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Worryingly, around 50% of UK horse owners do not vaccinate their horses against flu and 40% do not vaccinate against tetanus, putting a large proportion of our horse population at risk.
Here are three reasons why you should vaccinate your horse:
1 – Disease can make horses ill or even worse
The last thing you want is for your horse, or any horse, to get ill, so prevention is always the best approach.
Although flu does not usually cause long term or fatal illness, it can lead to pneumonia in very young and old horses.
It can take from a few weeks to several months for horses to fully recover which could result in them being out of action for a significant period of time.
You may be restricted from competing and yard closures can be put into force.
If you see signs of flu in your horse, which include a dry cough, nasal discharge, fever, lack of appetite and lethargy, you should isolate your horse and contact your vet.
Signs of tetanus, such as seizures and muscle stiffness, can be severe and develop rapidly into a ‘rocking horse’ stance and ‘lock-jaw’.
Unfortunately, in many cases the disease proves to be fatal. It’s awful to see horses suffering with tetanus, and prevention by vaccination is the best option
2 – Disease spreads more easily than you think
Diseases can also spread indirectly via people, water, feed and equipment that have been in contact with infected horses.
Furthermore, equine flu can travel up to 5km in favourable conditions.
Even if a horse lives alone and doesn’t leave home, he’s still at risk of infection if left unvaccinated.
Ensure contact with horses and people off-premises is minimised, especially at competitions.
People who visit the yard should regularly wash their hands thoroughly and disinfect boots on entry and exit.
3 – Your horse is well connected
Even if he doesn’t leave the yard, your horse may still be in contact with horses who do, which can increase the risk of diseases spreading. Watch the video below to see how easily diseases can spread worldwide.
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Discover some simple ways to look after your horse's health - from his temperature and legs to his teeth and skin, we've got it covered here!
A healthy horse is generally a happy horse, but as he can’t speak to tell us how he feels, we have to know how to spot the signs that he’s feeling under the weather through changes in his behaviour, mood and from a visual look at him.
How do I know if my horse is healthy?
Whether you’re standing next to your horse in his stable or with him in his field, there are a few easy checks and signs to look out for, to make sure he’s happy inside and out. So next time when you’re with your horse, have a quick look for these obvious tell-tale signs to check that he’s happy and in condition.
Inspect his eyes and nostrils
Looking at your horse's eyes, check that they’re bright, not cloudy and free of any discharge. Similarly, his nose should be clean and have little or only clear discharge.
Glare at his gums
Peeling back your horse’s gums, they should be a salmon pink colour, any signs that his gums have a yellowish tinge, could suggest issues with his liver.
Listen to your horse's tummy
Listening to your horse gut is something, we often don’t think about, unless there’s a concern about colic. But if you listen to both sides of your horse’s abdomen, you should hear gurgling, fluid-like and the occasional grumble which are all signs of a healthy tummy.
Condition score your horse
You will probably know seasonally when your horse puts on a few pounds or not, but any radical changes in his body condition score, should be recorded and kept a close eye on. Running your hand over his body, you should just feel his ribs, with a good even coverage, over his quarters and no excess fat on his crest.
Watch your horse as he eats, if he drops his food which is referred to as quidding, or dunks it in his water bucket, this could sound warning bells, that there might be a problem with his teeth. If he has sharp edges these can usually be felt through his cheek, but for a thorough diagnosis of the health of your horse’s teeth ask a vet or equine dental technician to examine them. In reality he should have his teeth checked every six to twelve months.
Your horse’s coat and skin can tell you a lot about he’s feeling. A shiny, glossy coat with no signs of irritation and rubbing, usually shows that he’s healthy and free from any skin conditions. But his skin also can help tell you if he’s lacking in fluids. If you firmly pinch your horse’s skin on his neck and then releasing it, if it leaves an indented mark for a few seconds, this could suggest he needs to increase his water intake.
Check your horse's legs
Glancing down at your horse's legs, feel all over his legs, checking to make sure they’re free-from bumps, lumps and blemishes. If you spot any signs of heat, swelling or wounds, you’ll need to treat them immediately or if he is seriously injured, seek advice from your vet straight away..
Check his TPR
Here are the temperature, pulse and respiration readings you want to see, to confirm your horse is fighting fit.
The normal temperature for a horse at rest, not having exerted himself during exercise is 37.5 and 38.5 degrees Celsius.
An average horse should display a pulse reading of 32 beats per minute.
Your horse at rest if healthy will take 12 – 15 breaths a minute.
Click to read more about how to take your horse's TPR.
How can I keep my horse healthy?
Health is all about looking after the inside and outside of your horse. There’s no point in bandaging him up and keeping him in a comfy fully bedded stable if he’s not feed the right nutrients, offered a chance to stretch his legs and in a simulating environment with other horses. Here are three areas which will improve your horse’s well-being.
Devise a feeding plan for your horse that matches his fitness levels, condition which meets the demands of the work being asked of him. He should have a balanced diet with all the right nutrients to keep him happy within himself. If confused by all the nutrients and feeds on offer in your local feed store, then speak to a nutritionist.
Your horse like us, need to move around, as otherwise they feel they live a life of captivity and control. This doesn’t mean he needs a full-on fitness regime, it could be simple daily turn-out, lunging or some ridden work. This will not only keep his mind active, but his joints supple.
Trapped in a stable with no company or in a bare paddock, doesn’t say stimulating environment to your horse. To keep him happy in his mind, make sure he has access to see other horses and plenty of ab-lib forage, whether that’s grass, hay or haylage as this will keep him occupied for longer. Adding a few stable toys to his home or turning him out in a paddock with lots to see, will see him happier and ultimately healthier.
When to call the vet
Seeing your horse clearly not himself, can be quite stressful and upsetting, but acting quick and seeking advice could reassure you as well as allowing your horse a quicker recovery should he not be well. Obviously any signs that indicate lameness, colic, pain or serious swellings then pick up the phone and call the vet immediately.
Do you have a veteran horse?
Learn how to keep your veteran horse healthy - click here.
Keep you veteran horse in good health all year round with this advice designed to help you ensure he stays full of life for longer.
The longer you own your horse, the more they become part of the family especially as we do our best to look after them and give them the best future possible. But as your horse ages and reaches his twenties or even thirties, you need to give him that extra TLC to keep him happy and healthy.
Feeding your veteran horse fibre
As your horse ages his digestive tract become less efficient and his teeth become shorter, smoother or are lost altogether. This means he’ll find it harder to chew hay so to keep his fibre intake up, by offering fibre in an easy to chew form such as short chop feeds or chaff. To also make sure he has all the essential nutrients to keep him in optimum health, provide him with balanced veteran cubes that can be soaked to help with his digestion. To read more about forage http://bit.ly/2ghtB5S
Condition concerns in the older horse
It’s important to watch how his body changes as he ages. Of course his shape will alter as his muscle mass reduces with less exercise, but what you have to be aware of is his weight. To help you see if theres any subtle changes to his shape keep a regularly record of his weight by using a measuring tape and if concerned contact your vet.
Worming your veteran horse
Veteran horses have a reduced resistance to worm infections, so keeping on top of your horse’s worm burden is important. This involves worming for encysted larvae in December or January, and covering or testing for tapeworm in spring and autumn. For the rest of the year use regular worm egg counts and only worm when an active burden is present. This will ensure your horse is worm-free, without overdosing on anthelmintics drugs, when they’re not required.
Just like his teeth, your horse’s immune system starts to weaken as he ages, making it less efficient at fighting off infections. To try to minimise the risk of serious infection it’s important to keep an older horse’s vaccinations up to date, even if he’s not going to be travelling anywhere. Also don’t forget about tetanus as this is in the environment such as soil, meaning infection can occur, even through minor cuts and abrasions when he’s turned out in the field.
Horses as they age can become more prone to dental problems. Loose teeth can shift, causing ulceration in the mouth and may eventually fall out, leaving a gap behind. Diastema (gaps in between the teeth) can become packed with feed and cause painful gum disease. It’s therefore really important that teeth are checked and routine dental care is undertaken regularly to pick these problems up early.
Think about your horse's feet
Even if your horse isn’t still in work it’s important to keep an eye on his hooves and to maintain regular foot trimming to keep his feet in good condition and avoid putting extra strain on joints and tendons which are less elastic when your horse is older. A well cared for foot is also less likely to crack, which reduces the risk of foot abscesses and lameness problems.
Keep your horse's joints supple
To prevent his joints becoming stiff and creaky, exercise is key. It doesn't have to be ridden work, as simple in-hand walking or daily turnout will help. Exercise will also keep his mind active and give him a purpose. To boost his mobility try adding a joint supplement to his daily feed.
Give him an MOT
To confirm he's fit and well or to spot any issues, ask your vet to give your horse a regular check-up. In some cases, this may include a blood sample to screen for underlying conditions that might not obvious until later.
Learn more about veteran health issues - click here
Got a handy tip for keeping veteran horse's healthy?
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