Equine PPID Cushing's Disease

Could Your Horse Have Cushing’s Disease?

Equine Cushing’s Disease (PPID)

One of the main reasons we are exploring this topic is because just in the past few weeks we have treated several horses for un-diagnosed Cushing’s Disease.

Equine Cushing’s is properly known as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID).

What this means is that a gland in the horses brain (pituitary gland) is encouraged to work overtime because there is not enough dopamine (a hormone) being produced by the horses body.

This then causes the pituitary gland to produce too much of certain hormones because the body’s natural “off switch” is not working properly.Equine PPID Cushing's Disease

When the levels of these hormones get too great, your horse or pony starts to develop side effects including: weight loss, muscle loss, laminitis and recurring infections.

This was originally considered an “old horse” disease, however horses as young as 5 years can be affected. Statistics these days say that up to 50% of horses over 15 years have PPID, and 70% of horses that suffer from laminitis are shown to be positive for PPID also.

What are the signs that may indicate your horse has PPID?

  • Fat or muscle loss – a general “loss of condition”
  • Laminitis or reoccurring foot abscess’
  • Hypertrichosis – excessive coat growth (often “curly”) – or unable to shed their coat effectively
  • Fat pads – around eyes, neck (crest), back and rump
  • Lethargy – always seeming tired, lacking in energy for some reason
  • Drinking more or urinating more than normal
  • Abnormal sweating
  • Reoccurring infections – of skin, wounds, teeth, etc
  • Parasite problems

Many people associate PPID with the “curly coat” appearance – and often this is one of the last signs to occur in the disease process. What this means is by the stage your horse or pony looks like a classic PPID case, the disease has already progressed into its mature stages.

We recommend testing and treating your horse before it gets to this stage as it is easier to control, so have a good look at your horse or pony and see if any of the above signs may be apparent.

Health Check and Blood Testing

If you notice any of the above signs with your horse or pony we recommend a consultation with your vet.

A health check will be performed to highlight any areas of concern, and then a blood sample can be taken. Often times we take one blood sample at the time of the visit to test your horses ACTH levels. However this can differ case by case and your veterinarian will discuss your best testing options with you.

What happens if my horse is Diagnosed with PPID?

If your horse or pony is tested positive for PPID then they are often prescribed a medication known as Prascend. This medication acts as a synthetic hormone which then aims to reactivate the “off switch” in your horse or pony’s pituitary gland.

This is life-long medication, and so follow up blood tests and health checks need to be performed regularly to ensure your horse or pony is getting the full benefit of the treatment.

Unfortunately there is no cure for PPID, however – the good news is that it can be very well managed with ongoing medication.

Resources and further Reading

Talk About Laminitis

Horse pre-purchase check

What is a Horse Vet Check?

What is an Equine Vet Check and why it’s a good idea to have this done before Buying a New Horse.

Buying a horse can be a daunting experience. After all, how do you know if you’ve fallen in love with the right one? Will the two of you get on – and is the horse suited (both physically and emotionally) for what you want it to do?

Here’s where having a Vet Check or Pre-purchase examination can really help you make the right decision.

A Pre-purchase examination gives you a comprehensive, unbiased and clinical opinion of your potential new horse.

What’s involved in a Veterinary Pre-Purchase Exam?

Put simply, a Vet Check is a detailed veterinary examination of your horse – from nose to poll to legs to tail.

It’s different to a regular veterinary examination during which the horse’s vital signs (temperature, heart rate, gut sounds, repiratory rate) are examined along with any areas of concern. This may be a suspicious lump, a forelimb lameness or a cough. At the end of the regular examination or consultation, you’ll most likely end up with a diagnosis and a treatment plan.Horse pre-purchase check

At the end of a pre-purchase exam, we aim to give you an unbiased veterinary opinion on the horse and whether or not it will be suitable for its intended purpose. Each horse’s intended purpose varies greatly, depending on the horse itself and the purchaser needs. For example; what’s expected from a pony club mount will be quite different from what’s expected from a 3 star eventer.

So in order to evaluate the horse on the levels required to make that decision, this examination will take a lot longer than a regular veterinary examination.

So what happens during a Pre-Purchase Examination?

Often the owner of the horse is present during a pre-purchase examination. This allows the vet to gather important medical history on the horse such as past injury or illness and current medication and preventative care.

The horse is examined at rest with every organ system taken into consideration. This means the eyes, skin, coat, cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal and reproductive systems are all examined to some extent.

The horse is then examined “at work.”

Flexion tests are performed on all four limbs.

A flexion test is where particular joints are put under stress (or load) and the veterinarian monitors for resulting lameness. This is done by holding up a particular limb and flexing a specific joint then releasing the leg at the same time as asking the horse to trot off.

If any lameness, uneveness or altered striding is noted, this is considered a significant result. This test aims to highlight possible joint diseases that may not be visible on a lunge.

The horse is then commonly lunged on multiple surfaces with each gait individually visualised. This means lunging at a walk, a trot and a canter both ways. Additional to this, the horse is often visualsed under saddle where we look for signs of altered striding, abnormal hoof landings, visible hind or fore limb lameness, decreased flexion, abnormal gait or reluctance to work.

All the information is collected and noted on specific forms with each step discussed with the purchaser along with recommendations.

In some cases there are no further recommendations however often the veterinarian will suggest additional diagnostics such as radiographs (X-Rays), Ultrasound or blood tests, depending on the findings.

It is at the discretion of the purchaser as to whether these will be followed through or not.

Whose responsibility is it to have the Pre-Purchase Exam Done?

A Pre-Purchase examination is a legal document. This means there are specific protocols that need to be followed. As the veterinarian is working on behalf of the purchaser, there is NO legal obligation to share or discuss the findings with the owner of the horse. After all, it is the purchaser who is paying for this service.

Often the veterinarian will discuss all results with the purchaser at the time of examination and it is the purchaser’s choice as to whether or not they consent to share findings with the owner.

Why we recommend Vet Checks

We don’t recommend Vet Checks because we think sellers are being dishonest. Not at all. We recommend them because it’s the best way to ensure you enjoy a long and rewarding relationship with your new horse. A vet check also helps separate the emotional and visual from the practical and sometimes hidden issues so you don’t end up buying a horse for the wrong reasons. A horse bought based on appearance or emotions alone can leave you with regrets down the track which is an unfair outcome for both..

So – if you’re looking to buy a horse and want the best possible chance of making the right decision, please book a Vet Check first. It’s a small price to pay for a long term commitment.


Hendra Vaccination for Horses

Hendra Virus – Why Vaccinate Your Horse

What all Horse Owners ought to Know about Hendra Virus and Vaccination

What is Hendra?

Hendra Virus is a zoonotic disease which means it can be transmitted from horses to humans during close contact with an infected horse.

Although it is a rare disease, the death rate related to infection is very high – about 50% in humans and more than 70% in horses.

The natural host for the Hendra Virus is the flying fox (Fruit Bat) and bats carrying Hendra Virus have been identified in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Northern Territory and most recently – South Australia.

Hendra virus is transmitted from bats to horses and there is also a risk of horse to horse transmission and of course from horse to human.

As vets this gives cause for concern here in Victoria because we know that many horses travel extensively to compete in interstate events, thereby potentially increasing the risk of contracting the disease. Horses are also bought and sold across borders so we’re not as protected from the disease as we’d like to think.

Until recently, no vaccine against Hendra was available so we were all left with no options to safeguard ourselves and our horses against this deadly disease.Hendra Vaccination for Horses

Thankfully however, a vaccine for the Hendra Virus was released in November 2012.

This has come as a great relief to all us veterinarians who are regularly called out to treat sick horses with symptoms not unlike what you’d expect from a Hendra infection.

As such, we’d prefer the peace of mind and we’re sure you would also, that we are able to treat your horse without concern about the risk to our own health or yours.Hendra

Vaccine For Horses

We do not want to be in a position where we would refuse a visit to your sick horse that is showing Hendra like symptoms so please take up this opportunity to vaccinate your horse now. In addition the advice from the Australian Veterinary Association lawyers is that because a vaccine is now available, if a person catches Hendra from your horse, insurance policies will not protect you from a lawsuit.

Apart from treating sick animals, our responsibility as veterinarians is to keep you informed about diseases and help prevent against them wherever and however possible. We are particularly responsible for informing you of diseases that can risk human life so please take this issue seriously.

With this in mind, advising all our equine clients about the availability of the Hendra Vaccine will become a standard part of every equine consultation.

Naturally not all horses will be at equal risk and we are particularly concentrating on competition horses and others which have travel or will be traveling interstate on an occasional or regular basis.

Vaccination Protocol Summary

Unlike other equine vaccinations the Hendra Vaccine is available only via special permit to vets who have undergone the necessary accreditation.

This means:

  • You cannot buy the vaccine and vaccinate your horse yourself.
  • To receive the vaccine, your horse must also be Microchipped so proof of vaccination can be entered into a central database

Vaccination Schedule

Initial vaccination plus a booster vaccination in exactly 3 weeks time
Vaccination at 6 monthly intervals according to current research data. In the future this may become 12 months.

For the latest updates on Horse Health issues including Hendra visit Health for Horses


How to Estimate Your Horse’s Weight

Determining Horse Body Weight

Horse weight measureWhile scales are certainly the most accurate way to measure your horse’s body weight, we know that’s not always possible.

But because there is a need for determining a horse’s weight for the purpose of medications, feeding and so on, researchers have come up with a formula to estimate your horse’s weight using some simple body measurements.

Girth Weigh Tapes

Some of you may already be using weigh tapes which are available through most feed stores. With these you simply place the tape around the girth of the horse and read off the corresponding weight estimate from the relevant point on the tape.

While this method works reasonable well, it does however not take into account the length of the horse. The weight of a horse with a long body length for example may be underestimated using this approach.

A Better Formula

The formula researchers have come up with takes both girth circumference and body length into account and to apply this formula, all you need to use is a normal measuring tape.

To measure the girth – place the tape measure over your horse’s back just behind the withers and loop it round just behind the point of the elbow and back up to the top. The tape should be firm but not tight.

Record the length in centimetres.

To measure your horse’s length – place the tape at the point of the shoulder and take it along the side and up to most protruding end of the body – just under the tail. The tape should form a firm straight line from point to point.

Measure this distance in centimetres

Now that you ahve these two meausrements, just place them in the simple formula:

 (Girth cm) x (Girth cm) x (Body length cm) = Weight (kg)

Let’s say your girth measurement is 158cm and the length is 196cm, using this formula, the maths would be:

 158 x 158 x 196  = 408kg

Do keep in mind – this method still only gives you an estimated weight but it is still better than a guess.

So, next time you need to worm or medicate your horse use this simple formula to make sure you’re giving the correct dose for your horse’s weight.

Ref: the Horse.com “Determining Body Weight and Ideal Condition”

2011 The Year Of The Rabbit

Do You Know these Rabbit Facts?

Apart from being a popular choice for a child’s first pet, they’re now growing in popularity across all age groups.

  1. Rabbits are not rodents like Rats and mice and guinea pigs – they’re a lagomorph. That’s one of the reasons why guinea pigs and rabbits do not make the best of friends and shouldn’t be housed together as is often done.
  2. Rabbits have 28 teeth that never stop growing. That’s why they need lots of fibre in their diet to keep the teeth from overgrowing. Your rabbit’s diet should consiet of 80% – 90% grass or oaten hay plus vegetable and greens – not commercial pellets. Pellets are high in carbs and protein and a diet based largely on these can cause health problems.
  3. A female rabbit is called a “doe” and a male rabbit is called a “buck” – just like a deer.
  4. Rabbits can purr – similar to a cat by lightly grinding their teeth
  5. A happy rabbit can jump around 3 feet and do a twist. This is called a “binky”
  6. Rabbits can live to about 10 years of age and produce hundreds of offspring in a lifetime if not desexed. That’s why there’s a great deal of truth in the expression -“breed like rabbits”.
  7. Rabbits droppings pass through the body twice! They eat their soft night droppings to produce the dark droppings. This is a normal and healthy process.
  8. Rabbits can make great indoor pets as they can be litter trained really well.
  9. Rabbits can groom themselves.
  10. Rabbits can’t vomit so they need lots of hay in their diet to allow any fur balls to pass safely.
  11. A group of Rabbits is called a “herd” and they live in “warrens”
  12. Rabbits are not a solitary animal. They need interaction with from suitable friends such as other rabbits and humans. So always get your rabbit a suitable best friend.
  13. Unwanted behavious such as fighting, urine spraying, biting and scratching can be eliminated by desexing your rabbits. Both males and females should be desexed.
  14. The only place a rabbit sweats from is through the pads on it’s feet
  15. A predator can literally scare a rabbit to death!
  16. There are many different breeds of domestic rabbits and all are descendants of the European wild rabbit
  17. An adult rabbit drinks about 5 – 10 mls of water a day. Make sure they always have a constant supply of fresh water
  18. Rabbits are prone to fatal illnesses just like cats and dogs. Calicivirus is one of those diseases.
  19. Fortunately a yearly vaccination is available.

Rabbits can be unique in their personality just like cats or dogs..

They are very clean animals as they groom themselves daily and always go to the toilet in the same place.

Being gentle creatures, they don’t tolerate rough handling and can stress very easily.

On the other hand, they can become quite territorial and will put up a good fight when their territory is challenged or invaded.

Rabbits can make interesting pets – for any age group and they’re easy to look after if all the basic requirements of housing, diet and preventative health care are met.

I’m guessing, being the Year of the Rabbit, we’ll be seeing a lot more of these creatures around – in advertising and in households everywhere.

Cows don’t have Caesareans. Or do they?

As you can imagine, our days can be less than predictable, especially when emergencies crop up forcing us to reschedule some of our routine (non urgent) appointments.

Attending to farm animals having difficulties giving birth is just one of those times where we need to change our plans and send out a vet quickly.

We clearly remember – (on more than one occasion) where a client has exclaimed “Don’t be silly, Cows don’t have caesareans” …… because they simply didn’t believe this could really be the reason why their appointment had to be delayed.

The truth is – animals can have difficulties giving birth too. In the case of the humble cow, it too can produce a calf which is simply too large to fit through the pelvic canal. This can happen for a number of different reasons such as:

  • The cow hadn’t reached full maturity before falling pregnant
  • The size or breed of the bull might be inappropriate for the size of the cow or
  • The breed of cow may be predisposed to needing a caesarean

Cow caesareans are performed out in the field as is most of our large animal work. The operation is performed using a combination of an epidural and local anaesthetic so the cow is fully awake and standing up during the procedure. The incision is made on the flank (side) through which the calf is then delivered.

Cow caesarean. Night 013The best chance of a live cow and calf is to act quickly. Leaving a cow straining for too long is dangerous for her and for her unborn calf so the sooner a vet is called, the better the probability of a good outcome.

If left unattended the calf will die and start decomposing inside the body. The harmful toxins given off by bacteria produced by the dead calf will cause the cow to become seriously ill and eventually die.

Calving can occur at any time of day – or night. We’ve performed many of these procedures over the years often in the dead of night under the beams of car headlights and torches – most often in Wintery conditions and even in snow.

Ah – the life of a country vet!

But if after all that effort you see the newborn take its first wobbly steps and stumble towards mum for a clean and some warm milk – you know it’s all been worth it.

Horse Owners need PICs

What’s a PIC?

PIC stands for Property Identification Code. And at the moment, all Victorian Livestock owners are required to have one of these.

The PIC data provides the DPI (Department of Primary Industry) with up to date information about Victoria’s livestock populations – where they’re located and who owns them.

This information is invaluable in situations where an emergency response is needed such as: disease outbreaks or bushfires.

Until now, this Legislation only covered livestock such as sheep and cattle and other farm animals but did not include horses. However, from July 1st 2010 – it will be compulsory for all Victorian horse owners to have a PIC identifying the properties where they keep their horses.

Applying for a PIC

Applying for a PIC is free of charge.

An application form can be downloaded from the DPI website or it can be mailed to you. Simply call the DPI helpline on 1800 678 779

What information do I need to provide?

You’ll need to supply your name, address and other contact details as well as the council property number or rates assessment number of the property on which your horses are kept.

You also need to indicate the number of horses kept at that location.

Already have a PIC?

There is no need for property owners who already have a PIC to apply for another. You’ll just need to inform the DPI that you also have horses on that property if you haven’t already indicated this on your original application.

Agistment property owners and Racing stables will also be required to have a PIC.

Need more information?

Further information can be obtained by phoning the DPI Hotline on 1800 678 779

Preparing for a Farm visit

As well as seeing dogs, cats and other small animals that visit our clinics, we also travel to properties to treat a range of other species.

These include Horses, Cattle, Sheep, Alpacas and even the occasional pig.

The reason for the visit can be virtually anything – from lame horse to an emergency caesarean on a cow and anything in between. A typical day for us will generally include some farm visits which are scheduled according to urgency just like any other appointment.

In order for us to examine and treat the patient some preparation is needed. This includes

  • providing a means of confining the patient such as a crush or a small yard as well as
  • people to assist with handling and restraint.

Because the vet will need to discuss treatment options and costs, it’s important that you (the owner) of the patient arrange to be there too.

Costs will depend on the nature of the call. For most routine procedures such as consultation fees, travel charges, geldings and pre-purchase examinations – we can provide fees on enquiry.

In all other cases, the fees will depend on the type of treatment required and the medications needed.

Booking your farm visit.

Most of our routine farm visits are done during the week from late morning to late afternoon Other times are preferably reserved for urgent and emergency work only.

Please book your visit for a date and time that allows you to be there too.