Common ailments

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Horses are large and sensitive animals. If you take care to look over and check your horse every day, you can take care of minor ailments yourself. They do not have to develop into larger problems that require veterinary care. These are a few relatively common ailments that you can normally treat yourself, however, if you have any doubts whatsoever, call your veterinarian.

Small wounds

Smaller wounds that are not deep and do not bleed excessively enough to need sutures can be treated at home. Clean out the wound with soap and water or saline. Make sure to keep the wound edges clean and possible cut away the hairs around the wound to make it easier to keep clean. Apply a thin layer of some form of wound ointment or spray-on wound treatment to shield the wound from bacteria. Some wounds may need bandaging, if the horse has a damaged a heel bulb for example, you may want to apply a hoof bandage. This prevents dirt from getting into the wound.

Mud fever

Mud fever is a skin infection in the pastern. The skin of the horse's pastern is thin and delicate, and wounds may occur when the horse is walking in muddy or damp paddocks. When these wounds get infected it is called mud fever. The most important way to prevent mud fever is to keep the horse's legs as clean and dry as you can. If the horse gets mud fever, it is important to treat it carefully so that it does not spread up the leg. If the infection spreads to the lymphatic vessels, the horse may get lymphangitis. Lymphangitis is when the lymphatic vessels are unable to transport fluids away from the tissues, which means they stay in the limb, causing it to swell up.

What you can do to treat mud fever:

  • Carefully wash the legs with natural or mild soap
  • Carefully dry off the legs with a towel
  • Apply a moisturiser to the pastern Salicylic acid in Vaseline is effective against mud fever.
  • Repeat the treatment every day four about a week. If there is no improvement, contact your veterinarian for advice and possible treatment.

Horses that have had mud fever once will be more prone to get it again. It is therefore important to keep checking and keeping the pasterns clean.

Thrush

Thrush is a bacterial infection in the hoof. It normally occurs in the frog cleft, but may spread to other parts of the hoof as well. The hoof/frog turns soft and mushy and develops a bad smell. It is most often caused by poor hoof hygiene and the horse standing on a wet and dirty footing, but narrow hooves with deep frog clefts may also contribute.

What you can do to treat thrush:

  • Make sure you clean the hoof carefully every day and that the horse has a dry and clean bed to stand on.
  • Spray the hoof with diluted iodine solution, which is antiseptic.
  • Tar and copper sulphate are two excellent products that you can use for thrush, however, there are plenty of other effective products on the market.

Choke

Choke is when the horse's oesophagus becomes obstructed. This may be caused by un-soaked beet pulp, large chunks of apple or just regular feed. The horse becomes very agitated, opens and closes its mouth, salivates heavily and you may see feed bits coming out the nostrils. Immediately remove all feed and carefully rub the left side of the jugular groove. Contact a veterinarian.

To avoid choke, you can start by feeding your horse forage feed before you give it concentrate feed. If your horse has a great appetite, you may put a number of large stones in the manger, to stop it from wolfing down its food. Soaked feed may also be a way to prevent choke.

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