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Your Horse:
Selection Of The Horse
Conformation Of Horses
Disposition Of Horses
Saddlery And Equipment For Horses
Care Of Saddlery And Leather
Feeds And Bedding For Horses
Horse Stables
Horse Pastures
The Veterinarian
Care Of Horse Feet And Shoeing
In Or Out Of The Stable
Transporting Horses
Basic Physiology Of Horses
Genetic Considerations Of Horses

The Veterinarian

( Originally Published 1954 )

With the disappearance of the horse-drawn vehicle from both the city and the country the old time vet has also become a thing of the past. These men were of varying skills and some of them were quite limited in their training and capabilities. Even to this day it is considered uncomplimentary to refer to a professional man as an "old horse doctor." We are inclined to forget that all professional training in those days was sketchy compared to that at present, and many a man learned the law or the practice of medicine while working as an apprentice to an older practitioner. What these. men lacked in formal training was often compensated for by careful observation and good common sense. 1, have a veterinary book over seventy,-five years old, and while the treatment is largely obsolete the descriptions- of diseases and the anatomical plates are as good- as those we find today.

In the past twenty or thirty years the veterinary schools have made tremendous strides and their facilities for teaching basic sciences and careful investigative. work is on a par with that of many of our medical schools. The veterinary graduate today finds himself in a world where horses play, a comparatively small part of his professional field, and as a consequence training in these lines is less extensive than in the past. A large percentage of them will go into inspection of products of animal origin and will work for the U. S. Government, State, or the Military Services. People often smile when they hear that every Air Force outfit has a veterinarian, not realizing that his supervision of meat and milk have been one of the major factors in the prevention of illness in the troops. A second large group of graduates will open hospitals for small animal work, since tending the family cat is a profitable and interesting vocation. In the more rural communities you will find men who become specialists in large animals, that is to say primarily cattle and horses, with the emphasis on the former. These men usually have special equipment in the handling of horses and generally are more suitable than the veterinarian of the first two categories. Best of all, of course, is the horse specialist. These men as a rule are to be found only in those areas where the breeding of high class horses is a major industry or at the race tracks where nothing but the best is demanded. If you are fortunate enough to be in the neighborhood where there is a good horse veterinarian be sure to make his acquaintance at your earliest convenience.

If there is no veterinarian in your community you will probably find that most of the advice is passed around by some local farmer or stableman who considers himself an authority and who will offer a tremendous amount of advice usually without charge. Unfortunately most of it is worth exactly as much as is paid for it, although a few practical home remedies are helpful. If you are caught in a jam and there is no veterinarian available do not hesitate to ask the advice of your family physician. He will not be insulted by your appeal and he frequently has had some animal work in his medical school training. While he will not be equipped to handle many equine problems, at least he can advise you as to the proper use of antiseptics, bandages, and special remedies for the eye or throat. I have frequently helped my friends in treatment of their horses, particularly in an emergency or in a field which I might have some special knowledge. I have been happy to work with veterinarians in cases in which I could be a consultant. I regret to admit that our equine patients are often more cooperative than our human charges.

When a new horse comes into your barn the veterinarian should make his visit at the earliest convenient time. This should be done even if a veterinary inspection was done at the time of purchase because a dental examination and treatment is usually in order. As a horse grinds his food with his back teeth they gradually develop sharp edges which may cut his lips or tongue, and uneven spots will interfere with the grinding mechanism. In addition, some young horses will have small extra or wolf teeth in front of the molars. These serve no useful function and often act as an irritant and cause a horse to shake his head when the bit is placed in his mouth. These teeth have practically no root and are readily removed much as a child's tooth is extracted. Routine dentistry to remove sharp edges consists of going back and forth over the teeth with specially constructed rasps, although in extreme cases a nippers is required to cut off particularly large projecting bits. A veterinarian can usually accomplish this with a minimum of discomfort to the horse and, in fact, the majority of them do not seem to object at all once they have confidence in the actions of the operator. Some veterinarians use a speculum to hold the mouth open, while others prefer to avoid closure by holding onto the tongue. The former method offers a little greater visibility but skillful men seem to get the same result without the added equipment. Under normal circumstances this process of "floating the teeth" should be done about every two years, but if the veterinarian happens to be around my place in between times I usually ask him to make a check because it is so easy to re-move rough edges when they are small. The proper dental care pays big dividends, both in the appearance of- the horse and in the actual expenditure required- for- grain. The better the ability to masticate, the more perfect the assimilation and utilization of the foodstuffs.

The veterinarian may make special suggestions concern=ing feeding or the care of any abnormalities. he may note but before he leaves you will wish to discuss with him the control of parasites. You must realize at once that your- horse t will be the victim of intestinal parasites, commonly called worms. This should not be a cause for alarm because the worms which infest the horse are in no manner dangerous to the human, but they can certainly debilitate a horse in-short order if they get out of hand. By definition an animal parasite lives on or in another animal and procures its nourishment at the expense of this animal called the host and the person who owns the animal. Worm parasites are internal parasites and the majority of them live in the digestive tract almost entirely. Horses are affected by some fifty different kinds of worm parasites. Some of these worms may reach the length of twelve inches, although the majority of them are about a half inch long. The largest and most frightening type of worm is. the ascaris which is occasionally seen in the droppings. Actually this is much less, dangerous, than many 6f the smaller forms. How can we tell that our animal is infested? The classic symptoms consist of a dull and staring coat, a general appearance of unfitness, poor flesh in spite of good food, and attacks of digestive upsets. These are the symptoms, but their absence in no way indicates parasites are inactive. Another way to determine. the' presence of parasites is to have an examination of the droppings made by your veterinarian or a commercial laboratory. In view of the more recent work showing the omnipresence of parasites, one is perfectly safe. to assume that they are present and go ahead and treat accordingly.

Horse parasites may be divided into three groups. The most frequently seen by the ordinary observer is the ascaris or white worm. This worm lives in the small intestine of horses and may occur in considerable number. They have a very -complicated cycle which involves the depositing of the eggs on the.ground with manure and from there they are picked up by the grazing animal and passed through the digestive tract, the blood stream and back again to the digestive tract. They do most of their damage by irritating the intestinal walls and thriving at the expense of their host. Occasionally they become so numerous as to cause obstruction. The ascaris is essentially a parasite of young horses, and unless you are raising young colts they will probably be of no great importance to you. Ascaris is treated by the use of carbon disulphide. This is a highly powerful, irritating liquid and is usually administered either in a capsule or through a stomach tube. This drug should be used only by a veterinarian or one skilled in its use. The size of the dose and .the number of times it must :be administered will depend upon varying factors.

A second group of parasites are bots. Actually these .are not worms, they are flies. You will see these miserable creatures hovering around your horses in the late summer months. They are slow moving and look very similar to a bee. They are intent on their life's work: that of depositing their eggs upon horses front legs, although a few will be deposited on the mane, shoulders and the flanks but rarely on the hind legs. Bot flies are extremely irritating to horses and they will stamp and paw in -their effort to avoid them. The fly is very sluggish .in its movement and it is usually possible to swat them if they are seen. The bot egg develops very rapidly and shortly after this deposit contains a fully' infective ,larva. When the horse licks the egg the larva gets into the horse's mouth. Some are swallowed directly while .others bury into -the tissues of the mouth and then work their way down into the horse's stomach. On arrival in the horse's stomach the bots attach themselves and remain there until the following summer. In late spring the bot larvae release their hold and pass out into the manure. They then transform into adult flies and the cycle starts again. The damage of bots is quantitative rather than qualitative. By that I mean that a few will do no great damage, and only when many are present will they upset the digestive system and cause appreciable difficulty.

Bots can be held to a minimum by the process of removing the eggs as fast as they are deposited. They can be removed by scraping with a sharp knife, although some advise the use of hot water or kerosene. In either case the treatment takes but a few moments and since the fly season is comparatively short the infection can be held to a practical minimum. Once bots are inside the horse they must be treated by the veterinarian, because again carbon disulphide is the treatment of choice. If you have mature horses who do not require treatment for ascaris, and the bot flies have not been very heavy, you may be able to avoid treatment except in unusual conditions.

The third and most deadly group of worms come under the general heading of strongyles, which compose a group of some forty odd species. The most important of these is the strongylus vulgaris or more commonly called "the blood worm." These parasites live in the digestive tract when mature, but the immature stages are invariably found in the large blood vessels which supply vital nourishment to certain parts of the intestines. Horses infect and reinfect themselves as they graze in pastures which have been contaminated by the droppings of other horses. It has been accurately determined that an infected animal may pass from one million to ten million eggs a day.

While some damage is done by the worms in the intestinal tract, the major part is done by the immature forms in the blood vessels where they cause obstruction by the formation of clots. These cause gangrene to the intestines supplied by this particular group of vessels, or even ruptures of the blood vessels with severe hemorrhage. Modern veterinary science makes the positive statement, "a horse with repeated history of colic is recognized as a horse parasitized with blood worms."

Fortunately, there is a safe and simple method of control-ling blood worms which can and should be carried out by anyone who owns horses. In the last ten years there have been tremendous strides in the eradication of this parasite. The drug of choice is phenothiazine. When it was first avail-able it was given in large doses in the attempt to eradicate all blood worms at once. In certain cases violent and undesirable reactions occurred; but further research demonstrated that the drug could be given indefinitely in small doses without any harm whatsoever. The majority of the work in this investigation has been done at the University of Kentucky in cooperation with the large Thoroughbred breeding establishments of the area. Careful follow-ups of test animals for periods of two to three years have proved conclusively the beneficial results of this treatment and its safety.

The accepted method of treatment at the present time is as follows: two grams of phenothiazine are given to each animal once daily, preferably mixed in the grain ration. This is done for three weeks and then a rest of about ten days is allowed and the process is started again and continued thus indefinitely. This is commonly called the twenty-one day treatment. This regime is a must for all who hope to raise and maintain healthy livestock, particularly colts and brood mares. Mature horses in severe training usually have the dosage suspended, but they return to it whenever a rest or inactive period occurs. Phenothiazine can be obtained in one pound jars direct from your veterinarian or from certain drug supply houses. In the past two years numerous preparations have come to the commercial market under varying names. Practically all these use phenothiazine as a base and also have added various minerals, vitamins, and special ingredients which are claimed to be of benefit. The addition of vitamins and- minerals is useful, if these are deficient in the ration, but otherwise I doubt that they are necessary. There is no question of the tremendous importance of adequate vitamins and minerals in the nutrition of the horse as well. as the human, but some of our commercial establishments have gone over-board in trying to make us believe that they can be obtained only by the addition of some fancy formula which costs anything from twenty-five cents to a dollar a day per horse. If you wish to be thoroughly scientific you can have egg counts done periodically and administer phenothiazine accordingly, but since this drug is inexpensive and safe it is a lot easier to give it routinely. In stables where horses are constantly being changed, infection of paddocks, stalls and pastures is so constant that permanent eradication is impossible.. At. a private stable, however, where there are only two or three horses the worm count will probably drop to a very low figure if phenothiazine is used regularly. I have no scientific data to support the opinion, but I would hazard a guess that mature horses kept at home could be maintained. parasite free by using the twenty-one day treatment four or five times a year. Your veterinarian, however, will be better qualified to evaluate the amount of parasitic infection present in your particular community and his suggestions should. be followed exactly.

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