Preventative Healthcare Services
A preventative healthcare program includes annual or semi-annual vaccines and dental care. It also involves creating the optimal deworming program with fecal egg count tests, nutritional counseling, advice on housing, hoof care, fly control, blanketing, turnout, and any aspect of your horse’s care that can affect their overall health and well being.
At FVEP, we want to be a resource that you can turn to between veterinary visits as well as during routine calls.
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Body condition should be not too fat, nor too thin. A horse should display a well rounded rump, the ribs should be well covered but still easily felt and the neck should be firm with no crest.
Horses in captivity need routine dental care. Their teeth are continually erupting from their gums for most of their life, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth are in turn constantly ground down by the act of grinding hay and other feed. Their cheek teeth (pre-molars and molars, which are in the back of the mouth) develop sharp points that can be uncomfortable and abrasive on the inside of the cheek. In addition to experiencing pain, horses with dental irregularities are more prone to choke (esophageal obstruction), reduced efficiency in feed conversion (poor weight gain, or weight loss, etc), or problems with their bits.
Therefore it is recommended to schedule a sedated oral exam for each horse one to two times per year. The exam will determine when the horse’s teeth should be floated. This term, borrowed from the field of architecture, refers to the veterinarian using a float to grind down the irritating, irregular points on the teeth. Technological advances allow FVEP doctors to use a powerfloat, which is an electronic drill base with a grinding surface, to quickly and efficiently take down points and hooks. Hand floating with handheld rasps is another way teeth may be floated. FVEP also offers digital radiography to take x-ray images of teeth that may be compromised, fractured, or infected. These teeth may need to be extracted, especially in older horses.
The AVMA defines core vaccinations as those “that protect from diseases that are endemic to a region, those with potential public health significance, required by law, virulent/highly infectious, and/or those posing a risk of severe disease. Core vaccines have clearly demonstrated efficacy and safety, and thus exhibit a high enough level of patient benefit and low enough level of risk to justify their use in the majority of patients.”
Risk-Based Vaccinations are included in a vaccination program after the performance of a risk-benefit analysis. The use of risk-based vaccinations may vary regionally, from population to population within an area, or between individual horses within a given population. Disease risk may not be readily identified by laypersons; it is important to consult a veterinarian when developing a vaccination program.
In the past, horses did not live nearly as long as they can now with the benefits of excellent ownership and health care. Older horses have special needs. They may struggle with dental disease, lameness, difficulty keeping weight on, and certain endocrine diseases such as PPID (Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, or Equine Cushing’s). FVEP doctors are excited to partner with you as your horse ages to develop the best support plan to keep him healthy and active as an older animal. Do not hesitate to discuss preventable diseases, routine bloodwork, and nutrition with the doctor at a wellness exam. Horses aged 15-20 and older would be considered entering old age—but this doesn’t mean they do not have lots of life and energy left with proper health care!
Ophthalmic (eye) examinations can be performed as part of a general wellness exam or to investigate a suspected problem. If a horse displays swelling of the eyelids or is holding its eye closed, this is a sign of pain that should be investigated immediately to prevent serious consequences, such as blindness and/or loss of the eye.
Sheath cleaning is a hygienic process occasionally needed by male horses. Not only can smegma, a waxy substance that includes dirt and dead skin cells, accumulate, but some geldings (and occasionally, stallions) may also form a “bean,” a hardened ball of smegma inside the sheath or even the urethra that, in extreme cases, can interfere with urine flow. It is recommended that the sheath be cleaned once or twice a year. The vet may use light sedation to help the horse “drop” for easier cleaning.
Proper nutrition is a critical part of each horse’s health routine. Have questions about what is the best type of feed or feeding schedule for your horses? Don’t hesitate to ask one of our veterinarians. FVEP doctors are knowledgeable on the proper feeding of horses of all ages, breeds, and uses. When considering a nutritional plan for each horse, her age, breed, endocrine (hormonal) status, pregnancy, and “job” should all be taken into account. A 27 year- old Morgan gelding with PPID who lives in a backyard and is retired from work will have very different nutritional requirements from an 8-year-old pregnant Saddlebred broodmare, or a 14-year-old Warmblood gelding who is going training level this year. It is recommended to discuss each individual’s nutrition plan with the veterinarian.
Parasite resistance occurs in two forms and is now well recognized. This changes how we should deworm our horses and requires a new and smarter approach. Adult horses are resistant to parasites at variable levels, in addition to parasites developing resistance to all dewormers currently in use at variable levels. The best way to utilize this new information is to deworm the right horse at the right time with the right product at the right dosage. Your FVEP vet can advise you on how, and when to deworm your horses.
As a form of identification, a rice-sized computer chip is implanted in the nuchal ligament in the top of the horse’s neck. This chip is registered with the microchip company with the owner’s information to help reunite horses with their owners in case of disasters and theft. It is now required in all FEI-level horses and must include 15 digits.