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Veterinary Medicine

Expert Rachel A. Pemstein, VMD

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I'm looking at a horse that had OCD when she was a filly. The owners said that she is completely over it, but the pre-purchase exam said she failed because of OCD. How do I know if the horse had OCD and how can I tell if she is completely over it? Is there a test that can be run or do I wait until after I start breaking her to find out if she is over OCD completely?

What is your opinion or experience with chiropractic work on horses? My 6 year old TB mare just underwent a session. The chiropractor is not a DVM but works on humans as a profession and horses on the side. He says it works wonders and seems to be the "hottest cure all" when my vet can't come up with any answers.

Could excessive hair on the vulva of a filly cause tail rubbing? I have a 5 month old filly that is constantly rubbing her tail while in her stall....Could this be the reason for the tail rubbing and if so, what do I do about it?

I'm considering buying a 3 year old horse for jumping. During the flexion test the vet gave him a 3/5. His right front showed lameness....Should I be concerned about his right front?

My yearling must have bumped her front shin. There is a hard lump on the front cannon bone midway between the knee and fetlock. No lameness. Is there a chance this lump will disappear?

How big is a horse's brain?

My 5 month old Quarter Horse filly has had a swollen back for four weeks. The equine vet checked her over and found no exterior injuries present.... One note, mom of filly has cercoma flat circles which look like ringworm. Could it be a tumor on the filly's back? If so, what is the treatment plan and chances of future tumors?

How do you treat what is called Pigeon Fever?

My 10 year old Appaloosa gelding was diagnosed with bone spavin when he was five years old....Are there any other procedures, such as surgery, that can help my horse become serviceably sound?

My horse had an old injury when I got her. She had fractured her leg and the vet said she won't use it again. Could you tell me what would be good to heal that bone and help her strengthen that leg again?

I am housing horses of different breeds, however, only the Icelandic horses exhibit symptoms of sarcoptic mange for the last three fall/winters. The symptoms are hair loss around the flanks with crusted lesions on the flanks and itchiness on the head and sides. What are some forms of prevention in the environment and on the horse? Is it true that Icelandic horses have a hyper-sensitivity to biting insects?  If so, would this be why they are the only ones to exhibit symptoms and could the other horses be carrying the mites but not bothered by them?

What is the cause of ringbone on a horse and how do I treat it?

My 13 month old gelding had extension processor surgery on his right front. He is now diagnosed with ringbone. Can you please give me more information on a follow up of surgery and how to care for ringbone?

My 7 year old TW mare that I purchased 2 months ago stumbles on her left front leg. She has some boggy swelling at the knee and I can feel a ridge over the knee centrally. Her trainer believes it may be an old injury that swells due to a lack of muscling and that she is not lame. She will outgrow her stumbling with training and building up her muscles. Her pre-purchase vetting revealed nothing unusual, no x-rays were done. Her left hip is lower than her right hip. Should I be worried? Is this appropriately treated by chiropractic medicine?

My 7 year old Thoroughbred was very thin when the owner before me bought him. One of his eyes runs because he got so thin that his eyes sunk back a little bit. It doesn't seem to hurt or bother him, I just want to know if there is anything I should or could do.

What are "splints"? I have been told that an App gelding (6 yrs old) that I "rescued" last spring has them on the front of his front legs. The person looking to purchase him was advised against it because of the splints.

My 4 year old Kiger/Quarter gelding is a flank biter and self mutilator.... He has never done it while being ridden or groomed. He is a kind, gentle horses and was very accepting of training.... My Vet had him on bute paste for 17 days (1g. 2x day) and his behavior improved somewhat. We have now started him on Azium powder (10g./day) for three days then EOD, and hopefully every 2, 3, or 4 days. What are the long term effects of this drug and is there any information I can get on this type of behavior?

We have a horse that is 14 years old and after riding she seems to be somewhat stiff in her legs. We believe she may have arthritis. Could you give advice on what to give her?

Two horses in our barn have been diagnosed with vesicular stomytis (sp?). The horses are in separate areas, but I was told that they can contract it through flies. Is that correct? Can humans get it too? What is the incubation period? What is the quarantine period? What are some good treatments?

Any idea what ailment may be caused by the following symptoms: loss of appetite, chewing then spitting out good hay.

My horse has tiny yellow nits on his front legs which I think may be botfly eggs. They are nearly impossible to remove by hand. What are they and how can I get rid of them?

My newly imported mare has developed scratches. I believe she was on a lush paddock during quarantine. Is there any new idea about treatment for scratches? She is in foal.

Could you give me information on Bone Spavin? What is it and how does it affect the horse, etc.?

Our 8 year old gelding has been diagnosed with Tendonitis/Bursitis in his front feet. X-rays reveal nothing and we know of no injuries. Bar shoes placed center of frog are not helping. Should we get a second opinion?


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Questions and Answers

Q: I'm looking at a horse that had OCD when she was a filly. The owners said that she is completely over it, but the pre-purchase exam said she failed because of OCD. How do I know if the horse had OCD and how can I tell if she is completely over it? Is there a test that can be run or do I wait until after I start breaking her to find out if she is over OCD completely?

A: OCD is a developmental bony lesion.  It may be an incidental radiographic finding or the reason for a lameness.  There is no test other than radiographs which will indicate its presence.  The location and size of the lesion are important factors in determining its significance.  They tend to get better with time.  Re-radiograph the lesion to see if its appearance has changed. 

 

Q: What is your opinion or experience with chiropractic work on horses? My 6 year old TB mare just underwent a session. The chiropractor is not a DVM but works on humans as a profession and horses on the side. He says it works wonders and seems to be the "hottest cure all" when my vet can't come up with any answers.

A: A good massage makes everyone feel better.  The horse’s anatomy and heavy musculature make human chiropractic terms implausible, but relieving muscle spasms can help many horses. 

 

Q: Could excessive hair on the vulva of a filly cause tail rubbing? I have a 5 month old filly that is constantly rubbing her tail while in her stall. She has been vet checked and wormed on a regular basis and I can find no physical reason for this. While oiling her tail one day, I noticed an excessive amount of one inch hair growing all around this area and almost into the opening itself. Could this be the reason for the tail rubbing and if so, what do I do about it?

A: As I have not seen this, I can't comment, but there may be any number of reasons for your filly to be rubbing her tail including it being a bad habit.  You could try clipping the hair and see if that makes a difference. 

 

Q: I'm considering buying a 3 year old horse for jumping. During the flexion test the vet gave him a 3/5. His right front showed lameness. The owner said she will confirm the soundness of the horse by getting x-rays and that while the horse was lunging that day he knocked himself. She is the only owner and says he has always been sound. She seems to be a reputable seller and breeding and selling is her business. Should I be concerned about his right front?

A: First, an x-ray does not confirm soundness, it can only demonstrate what the bone looks like.  What was the examining vet’s opinion?   She may have to do more tests to determine the location and reason for the abnormal flexion test. 

 

Q: My yearling must have bumped her front shin. There is a hard lump on the front cannon bone midway between the knee and fetlock. No lameness. Is there a chance this lump will disappear?

A: As the soft tissue swelling subsides the bump will appear smaller and with time the bone will remodel and the lump may get smaller, especially if she does not keep traumatizing it. 

 

Q: How big is a horse's brain?

A. An average horse brain weighs around one pound. 

 

Q: My 5 month old Quarter Horse filly has had a swollen back for four weeks. The equine vet checked her over and found no exterior injuries present. Swollen on both sides of spine, in lumbar region/Longissimus Dorsi. More swollen on left than right. Not off feed, no tenderness, normal gaits, no lameness. Swelling goes up and down but never away. Not soft, but hard. Vet recommended watching and measure area next 4 weeks. If no change or worse, ultrasound and biopsy area. One note, mom of filly has cercoma flat circles which look like ringworm. Could it be a tumor on the filly's back? If so, what is the treatment plan and chances of future tumors?

A: First of all, I think your vet has recommended a reasonable plan and it would be unusual for a 5 month old to have a tumor.  Sarcoids have not been proven to be inheritable. 

 

Q: How do you treat what is called Pigeon Fever?

A: This topic has been discussed previously.  This disease is caused by a bacterial infection of Corynebacteria.  Basically it is important to drain the abscesses and treat with the appropriate antibiotics. 

 

Q: My 10 year old Appaloosa gelding was diagnosed with bone spavin when he was five years old. He has had two cortisone injections in both hocks, the last of which was done about a year and half ago in an effort to promote fusion. However, recently he has become sore in his front left suspensory ligament and has a sore back from compensating for the soreness in the hock. My vet recommends continued cortisone shots and bute followed by recovery and then moderate exercise, such as slow trail rides. Are there any other procedures, such as surgery, that can help my horse become serviceably sound?

A: First off, cortisone injections are anti inflammatory and help relieve pain.  They do not promote fusion.  There are other drugs that can be used for that, or the “jack cords” can be surgically cut to cause an instability of the joint that will hopefully promote bony growth to bridge the joint and cause fusion.  This is a last resort effort.  I would try following your vet’s advice and plan first. 

 

Q: My horse had an old injury when I got her. She had fractured her leg and the vet said she won't use it again. Could you tell me what would be good to heal that bone and help her strengthen that leg again?

A: In normal bone healing, fractures repair in 8 weeks.  This can vary with location and severity of the fracture.  Soft tissue damage may take much longer.  It is hard to understand what your horse’s situation is, but most any injury heals to pasture soundness with a year’s rest.  How old is her injury and what is its location and nature? 

 

Q: I am housing horses of different breeds, however, only the Icelandic horses exhibit symptoms of sarcoptic mange for the last three fall/winters. The symptoms are hair loss around the flanks with crusted lesions on the flanks and itchiness on the head and sides. What are some forms of prevention in the environment and on the horse? Is it true that Icelandic horses have a hyper-sensitivity to biting insects?  If so, would this be why they are the only ones to exhibit symptoms and could the other horses be carrying the mites but not bothered by them?

A: It is unusual for horses to be affected by sarcoptic mites.  Have you had a skin scraping and biopsy done on a recent lesion?  Some draft breeds may become infected by chorioptic mites in their feathers, but the location and lesions are different than what you are describing.  Icelandic ponies may have a hypersensitivity to the biting insects (Culicoides) that cause “Sweet Itch”.  Prevention and treatment depends on an accurate diagnosis. 

 

Q: What is the cause of ringbone on a horse and how do I treat it?

A: Ringbone is new bone formation on any phalangeal bone (long pastern, short pastern, or coffin bone) starting from a periostitis and may lead to an osteoarthritis.  It may be caused by trauma, or pulling or tearing of the collateral ligaments, joint capsule and tendon attachments, or wire cuts.  Treatment depends on the location and severity of the ringbone.  Therapeutic options include limiting motion, surgery, ankylosing of the joint, anti-inflammatories, special shoeing, and neurectomy. 

 

Q: My 13 month old gelding had extension processor surgery on his right front. He is now diagnosed with ringbone. Can you please give me more information on a follow up of surgery and how to care for ringbone?

A: What you are referring to is the Extensor Process, a part of the distal phalanx (coffin bone) where the Common Digital Tendon attaches.  The surgery was probably preformed because of an avulsion of the process due to excessive tension on the tendon.  Follow up would include confining your horse and limiting his motion (perhaps by casting).  Also follow any directions from the surgeon.   See above for discussion of ringbone, treatment plans need to be discussed with your veterinarian. 

 

Q: My 7 year old TW mare that I purchased 2 months ago stumbles on her left front leg. She has some boggy swelling at the knee and I can feel a ridge over the knee centrally. Her trainer believes it may be an old injury that swells due to a lack of muscling and that she is not lame. She will outgrow her stumbling with training and building up her muscles. Her pre-purchase vetting revealed nothing unusual, no x-rays were done. Her left hip is lower than her right hip. Should I be worried? Is this appropriately treated by chiropractic medicine?

A: I might assume that her “boggy knee” swelling is a result of her stumbling and doubt it is an old injury or the vet would have noted it on the pre purchase exam and perhaps suggested taking x-rays.  A lower hip may be caused by trauma or lack of muscling due to a number of factors.  I would suggest a good physical exam including a neurologic exam to determine why your horse is stumbling.  With a diagnosis you can then pursue your best treatment options. 

 

Q: My 7 year old Thoroughbred was very thin when the owner before me bought him. One of his eyes runs because he got so thin that his eyes sunk back a little bit. It doesn't seem to hurt or bother him, I just want to know if there is anything I should or could do.

A: Even an emaciated animal would not necessarily have “runny eyes”.  I think you need to look for another reason for this problem, such as allergies, a blocked nasolacrimal duct, or corneal irritation, etc. and then you can probably treat him. 

 

Q: What are "splints"? I have been told that an App gelding (6 yrs old) that I "rescued" last spring has them on the front of his front legs. The person looking to purchase him was advised against it because of the splints.

A: Splints are a calcification resulting from a tearing of the interosseus ligament located between the splint bone and the cannon bone.  When a splint first occurs, it may cause a lameness, but after it has set up it usually is not a problem and remains as only a blemish.  If the horse is sound, a splint would not be cause for concern. 

 

Q: My 4 year old Kiger/Quarter gelding is a flank biter and self mutilator. He pins his ears, kicks out with a hind leg, and reaches around and bites his flank. I have even seen him grab his sheath and yank it! He has done this all of his life, and recently he has started biting at his chest. He has torn a small hole in his right flank and both sides have 3 inch raised "calluses". He seems to do this more often when he first starts eating, while being tied and left alone, or ignored by me. He has never done it while being ridden or groomed. He is a kind, gentle horses and was very accepting of training. He is kept in a large paddock with run-in shed and ridden almost daily or turned out to a pasture. My Vet had him on bute paste for 17 days (1g. 2x day) and his behavior improved somewhat. We have now started him on Azium powder (10g./day) for three days then EOD, and hopefully every 2, 3, or 4 days. What are the long term effects of this drug and is there any information I can get on this type of behavior?

A: This condition is infrequently seen in horses and is theorized to be a response to pain or boredom and becomes self perpetuating.  Use of muzzles, anti-inflammatories (bute, azium), L Tryptophan, reducing grain intake and relieving boredom are all options to try.  There should not be too many side effects of the Azium at a low dose, but watch out for increased water intake and output, increased appetite, and laminitis.  Not much has been published on this subject, but look for articles by Dr. S. McDonald. 

 

Q: We have a horse that is 14 years old and after riding she seems to be somewhat stiff in her legs. We believe she may have arthritis. Could you give advice on what to give her?

A: Your description is inadequate for me to make a therapeutic recommendation.  Perhaps a physical exam and evaluation of your horse’s diet, fitness and riding program will give you clues on how to make her more comfortable. 

 

Q: Two horses in our barn have been diagnosed with vesicular stomytis (sp?). The horses are in separate areas, but I was told that they can contract it through flies. Is that correct? Can humans get it too? What is the incubation period? What is the quarantine period? What are some good treatments?

A: V.S. (Vesicular Stomatitis) is a virus that is transmitted between horses by flies.  It can cause flu like symptoms in man.  It is treated by quarantining the horse and skillful neglect.  I have been unable to learn of the incubation period but a 1 month quarantine period should be sufficient. 

 

Q: Any idea what ailment may be caused by the following symptoms: loss of appetite, chewing then spitting out good hay.

A: Many things could be causing this behavior but I would first start with a thorough oral exam.  If that did not reveal a cause, I would follow up with a physical exam and blood work. 

 

Q: My horse has tiny yellow nits on his front legs which I think may be botfly eggs. They are nearly impossible to remove by hand. What are they and how can I get rid of them?

A: These are indeed Bot fly eggs.  They are best removed with a “Bot Fly Block” (I think made by Farnum) or a razor (carefully). 

 

Q: My newly imported mare has developed scratches. I believe she was on a lush paddock during quarantine. Is there any new idea about treatment for scratches? She is in foal.

A: There are many treatments for Scratches but all involve clipping the area, cleaning it with a disinfectant scrub, drying it, then applying a topical salve that includes an antibiotic and antifungal medication.  My favorite is a combination of Desenex, Tinactin, Morumide, Gentian Violet and other medications (steroids, DMSO) depending on the case. 

 

Q: Could you give me information on Bone Spavin? What is it and how does it affect the horse, etc.?

A: This has been previously discussed many times.  In short, it is a degenerative condition of the hock involving bone formation across the tarsal joint.  It causes lameness due to pain. 

 

Q: Our 8 year old gelding has been diagnosed with Tendonitis/Bursitis in his front feet. X-rays reveal nothing and we know of no injuries. Bar shoes placed center of frog are not helping. Should we get a second opinion?

A: How did the horse respond to local anesthesia?  If this is the appropriate diagnosis, I would try egg bar shoes (not heart bars) and perhaps try to inject the navicular bursa or coffin joint with an appropriate medication.  If you are suspicious of the diagnosis, then a second opinion would be helpful. 

 

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