What is equine preventative care?

Equine preventative care involves implementing or offering care that's designed to reduce the occurrence of significant disease or poor health in your horse.

Dr. Kari Bevevino
Roaring Fork Equine Medical Center

How does preventative care affect the health and well-being of your horse?

Preventative care measures aim to reduce the occurrence of disease and mitigate the severity of certain diseases your horse might be exposed to. This could prevent scenarios that range from having to call a vet to your place, your horse needing significant time off, or even experiencing a life-threatening illness.

What can you expect from a preventative care appointment?

A preventative care appointment would start with a thorough history of your horse, followed by a comprehensive physical exam. The exam involves checking your horse from nose to tail for any subtle abnormalities that could potentially indicate underlying disease. The visit might also include a dental examination and collection of feces to check for parasites. Discussions around equine endocrine diseases might also be part of the appointment. The first one is equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), which can be observed in horses of any age. The second is PPID (Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction), a condition that typically affects older horses and can exhibit significant clinical signs that may worsen over time if the disease is not diagnosed and treated. Both of these endocrine diseases are usually tested for using a blood test that is sent off to an outside lab.

What are some preventative care practices that you might experience?

To begin with, vaccination is an important measure. We'll delve deeper into this shortly, but it's a crucial step to ensure that your horse has a milder reaction to potential diseases they might encounter. Next is deworming. As I mentioned earlier when discussing fecal collection, we now understand that less is often better for most horses. Conducting a fecal exam will help us determine the appropriate deworming regimen and frequency, which could be as infrequent as two times a year. Another consideration might be a dental float. Depending on the findings from the dental examination and the time since your horse's last dental float, this might be necessary. At our clinic, we ensure horses are sedated, and we use power dental floats to make precise adjustments to your horse's teeth.

Another aspect of preventative care is the Coggins test. This test isn't meant to prevent disease in your horse but rather to safeguard other horses around yours. The Coggins test checks for a disease called equine infectious anemia, which is transmitted by flies. Once a horse is infected, they can become quite ill. While some horses may recover, there is no specific treatment or way to prevent it, other than quarantining infected horses as required by government officials since it's a reportable disease. As you likely know, a Coggins test must be performed annually. It involves a blood draw and photographs of your horse, and you'll receive a form that you need to carry for most shows and boarding facilities. Again, the Coggins test is part of the preventative care appointment, with the aim of protecting horses around your own.

What vaccinations would your horse need?

The necessary vaccinations depend on your horse's location and activities. Horses that are exposed to the environment, like those outdoors, need protection against mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile virus, Eastern and Western encephalitis. The vaccination schedule may vary depending on where your horse resides, with some horses needing it once a year and others in places like Florida or Texas requiring it twice a year due to the continuous mosquito activity.

Additionally, tetanus is a concern, as the bacteria live in the soil, posing a potential threat to horses on pasture. Fortunately, vaccination is an effective way to prevent severe disease. Tetanus is often associated with horses after they've sustained a cut or injury in a pasture where the bacteria can enter the body.

Rabies is another concern, especially if your horse is outdoors and may encounter rabid animals like skunks and opossums. This vaccination is essential and becomes critical if there's any suspicion of exposure to a rabid animal. In such cases, government authorities must be involved, and having a history of vaccination can be very helpful.

Apart from these diseases, we also consider illnesses that can be transmitted from one horse to another. Equine influenza is a horse-to-horse upper respiratory infection. Equine herpes virus is another respiratory infection but can, more worryingly, lead to neurological disease and even abortion. Strangles, caused by the bacteria Streptococcus equi, can result in a severe upper respiratory infection and sometimes more adverse effects.

The specific vaccinations your horse requires can vary depending on its location. For instance, if you're in the Northeast, you might discuss vaccines for botulism or Potomac horse fever, but here in the Roaring Fork Valley, these are typically not part of our vaccination protocol.

How frequently should you plan on getting a wellness examination or preventative care appointment on your horse?

The frequency of wellness examinations or preventative care appointments depends on your horse. It might be necessary to have these appointments annually, or in certain scenarios, twice a year, depending on what we find during the examinations and how your horse is doing in general.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (970) 987-4757, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram