Horses, Ponies and Donkeys: Health, disease and physiology


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First detection of equine coronavirus (ECoV) in Europe.

Coronavirus found in French horses

Source: F. Miszczak, V. Tesson, N. Kin, J. Dina, U.B.R. Balasuriya, S. Pronost, A. Vabret
Veterinary Microbiology, vol 171 no 1-2, June 25 2014, pp 206-209.

Coronavirus has been found in French horses, the first time that coronavirus has been found in horses in Europe. The finding is significant because Coronaviruses can cause diseases in a range of animals, including the respiratory syndromes, SARS and MERS in humans. Elsewhere, equine coronavirus (ECoV) has been found in the USA and Japan. Symptoms in horses include lethargy, fever, anorexia and diarrhoea.

The French sample came mainly from horses in northwestern and southeastern France, and were collected from November 2011 to May 2012. There were 395 samples of faeces and 200 respiratory samples from horses of different ages with enteric or respiratory problems. They were analysed at a diagnostic laboratory using PCR test. Twelve of the samples tested positive, eleven of these being from faeces while one was a respiratory sample. One affected horse subsequently died from diarrhoea. Analysis and sequencing detected a strain that was closer to the North American variety (ECoV-NC99) than that found in Japan (ECoV-Tokachi09). The detection of coronavirus in a respiratory sample is significant, because previously samples had only been found in horses faeces.

Owners should check with their vets if they are worried that a horse may be affected by a coronavirus infection.


The antimicrobial activity of honey against common equine wound bacterial isolates

Honey can help with healing of wounds in horses

Source: R. Carnwath, E.M. Graham, K. Reynolds, P.J. Pollock
Equine Veterinary Journal vol 45 noS44, September 9 2013 pp 13-14

Honey can be applied to equine wounds to help with healing, and it seems to work, though it is unclear why. One theory is that honey can protect horses from bacterial infections. Research to test the efficacy of shop-bought honey in wound healing found 18 of 28 honeys to be contaminated with fungi or bacteria. Eleven uncontaminated honeys were studied to assess their efficacy against ten types of bacteria found in equine wounds. The bacteria included methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, and Streptococcus equi.

Eight of the eleven honeys inhibited the growth of all ten of the bacteria, with concentrations of between 4% and 16% Manuka 20+ and Heather as the best performer.

This study indicates that honey can help with wound healing by controlling bacterial growth, including bacteria resistant to antibiotics, at concentrations lower than would be found when infected wounds are treated using honey. Honey bought from shops is often contaminated, so could contaminate wounds with microbes that are potentially pathogenic.


Preventive health care and owner-reported disease prevalence of horses and ponies in Great Britain

Survey of owners on preventive equine vet care and health problems

Source: J.L. Ireland, C.E. Wylie, S.N. Collins, K.L.P. Verheyen, J.R. Newton
Research in Veterinary Science vol 95 no 2, October 2013, pp 418-424

Horse and pony owners who invest in vet checks can help to prevent health problems from becoming serious. A postal questionnaire was sent to vet-registered owners of horses and ponies from different parts of England, Wales and Scotland, with 797 of the owners, or about a fifth, answering the questionnaire. The aim was to assess the use of preventive health care and to discover how prevalent owner-reported disorders are, noting geographical variations. Most of the horses, or 95.6% had regular hoof care, usually from a farrier. Most were vaccinated against infections, with 71.3% were vaccinated against both flu and tetanus. The average (median) time since they were last wormed was 8.7 weeks. Owners reported stereotypical behaviour such as crib-biting, weaving,and box walking) in around 11% of the horses or ponies. Thirty-one percent of the owners reported their horse or pony as overweight or obese. New health problems in the previous week affected 7.4 of the horses or ponies, with 59.3% of the illnesses diagnosed by a vet. Long-term problems affected 32% of the animals, especially osteoarthritis, affecting almost 14%. In general, the most common problems were obesity, musculoskeletal disorders, and skin conditions. It was worrying that less than a third of owners knew how much their horse or pony weighed, given that correct medicine dosages can depend on the weight of the patient, and owners could feed their animals too much, leading to health problems.


Decision making in the management of the colicky horse

Dealing with colic emergencies in horses

source: Debra Archer
In Practice vol 26 no 7, July/August 2004
starts p 378, 7 pages long

Vets often see cases of colic as emergencies and, though many are mild, with the horse recovering rapidly, it is important to identify those where surgery may be needed. Colic results from abdominal pain, which may have many causes, including gas, and strangulating obstructions, which can be fatal. Heart and respiratory rates, rectal temperature, and checking for abdominal sounds are part of the clinical examination, with a repeat examination after one or two hours if the horse does not respond to painkillers. It is worth checking for worms and dental problems if this is a one-off episode of colic. Painkillers should tackle visceral pain, but horses need to be monitored in case pain persists or increases, so drugs should not mask symptoms of severe pain. Laxatives and fluid therapy may also give relief. Around 7% of cases may need surgery. Early referral aids success, and specialist clinics can give advice as to whether surgery is necessary. They also
have sophisticated imaging and diagnostic equipment. Recovery with no need for surgery is preferable to delay resulting in the death of the horse. Vets need to contact the facility beforehand and discuss costs. Survival rates after surgery have improved, though more information is needed on long-term survival.


Diagnostic and management protocols for equine Cushings syndrome

Diagnosing and managing Cushings syndrome in horses

source: Catherine McGowan
In Practice vol 25 no 10, November/December 2003
starts p586, 6 pages long

Equine Cushings syndrome is a disorder of the pituitary gland, which leads to too much hormone being secreted. It is common among ponies and horses as they age, and is not often seen in horses under 10-years-old. Clinical signs include lethargy, hirsutism, weight loss, and affected horses may suffer from laminitis, and be especially susceptible to infections

Diagnostic tests can be classified in two ways, dynamic endocrine, or, secondly, one-off sampling, or basal tests. Basal tests can be cheaper, and there is concern that dynamic endocrine tests might make laminitis worse, but these tests are more sensitive than basal tests. Plasma ACTH concentration evaluation is arguably the best basal test for this syndrome, while low-dose dexamethasone suppression tests are the best dynamic endocrine tests.

Some owners prefer to manage rather than treat the disease, and management includes hair clipping, checking diet and teeth, and dealing with laminitis and possible secondary infections. Cortisol inhibitors and dopamine agonists are the two drug types generally used in treatment, which has to continue for the lifetime of the horse, so is expensive. Treatment may not prevent the disease from progressing, but can help in alleviating symptoms, and in improving the horses' quality of life. The article discusses diagnosis and treatment in further detail.


Study of the clinical effects of postoperative parenteral nutrition in 15 horses

Parenteral nutrition does not appear to help horses that have been operated on

source: A.E. Durham et al
Veterinary Record vol 153 no 16, October 18 2003
starts p 493, 6 pages long

Horses often need emergency surgery to deal with acute intestinal problems. They are often kept without food and water after surgery, with electrolytes and water given intravenously for the perioperative period [around the time of the operation]. Food deprivation can affect recovery from surgery in a number of species, including horses and humans. However, studies of humans and horses have found both benefits and drawbacks to providing perioperative parenteral feeding [feeding through a vein]. This study investigates the effects of parenteral nutrition on 15 horses which had undergone exploratory laparotomies, comparing them with 15 horses which were starved routinely.

Parenteral nutrition did not appear to have great benefits for the horses in this study either in the short or the long term. Ten horses of 14 from both groups were alive five months after the operation, while one horse died from unrelated causes. A larger study would help to clarify the effects of parenteral nutrition, and could include the effect on lactating mares, growing youngstock, and malnourished horses. The article describes the methods and results in greater detail.


Outbreak of equine herpesvirus type 1 myeloencephalitis.

Lessons from an Australian outbreak of myeloencephalitis affecting five mares

source: M.J.Studdert et al
Veterinary Record vol 153 no 14, October 4 2003
starts p417, 7 pages long

Equine herpesvirus (EHV) type 1 can lead to four syndromes, respiratory problems, abortion and death of foals, and myeloencephalitis, though it may be that not all EHV strains are linked to myeloencephalitis. This study investigates an outbreak involving five pregnant mares from the same paddock on an Australian thoroughbred farm, which were affected by EHV-1 myeloencephalitis. There were a total of 170 horses on this farm, including 74 mares. The symptoms of the affected mares included urinary incontinence and hindlimb ataxia, or not being able to control the back legs. The condition affects the spinal cord rather than the brain.

Risk factors that predispose horses to this disease include pregnancy, lactation, and a build-up in levels of EHV-1 infections in horse populations. Horses that lack specific EHV antibodies also appear to be more at risk, and the affected mares on this farm were more likely to have had low EHV-1 antibody titres, or no EHV-1 antibody titres at all. Vaccination can help protect against abortion and respiratory problems caused by EHV-1, and may protect against myeloencephalitis, though vaccination after clinical signs have been noted may exacerbate the condition.

The farm acted rapidly in notifying the Chief Veterinary Office, and the outbreak was contained with the help of strict hygiene and quarantine measures. The article discusses the outbreak in further detail.


Tendon injuries in the horse: current theories and therapies

Diagnosing, treating and preventing equine tendon injuries

source: Roger Smith and Michale Schramme
In Practice vol 25, no 9, October 2003
starts p 529, 9 pages long

Horses can sustain tendon injuries from external causes, involving bruises or wounds, or from internal causes, involving displacement or strain. Strain injuries are most common, and they mainly affect soft tissues supporting the horse's metacarpophalageal joint.

Most research on tendon injuries has been on injuries affecting thoroughbred racehorses, and nearly half of these have involved flexor tendon injuries, which appear to be more common when horse have to jump hurdles or fences than when they are flat racing. Older horses are more at risk. The superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) stores energy and provides elasticity. It degenerates as horses age, and can degenerate faster as a result of exercise. Fatigue, and carrying heavy weights, are among other factors that can make horses vulnerable to tendonitis. Horses can initially suffer from inflammation and lameness, which may persist if injuries recur due to exercise. Scarring can lead to loss of elasticity.

Diagnosis can initially be achieved through observation and palpating affected limbs, both in a raised position, and weightbearing. Diagnostic ultrasound can help in discovering the severity of injuries.

Treatment depends on the phase of the episode, with the initial aim of reducing inflammation. Rest, cold hydrotherapy, gentle physical therapy that is under the pain threshold of the horse, anti-inflammatory drugs, polysulphated glycosaminoglycans, and a surgical treatment called tendon splitting, have all been found to be useful. The aim of treatment in the next phase, fibroplastic or subacute, is to improve scar tissue quality. Walking exercise can be combined with utltrasound monitoring, with exercise reduced if it appears to be hampering healing. Drug therapies, such as use of growth factors, may also help. Horses vary according to how fast they recover. Premature canter work can lead to setbacks, and ultrasound is helpful is assessing how much exercise to give the horse.

Preventing tendonitis is important, since healing tends to involve tissue repair, not regeneration. A number of factors can help, including appropriate training regimes and assessing risk factors, such as the weight carried by the horse, the ground surface, and the horse's level of fatigue. The article examines diagnosis, training and prevention of tendonitis in greater detail.



Skin tumours in the horse: clinical presentation and management

Diagnosing and managing skin tumour types commonly found in horses

source: Greg Quinn
In Practice vol 25 no 8, September 2003
starts p476, 7 pages long

Owners are likely to take their horses for treatment rapidly if they find skin tumours, because such tumours are easy to spot. Tumours are often very worrying for owners, and can present challenges for vets. Telling the difference between non-neoplastic and neoplastic conditions is not always easy, but it is important to make an accurate diagnosis, so that the treatment is appropriate. A histopathological diagnosis should be used, as well as assessing the history and symptoms of the horse. The whole of the horse's body should be checked, and fine needle aspiration and biopsies can help in diagnosing suspicious lesions. These diagnostic techniques should be used with caution, for example, chronic lesions that are ulcerated should not be sampled.

Lesions are especially common on the ears, eyelids and face, and in areas like the inner thighs where the skin is thin. Flies may be involved in the transmission of disease, through abrasions and wounds.

There are some six types of sarcoids, occult, verrucose, nodular, fibroblastic, mixed, and malevolent. Occult sarcoids have a scaly, grey surface, while more advanced sarcoids are called verrucose, with thickened skin. Nodular sarcoids are subcutaneous lumps, which fibroblastic sarcoids are firm masses that are ulcerated. Fibroblastic sarcoids may become malevolent, with the tumour invading along lymphatics.

Melanomas tend to affect grey horses, especially as they age. An estimated 80% of grey horses suffer from melanomas by the age of 15-years-old. Papillomas, or warts, are linked to equine papillomavirus. They may be verrucose or aural and genital, and genital lesions can spread from one horse to another. Juveniles tend to be affected by verrucose warts. Squamous cell carcinomas rank second of equine neoplasms. Ultraviolet light and penile smegma are among factors predisposing horses to such carcinomoas.

Treatment of equine tumours varies according to a number of factors, such as the tumour type, and cost. Verrucose and occult lesions may be left to be monitored rather than treated. The prognosis tends to be poorer if there are lesions in several places, or lesions are advanced. Treatment options include chemotherapy and surgery. Laser ablation is another option, though the equipment is expensive, and the efficacy of this treatment over the long term is unclear. The article discusses diagnostic and treatment procedures in greater detail.


In sickness and in health

First aid for horse owners

source: Wendy Findlay
Country Smallholding December 2002
starts p62, 2 pages long

Daily health checks are important for horses so that any problems can be dealt with before they develop into something serious. Horses are also easier to handle if they are used to a daily check, and handling foals properly means that they are easier to train when they grow older.

Emergency problems include high temperature with abdominal pain, suspected laminitis, wounds requriring stitching, or puncture wounds, especially close to joints, severe lameness with no apparent reason, and foaling problems for a mare.

Horse owners should have first aid equipment, such as a stable bandage, Gamgee pad, antiseptic powder or iodine spray, salt, antiseptic, cotton wool, scissors, tape, a hoof pick, and Animalintex.

Useful techniques include cold hosing for cleaning leg wounds and reducing inflammation. The water should first be applied as a slow trickle, initially to the hoof, working upwards to where the injury is. Minor cuts can be swabbed with cotton wool and salts dissolved in water that has been boiled and left to cool. Iodine spray or antiseptic powder can then be used. Poultices such as kaolin and Animalintex, can be used to bring pus out of wounds, or reduce inflammmation.Useful techniques include cold hosing for cleaning leg wounds and reducing inflammation. The water should first be applied as a slow trickle, initially to the hoof, working upwards to where the injury is. Minor cuts can be swabbed with cotton wool and salts dissolved in water that has been boiled and left to cool. Iodine spray or antiseptic powder can then be used. Poultices such as kaolin and Animalintex, can be used to bring pus out of wounds, or reduce inflammmation.

Horse owners can prevent health problems in a number of ways. Worming and vaccinations help, as do having feet and teeth dealt with regularly. Fields should be checked for hazards like broken glass and poisonous plants. Horses need to be warmed up before riders gallop them, and it is dangerous to make an unfit horse gallop. Horses should be ridden slowly where the ground is difficult, such as down hills, and in stony areas. They should be ridden slowly before returning hom to their stables, so they are dry and cool. Tack should fit well and be supple and clean.

Vets can provide help and reassurance on the phone if owners are worried about whether or not a problem is serious. 


Haematology and blood biochemistry in the horse: a guide to interpretation

Lab blood tests as diagnostic aids for equine ailments

source: Annalisa Barrelet and Sidney Ricketts
In Practice vol 24 no 6, June 2002
starts p318, 10 pages long

Lab tests of equine blood samples can be useful diagnostic aids for checking for different types of diseases, for management purposes (eg checking on foals and performance horses) and may be needed for insurers, or export purposes. It is important that horses should be as calm as possible since spurious haemoconcentration can occur if the horse is frightened, and that samples are analysed promptly before they deteriorate. Lab results have limitations, and should not replace a thorough clinical examination, but rather should supplement such an examination.

Red and white cell counts and haemoglobin levels can reveal different conditions, for example, low counts for red cells indicate anemia, while high white cell counts (leuocytosis) with neutrophilia indicate bacterial infections, and low white cell counts (leucopenia) with neutrophenia indicate viral infections. Anaemia usually occurs as a result of other conditions. Leucocytosis may be due to stress, and leucopenia as a result of exhaustion or shock.

Protein analyses can also give clues to a horse's condition, for example, low albumin production can indicate liver failure. Other biochemical tests include glucose tests for equine Cushing's disease, and creatinine tests to assess renal function.

Lab tests are now essential in equine practice, and they can save money by helping vets achieve a timely diagnosis. 


Of the staggers

An eighteenth century view of staggers in horses

source: Henry Bracken
Farriery Improved: or a Compleat Treatise upon the Art of Farriery 5th ed London, 1745
starts p88, 12 pages long

Diseases affecting a horse’s head are called staggers, and are similar to apoplexy and vertigo in humans. Bleeding should be the first resort for such brain diseases, which are caused by overfullness. Horses that stand for a long time and are not given exercise are especially prone to staggers. Brain fever and staggers may have similar symptoms, but the cure is the same. The amount of blood taken from the horse is more important than whether or not blood is let from the affected side. Some four or five quarts of bleeding is the most effective measure, if the horse has the strength for this.

There are special balls for staggers, but they can become a more expensive treatment than the price of the horse. However, cinnabar balls, which include quicksilver, can be given to a good horse. A glyster of senna and common salt is also a useful remedy, with a powder can be made with Afara Bacca herb, which can be blown into the horse’s nostrils to ease the head through a watery discharge. There are a number of other recipes for curing staggers, but they tend to be based on superstition rather than an evaluation of why they might be useful, based on medicine, with help from chemistry, natural philosophy, mechanics and mathematics.

There are reports of remedies for staggers, such as putting cloves, rice, ginger, garlic and other objects into horses’ ears, and this practice has driven some horses mad. Putting quicksilver in horses’ ears is also a common remedy among farriers. German farriers are reported to whisper into horses’ ears and turn them round three times. However three is no more magic a number than four, and English methods are more effective.


Of the colick

An eighteenth century view of colic in horses

source: Henry Bracken
Farriery Improved: or a Compleat Treatise upon the Art of Farriery 5th ed London, 1745
starts p200, 14 pages long

Colic affects horses when flatus, or wind cannot be expelled, giving rise to violent pains. Carminative medicines are used to expel wind, and they work by thinning vapours and allowing their discharge. The effect of medicines can be sudden, like a gunpowder explosion, so long as there is no serious obstruction.

Colic is a term that should strictly speaking only be used for problems with the colon, though it has also come to refer to problems with the bowels and stomach.

A choler that irritates the bowels is called ‘Bilious-Colick’, and one cure is a clyster, which includes a mix of camomile flowers and mallow leaves. This helps to clean the straight gut and colon of excrement. A purge may also be useful after the clyster. The purge includes Alexandrian senna, liquorice root, caraway seeds, and juniper berries.

Opiates should not be given at the start of an attack of colic, but they are needed at the end of the cure, once clysters and purgatives have been administered, since they help ease tumult suffered in the bowels.

Moderate exercise will also help horses suffering from colic. A gentle trot helps by shaking the guts and dislodging the enemy.

‘Windy-Colick’ is the result of wind pent up in the bowels, and leads to horses lying down and getting up suddenly, and striking their bellies with their back legs, as a result of the intense pain. The cause is due to dung being retained for too long, so that the flatulence cannot pass through. The cure involves removing the hardened dung by hand, after the farrier has annointed his hand in butter or oil. This task should be performed by someone with a small hand, so as not to cause damage and an inflammation in the horse’s straight gut, which can be more serious than colic.

A clyster can be used to discharge grosser excrements, then a clyster administered for gut pains. The ingredients include camomile flowers, aniseed, and a half pint of rum or brandy

There are other types of colic, such as ‘Hysterick-Colick’, ‘Nervous-Colick’, and ‘Stone-Colick’, the last being a result of bladder or kidney stones, but these three types of colic are not often found in horses.


Of the mange or scab in horses

An eighteenth century view of mange in horses

source: Henry Bracken
Farriery Improved: or a Compleat Treatise upon the Art of Farriery 5th ed London, 1745
starts p286, 3 pages long

Mange is a skin disease, and is infectious, so there are laws that prohibit horses with mange being allowed loose in a common pasture, in case they infect other horses. It is caused by the blood being too thin, and containing corrosive or pungent serum. This may be the result of horses being overheated, then cooled too rapidly, and from low feeding. Lime-burners’ horses often suffer from scab, which may be due to lime coating and drying their skin and obstructing their pores and excretory glands.

Horses scabbed as a result of poverty should have their conditions changed. Bleeding is not needed for lean horses, but both purging and bleeding are needed for full-fleshed horses. An ointment can also be used for both lean and fat horses. The ointment includes bay oil, quicksilver, oil of turpentine, and black soap. Scab heals fastest in the spring time when the sun starts to shine strongly and there is juice in the grass. Horses may be purged by the ointment, but this will benefit them, if they can withstand it. The ointment should be followed by a dose of powdered crude antimony mixed with bran or corn. The dosage should be an ounce each time until the horse has consumed a pound weight of antimony.


Prevalence of owner-reported respiratory disease in Pony Club horses

Lower airway disease prevalent in British Pony Club horsess

source: R.G. Wheeler, R.M. Christley, C.M. McGowan
Veterinary Record vol 150 no 3 January 19 2002
starts p79, 3 pages long

A survey carried out of 104 ponies and horses from a British Pony Club camp has found that coughing is common among this population. Coughing is a common sign that a horse is suffering from lower respiratory tract disease, and the most common type of respiratory disease in Western Europe, including the UK, is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The horses sampled were from a Pony Club camp held in Somerset, in two months in 2000. There was a 97% response rate to the questionnaire. There were 44 mares and 60 geldings in the sample, with ages between five-years-old and 26-years-old, with a mean average of 13 years-old. Welsh crosses and Welsh ponies accounted for 32 of the sample, other ponies native to Britain for 18, part-bred Arabs for 14, and thoroughbreds for 10. Frequent coughing, occurring most days during exercise, was reported by 16.9%, and these horses tended to be older, with a 17-years-old mean age, compared to 12-years-old for horses that owners reported as not coughing frequently. Owners of horses that coughed were more likely to soak the horses’ hay prior to feeding, and soaking hay was the most common measure used by owners to deal with their horses’ breathing problems.

The percentage of horses coughing frequently and at least once weekly was 33.7%, and COPD may be underdiagnosed among these horses. Owners of a horse that coughs may simply change management practices, rather than ask the advice of a vet. Coughing did not seem to be reduced by horses being kept out of doors. The high level of coughing reported in this survey means that it is worth carrying out further research.


Use of sterile maggots to treat panniculitis in an aged donkey

Maggots successfully used to clean elderly donkey’s wound

source: N.J.Bell and S Thomas
Veterinary Record vol 149 no 25 December 22 2001
starts p768, 3 pages long

Sterile maggots have successfully been used to clean a wound affecting an elderly donkey, which could not be treated using conventional methods. The donkey developed panniculitis, following a skin wound. Bacteria found in the wound included Pseudomonas aeruginosa that was resistant to a number of drugs, Escherichua coli, and Streptococci.

Maggots secrete antimicrobial enzymes, which may help with healing, and they have been used to clean wounds in humans. Some 150 common greenbottle larvae were used in this case, or 15 larvae for each square cm of exposed tissue. Nylon gauze kept the maggots in place, and the gauze was glued to the donkey’s skin with cyanoacrylate adhesive spots. A gauze swab soaked in saline solution was also taped on the mesh, to provide good conditions to the larvae. The wound was examined after three days, and the larvae replaced, with intervals between applications lengthened to five days.

The donkey was more than 30-years-old, and the cause of the injury was unknown. The wound had started to heal, but there was a discharge from the centre. Surgery failed to clean the wound and allow it to heal fully, and it was feared that the donkey was too old to undergo repeated surgery with general anaesthetic.

Sheep and rabbits do not appear to be able to inactivate the enzymes that these larvae secrete, and they can suffer from myiasis, a potentially fatal condition, from greenbottle larvae. Humans, however, can inactivate the enzymes, and equids also appear to be able to do so. The larvae in this case only ate diseased tissue, and dropped off the donkey once there was no more diseased tissue for them to eat. A total of six applications were used, with the treatment ending when the larvae not longer had enough to eat. Other types of larvae, such as screw-worm larvae, can harm both humans and equids.

Surgery is often difficult in these cases because it is not always easy to tell the difference between diseased and healthy tissue, and antibiotics may not work, especially if blood circulation is poor in the affected area. The donkey in this case appeared to benefit from a reduction in pain from pressure on the wound area, quite early in the treatment, and did not seem aware of the larvae. There was no need to sedate the donkey, which became more comfortable as there was no need for injections, and the pain eased. A reduction in stress can help wounds to heal.

There were some minor problems, such as larvae being delayed in the post, and arriving dead, or not taking, possibly due to contact with a wound cleaning agent, and the repulsion felt by some staff caring for the donkey. This treatment for severe panniculitis affecting an elderly donkey was, however, both effective and safe, and had a number of advantages over the more conventional options such as antibiotics and surgery.


Killer caterpillars?

Caterpillars may have poisoned Kentucky foals

source: New Scientist July 21 2001 p17

Some 500 racehorse foals have died from unknown causes in Kentucky in early 2001, and researchers from Kentucky University are investigating a theory that the foals could have been poisoned by caterpillars. Many affected foals showed similar symptoms to those of cyanide poisoning. Many of these foals had also grazed near cherry trees, and cherry leaves contain a cyanide-related compound called prunasin. Caterpillars may have eaten the leaves, then travelled to the pasture, following a frost. The foals may then have consumed the caterpillars, or their faeces.


Horse killer

Search for cause of deaths of foals in Kentucky

source: New Scientist May 10 2001 p17

Some 400 foals have died or been miscarried in Kentucky, where the US horse racing industry is especially important. Some half the foals have tested positive for Streptococcus bacteria. This could be a result of secondary infections, according to researchers from Kentucky University, who believe that diet could be a factor. A fungal toxin may have killed the foals, researchers believe.


Helpful herbs

Herbal remedies to improve the skin condition of horses

source: Horse and Rider March 2001
starts p82, 2 pages long

Herbal remedies can be used to improve the skin condition of horses, and help tackle skin conditions such as dermatitis, rain scald, and sweet itch. Remedies which cleanse the blood will help skin conditions, and they include garlic, red clover, and dandelion, whcih can be fed to horses. Stinging nettle helps with sweet itch, and a decoction can be prepared using the root. Kelp is a good conditioner for the coat, while Fenugreek helps make horses coats shiny. Rosemary and nettle can be prepared in an infusion for washing horses' coats, to tackle hair loss and dandruff.


Six top tips to keep your horse 'on the road'

Precautions to avoid muscle problems and injury in riding horses

source: Horse and Rider March 2001 p70

Riders can take a number of precautions to reduce risk of muscle problems and injury. They should allow the horse to warm up before real training, using a rug if it is very cold. Warming down is also important to avoid stiffness. The intensity of training should be developed gradually, and horses should not be pushed for too long. Horses also need exercise, rather than being shut up, especially if they are older, and they need to do a variety of tasks, so that they are more adaptable.


Laminitis - an explanation

Causes of laminitis and how to prevent it

source: Horse and Rider March 2001 p52

Laminitis is an inflammation that leads to tenderness and the horse being reluctant to walk. Other symptoms include sweating and trembling. It is a potentially very serious condition which has been attributed to a number of factors. These include eating too much lush grass, trauma, obesity, unsuitable shoeing, usage of corticosteroids, and Cushing's Disease. Owners should avoid feeding ponies and horses on high calorie diets, and avoid overworking horses where ground is hard. They should also control the intake of grass in autumn, spring, and when it has rained after a period of dry weather, since grass can be too rich at these times. The Laminitis Trust is a charity that aims to promote research in this field. May is National Laminitis Awareness Month. The trust provides factsheets which you can buy, and can be contacted on 020 8933 8383 (United Kingdom).