Dr. Jennifer Wright
Greetings and Happy New Year! Everyone at Three Oaks Equine Veterinary Services, PLLC wishes you and your horse a new year full of health, happiness, and prosperity. Accordingly, we are excited to introduce our new and improved Equine Wellness Program for 2016! The new Equine Wellness Program consists of three comprehensive preventive health care programs, namely Performance, Pleasure, and Senior, and is designed to provide optimal care for every adult horse in your barn. You and your veterinarian will work together to evaluate your horse’s lifestyle and individual needs in order to determine the particular program that will most effectively maintain your horse in peak condition.
Enrollment in each program includes a twice yearly complete physical examination and veterinary consultation. Your horse’s vital signs (temperature, pulse, and respiration) will be recorded, and their heart, lung, and gastrointestinal sounds will be evaluated. An ophthalmic examination will be performed on both eyes, and the skin, hair coat, and overall body condition of your horse will be assessed. This is a great time for you and your veterinarian to discuss your horse’s diet and activity level, and to address any stable management, health, or behavior concerns that you may have.
A thorough fecal evaluation for parasites and sand is also provided two times per year with each program, and the results will be relayed to you through a personal phone consultation with your veterinarian! Due to the development of parasite resistance to the drugs used for deworming, simply selecting a deworming product off the shelf no longer provides your horse with the parasite protection they need. In today’s world, an effective parasite control strategy includes the use of routine fecal evaluations to select the proper dewormer and to identify the horses that need to be dewormed. Additionally, a sand clearance product will be recommended if your horse is noted to pass a large amount of sand in their manure sample. Ask your veterinarian to help you identify environmental control measures that you can implement to help decrease the transmission of parasites and the ingestion of sand on your farm.
Each program also includes the administration of twice yearly vaccinations. An effective preventive health care program should maximize your horse’s immune function by minimizing the administration of unnecessary products. Therefore, the vaccinations provided in this Wellness Program are chosen to specifically protect your horse against life threatening diseases that occur in the Central Virginia region. Each program also includes a yearly digital Coggins test, a blood test that screens for a viral disease called Equine Infectious Anemia. Digital Coggins tests results may be mailed, emailed or faxed per your personal preferences or requirements.
Your horse’s Wellness Program will also include a dental examination and float when due. Proper dental care is crucial in optimizing your horse’s condition and performance. Unlike wild horses which spend the majority of their day grazing and consuming large amounts of roughage, our domesticated horses often spend their lives in paddocks or stalls and are fed modern concentrated feeds that require less grinding and chewing. Additionally, wild horses primarily forage from the ground, a position that promotes the jaw movements necessary for the normal wear of their teeth. Our domesticated horses are often fed from hanging bins or buckets and grind their feed with their jaws in an improper position, resulting in increased or abnormal wear of their teeth. Because horse’s teeth continually erupt throughout their lives, regular dental care is very important to ensure that the proper wear patterns of the teeth are maintained.
The Adult Performance program notches up your horse’s preventive care by including a soundness examination and acupuncture scan. The soundness examination and acupuncture scan are designed to identify either existing or a predisposition for musculoskeletal issues, such as a lameness or gait abnormality. Your equine athlete is a fine tuned machine when performing optimally, and routine gait evaluations are an integral component to maintaining long term soundness. The early detection of sensitive acupuncture points or small alterations in your horse’s normal gait often facilitates the identification and treatment of a soundness problem well before it is performance limiting.
Both the Adult Performance and Geriatric programs includes a complete blood panel. Your horse’s organ function, electrolyte and protein levels, inflammatory status, and immune function are evaluated with the complete blood panel. These tests help your veterinarian to identify and treat any underlying illnesses or imbalances before your horse actually becomes sick. A good example of the benefits of such a test is an apparently healthy pony whose blood was screened through her Wellness Program…her test results indicated that her liver was not functioning well, even though she appeared perfectly healthy. Luckily, she received timely treatment and care before she ever became noticeably ill. Similar to the fecal analysis results, you will receive a personal phone consultation with your veterinarian to interpret and discuss the significance of the complete blood panel results.
Additionally, the Geriatric program includes a serum ACTH and Insulin test, commonly used as a screen for Equine Cushing’s Disease and Equine Metabolic Syndrome. Equine Cushing’s Disease, or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), is one of the most common diseases of the endocrine system that can affect horses. PPID is caused by a disorder of the brain and/or pituitary gland leading to a variety of clinical signs including but not limited to laminitis, frequent infections or illness, abnormal fat deposits, a thick, wavy hair coat and insulin resistance. PPID affects both male and female horses of all breeds, and may be detected in horses as young as 5 years of age although the average clinically affected horses are approximately 20 years of age. Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) most commonly occurs in middle-aged horses approximately 8 to 18 years of age and may be characterized by obesity, laminitis and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance (IR) is a failure of the body to properly respond to insulin, a hormone that transfers sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into the tissues. Because IR may be detected in both horses affected with PPID and in horses affected with EMS, the two conditions are sometimes confused. The treatment and management of each condition are quite different, thus it is important to definitely characterize the exact nature of your older horse’s endocrine function. Timely detection and appropriate treatment of either PPID or EMS are necessary to ensure that your older horse has the most comfortable and enjoyable golden years possible!
As noted above, while most horse owners have unfortunately experienced an equine emergency or crisis, an effective preventive health care program will minimize these urgent situations. For example, horses that are predisposed to colic due to parasites or sand, metabolic or weight related illnesses, or suboptimal performance due to soundness issues will be evaluated, identified, and treated before their health problems become serious. Timely and appropriate vaccinations decrease the incidence of life threatening and costly illness. Horse owners should use this time with their veterinarian to sift through the magnanimous amount of horse health care information that they are constantly bombarded with in order to develop the ideal diet, supplement, turnout, and exercise management plans for their horse. Establishing a wellness protocol will save you time, money, and may save your horse’s life!
Finally, the benefits of equine preventive health care are tremendous not only for you and your horse, but also for your veterinarian. The twice yearly visits are invaluable to your veterinarian, as they facilitate the examination and observation of your horse when they are HEALTHY. Behind every evaluation for lameness or illness is an ideal “picture” of how your horse should look and act when they are sound and healthy. The Wellness Program visits allow the identification of a baseline to strive for when treating an illness or soundness disorder, creating a greater depth of diagnostic knowledge for your veterinarian.
The veterinarians at Three Oaks Equine Veterinary Services enjoy seeing each and every one of you and your horses throughout the year. However, our goal is to help you to optimize your horse’s health so that your veterinary appointments are used to facilitate the enjoyment of your equine partner. Best wishes for 2016, and we hope to see you at a Wellness Program visit this spring!