.  Also rest for a few days in extreme cases, and hay with no more than 2 kilos of grain at the most. But more importantly, be sure you feed your horse to the relevant exercise he is getting, and on the day after a hard ride, cut out or at least halve, the high energy feed and at least take him out on a walk to loosen up his stiff muscles, and turn him out in the paddock if he is normally stabled.

 QLD Itch  - also called sweet itch, Seasonal Dermatitis, or Summer Eczema. 

It is in layman terms, an allergic reaction to a type of Sandfly (Midge) called the Culicoides, mostly affected in Summer, and unfortunately can be a recurring problem every year.  Most horses are just unhappy with the biting, but some develop a severe reaction, and seek relief in the form of constant rubbing or scratching on a fixed object. Most affected areas are along the mane, base of tail and the ears, these being the most easiest to scratch, but can also affect the chest and side. The constant rubbing causes hair loss, and often raw or broken skin in severe cases. There is no cure, but prevention is possible by the following, from late spring right through to the middle of autumn:  

 - remove any stagnant water near your horses, as that is the best breeding place for midges.

 - Clean your water troughs thoroughly and regularly, and replace with fresh water

 - stable your horse from spring to summer before dusk and let him out after about 7-8am 

 - a flyscreen over the open half of the stable door, or place a fan where safe. Midges hate breeze!

 - If no access to a stable, rugging with summer rugs (including neck rugs) can help a little.

Prevention also can be in the form of applying medications such as Flyaway Insecticidal Spray, Permoxin Insect Spray or Swift to be used regularly, preferably just before dusk.  All these need to be diluted and tested on a small area of the neck first to ensure your horse won’t have a negative reaction to the treatment. Hexicol Medicated Wash or Sea Salt Minerals Dermal Spray among others, can help control the problem, heal sores, and provide relief.  In severe cases, injections can be given by a veterinarian. Not all cases of irritation or constant scratching however is QLD Itch, some may just be a case of worms or something different!  If you are unsure, check the Heartland/Ranch site on their table of skin disorders in horses, or check with your Veterinarian.

* Laminitis/Founder -  Laminitis, the initiating cause of founder, can affect any horse, not just fat ponies! It can be triggered by a variety of reasons. Laminitis is now considered to be caused by devitalistaion of the supporting laminae within the hoof, leading to painful breakdown and tearing of the support tissues suspending the pedal bone within the hoof. If laminitis is not treated properly, the pedal bones drops or rotates downwards, resulting in founder, with total collapse causing severe lameness and risk of death.

 Mud Fever  / Rainscald / Greasy Heel - This is caused by a bacteria called Dermatophilus Congolensis which can invade the skin after damage or softening of the skin’s defences due to constant exposure to wet and muddy conditions or sweating. Scabs are formed by the fighting white cells forming a serum, trying to expel the bacteria.  The most affected are the hind legs, white legs and legs with feathers. Barrier creams can prevent it (even a heavy application of Vaseline before it starts) but if your horse already has it, do the following.
 - Try to keep your horse out of the wet conditions (not easy sometimes I know!)
 - Clip the hair back as close as possible.
 - Remove the scabs by rubbing baby or vege oil over the site then gradually scrape off. (Oil will 
  soften the scabs, so easier to remove, and less painful for the horse) or hose until scabs soften.
- Clean the area, then apply a lotion or ointment such as Lotigen, or Yellow Lotion, Mastalone,
  or other pastes or ointments, or you can use very diluted nappy san.
- Repeat at least once a day, if not twice, and do your best to keep the area dry.
- Be gentle when doing this as a horse can become hoof shy if treated roughly.
- A similar affliction is rain scald where a horse forms scabs on the back, rump or shoulders.
Baby oil is best for removing the scabs, and then after cleaning, applying the Lotion, ointment, or similar product.

Ring Bone an exostosis(bony lump)on the pastern bones. If it's not near a joint the horse may become sound again after rest. If it is by joint, especially near coffin bone, it is more serious, and horse may be permanently lame.

*  Splints small lumps on the legs usually from a knock or hit.

*  Lice - a small white insect that can live in the horses hair causing iching and hair loss. Lice can easily be controlled with a medicated shampoo, drench or powder. usually one application will kill them. They are very contagious to other horses, so a horse found with lice should be seperated from others while being treated, and any other horses in the same paddock or joining paddocks should be treated as a precaution, rugs and bedding should alsobe treated.

Worms - parasite infectation in the horses stomach and intestine, this can easily be controled with worming pastes, drenches and pellets. Also feeding Garlic helps to control worms in between worming.

Colic -ha stomach pain that can cause twisted bowels and other problems. Can be caused through a sudden increase or reduction in feed, new feeds adding in too fast, or unusual feedds being eaten, or dirt/dust being eated.

* Bog Spavin - a soft swelling on the front of the hock, seldom causes lameness.


* Bone Spavin - arthritis in the small bones of the hock.

Produces a hard swelling low down on the inside of the joint  this is painful and causes lameness.