Another Fun Read from Dr. Al, Your Pet’s Pal!
Whether your new to LBR or a returning friend, WELCOME and WELCOME BACK!
As we start focusing on the cold months ahead and preparing our barns, pastures, horses and ourselves for winter, we wanted to take a minute to focus on one of the biggest health concerns we face during the winter! COLIC!
While colic’s can happen any day of the year, we often face colic’s in the winter. Most often winter colic’s are related to dehydration, changes in weather, changes in forage, or decreased pasture time. Winter related colic are most often impactions, and typically a few medications to ease pain and relax the horse, as well as some mineral oil and water administration, can do the trick to get your horse back to it’s normal self! Occasionally, treatment at an equine hospital for further treatment may be required. That being said, impaction colic’s are typically easier to treat if intervention is early on.
If you notice your horse just doesn’t seem right, a phone call to your vet is probably worth it. Waiting 16 hours, and calling the vet at 10pm because you can’t sleep because your horse didn’t eat at the morning or evening feedings, and is still uncomfortable, isn’t a good start to a treatment plan.
Impaction colic occurs when digested material slows down and stops moving efficiently in the horses gut. Pain is often associated when distention occurs from forage, feed, and gas getting stopped up behind this blockage.
Dehydration, changes in weather, changes in forage and decreased pasture time, can all contribute to increased risk for colic. As mentioned many times before, it is of the utmost importance for a horse to always have easy access to plenty of water. So making sure that water is thawed at all times, is essential. We highly recommend heated buckets or water trough heaters. Keep in mind, that an average horse will drink 8-10 gallons of water a day, and will not be able to accomplish this with frozen water. Another thing to consider is that some horses do prefer heated water. Other options include adding electrolytes or a teaspoon of salt into feed; this may entice a horse to drink more. Even adding water to feed would provide them an extra source of water. So if you find that your horse is not drinking much, it may be worth a try.
Horses this time of the year go from eating water rich grass, to dry hay. This can be another source of colic. Hay becomes the largest source of forage, and is used for more than just feed, but also to help fuel it’s furnace and create heat during the coldest of days and nights. The problem is, if the horse is only consuming hay in the morning, in the evening the horse’s gut will start to slow. With the slowing of the gut and the consuming of dry forage, this becomes a large risk for impaction. Some ideas would be to provide a slow feeder filled with hay, this will allow the hay to be available longer (in most circumstances). Another way to keep the gut moving effectively would be to make sure that the horse is turned out as much as possible.
Physical activity and movement helps improve the motility of the gut. However, during inclement weather horses may be kept in for long periods of time, and many of these episodes can be sudden. These sudden changes in a horses activity, diet, and weather can increase your chances of colic. It is hard to say whether it is the weather that causes colic or just the fact that owners are keeping a closer watch over their horses while they are stalled. So keep an eye on your horse, look for areas where you can add more water, more exercise, or increase forage, and help do your part in preventing colic as much as possible.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS?
If your horse just doesn’t seem right, especially not eating a meal or acting uncomfortable, they may be your first signs. You may also notice the horse becoming unsettled or restless; they may start pawing, sweating, stretching with hind legs, or looking at belly, rolling, laying down, thrashing, or even trying to lay on it’s back.
Call the Vet before things get worse, but you may want to monitor some vital signs for your knowledge and to give your vet a heads up before his or her arrival. Things you can do: monitor respiration’s, check heart rate, and check temperature are 3 of the easiest ways to check your horses condition.
In conclusion, preventing colic and early detection of possible signs of colic give you the best chance of it not becoming more severe. Sometimes a quick call to your vet can yield advice that you can use to treat your horse at home yourself. It at least may give them a heads up so that they may be able to adjust their schedule early in the day to fit you in for a visit. Probably the biggest factor in preventing colic, especially in the winter is constant access to drinkable water; and that leads into our next discussion….
From the Desk of Dr. Al, Your Pet’s Pal!
It’s time…YES! IT IS TIME! Believe it or not, now is when you want to start getting ready for winter…if you haven’t already started planning! Fall is where a successful winter season is made!
Planning ahead and getting prepared is critical to the ease and success of the winter season with horses.
1. As we all know, hay is crucial in the winter months. Not only does hay provide a source of forage and nutrition, but also it causes the horse to drink more to stay hydrated. It also helps the horse to regulate heat during the cold months. Fall is the time to finish up your hay search…and if you haven’t started stacking….it’s time to start! It will be easier to come by and less expensive then waiting until November 30th and deciding you better stock up. Tip: Grab you husband or wife, grab an adult libation…or two, and spend a cool evening stacking. It is cooler in the evenings and you should always remember to hydrate!(this will also make the stacking process more fun :))
**If you haven’t had your horses teeth looked at yet this year, now would be a great time. All that hay and fiber will require some good chompers, so call out your favorite equine dentist or have your veterinarian check your horse’s teeth to make sure your horses is ready this winter!**
2. Water sources! Install NO FREEZE WATER SPIGOTS and HYDRANTS! Install them in several areas near paddocks so that you don’t need to run hoses that freeze and become useless in winter. Find them at home improvement stores or online for between $50-$150, it is well worth it, easy to install and will save you a TON of time and hassle in the winter! No more replacing busted spigots and hydrants! As you trench your new waterlines, also install electric lines and put an outlet near your spigot. That way you can put a stock tank de-icer in your water to keep it from freezing without needing extension cords.
**As the weather gets cooler, horses become less interested in their water. So it is important that water is always available and appealing, this will help prevent colic and dehydration. Do what you can to keep your water from freezing (hopefully we have a while before we are concerned about that!), make sure there is plenty of water available, and if needed a little electrolyte powder to feed can help!**
3. NOW is the time to go get heated water buckets and/or a water heater for your trough (before your local farm store runs out!) Cord or no cord, water is more important. I have seen several horses die from impaction colics in the winter, and none from a cord of a water heater (maybe I’m just lucky). So take a risk for the sake of drinkable water, and in fact while your out…BUY YOURSELF AN EXTRA! Do not be the one doing the “ISO posts” looking for water heaters and heated water buckets at 6pm before the big freeze that night! If cared for these buckets and heaters can last a few years and are so handy to have on hand, just in case! DO NOT FIND YOURSELF WITHOUT, be responsible, be prepared! A horse should have water available at all hours of the day and easy access to it. Without water you are risking colic and other health issues that we will not delve into just yet!
4. Here is an example of an outdoor weatherproof covered power outlets to install by your water sources. This will provide you a power source to connect your heating device to, and keep that water thawed.
5. It is always helpful to have a hose that is short that can connect to a spigot and be just long enough to reach to a water trough. If you have any hoses that are rolled up, make sure they are drained and discontinue them for the winter. Then use this short hose, disconnect after each use and hang up. This will make sure that your hose never freezes or breaks, and it is always ready to use. Should you need a long hose, a GREAT idea and what we have on back up is a long collapsible hose. You can get them from home improvement stores, Amazon, Wal-Mart, and in all sizes. They will collapse, be super light weight, you can disconnect from the water supply, let it drain out, wrap it up and take it inside with you in a bucket to be ready for when you go out. I prefer to take it with me, just so any access water does not freeze. But again, I still like the classic short hose.
6. NOW would be a perfect time to think back to last winter, is there anything that you should have changed to make your life easier? Or was there anything that happened this summer that you may not have been able to fix, repair or keep up with during the hot weather or while you were so busy during your competition season? This includes things like pipes, hoses, shovels, plows, blankets, fence boards, popped nails, barn doors…I’m sure you have something on your list! So, NOW is the time to inspect, replace, repair, or send off for service. We all know the feeling of waiting for the perfect weather for all those great ideas we have to upgrade things in the barn and pasture, or to drop items off for repair….then eventually forget while we keep waiting for that perfect weather day, and the time needed! Well, we are here to remind you, it’s better to get done now…time is ticking and cold weather is inevitable.
These are just 6 of the many ways you can be prepared for the winter ahead. It may seem like months away, but you do not want to be the one in a panic looking for what you need! Prepare now, and stay warm later!
Thank you and Have a WONDERFUL sunny remainder of what’s left of the season!
~Dr. Al and LBR