As the late summer approaches, the focus shifts from foaling and breeding, to sales prep. The preparation of weanlings and yearlings for sale at public auction is a bit of an art form; a matter of taste, as a purveyor of bourbon models the end product according to what suits his or her palate. However, there are certain aspects of the preparation process which your veterinarian may be able to advise upon in regards to the health care and preventative medicine for your sales horses. A few general considerations and recommendations will be discussed in the following paragraphs. This is by no means meant to serve as a comprehensive list of issues your sale horse will present to you prior to the big day of the sale but the following are some of the more common medical issues to consider.
Deworming: Horses which are less than two years of age tend to carry a heavier internal parasite load and become infested with internal parasites more frequently than adult horses due to the immaturity of the immune system. Additionally, there has been a dramatic increase in drug resistance to several of the most commonly used anthelmintic medications or dewormers. Resistance has occurred primarily in the small strongyles or cyathostome species and ascarid species of internal parasites. Therefore, it is recommended to perform fecal egg counts at regular intervals (approximately 45-60 days) so that an appropriate dewormer may be prescribed on an individual basis per horse. The judicious use of deworming medications through the use of fecal egg counts to identify infested individuals which are shedding eggs on pastures, will ultimately decrease the concentration of resistant parasites on the farm and in the herd. The fecal egg count is a valuable bit of lab information for the veterinarian and the farm manager to prescribe deworming medications. It is recommended to deworm all horses in the spring and fall with a product labeled to be effective against tapeworms irrespective of fecal egg count results, as the standard laboratory fecal floatation is not a sensitive test for diagnosing tapeworm presence. Please consult your veterinarian regarding the application of this deworming or parasite prevention program.
Vaccination: The vaccination protocol of horses will vary according to region and the recommendations of individual practitioners for a particular horse. There are general guidelines available on the AAEP website at http://www.aaep.org/vaccination_guidelines.htm. Over the past decade, with the increase of the neurologic form of herpes, the use of a modified live herpes vaccine has increased. The neurologic form of herpes has caused the quarantine of numerous equine centers due to outbreaks involving multiple animals on a given premises. Additionally, in conjunction with a modified live herpes vaccine, a modified live influenza vaccine has been used in yearlings beginning in January. The strategy behind the use of these particular vaccines in combination is to augment the immune response to prevent inflammation in the laryngeal and pharyngeal regions (laryngitis and pharyngitis) due to viral infections. Excessive inflammation in these areas has been associated with poor endoscopy scores due to impaired laryngeal function caused by inflammation involving the nerves which innervate the upper airway anatomy.
Respiratory: From the larynx and pharynx at the beginning of the upper respiratory tract, to the lung tissues in the lower respiratory tract, the young horse’s airway will be exposed to many new potential pathogens when it arrives at the sale grounds. A healthy respiratory tract is critical to a successful sale and a successful athlete. Many veterinarians and consigners recommend the use of immune stimulants to enhance the health of the horse’s respiratory tract (e.g. EqstimTM or Equimmune). (Please consult your veterinarian on the use of these products.) As previously mentioned laryngitis and pharyngitis may impair the nerves which serve the nasopharyngeal region which is evaluated by endoscopic examination by a prospective buyer’s veterinarian. Frequently horses experiencing laryngitis or pharyngitis will be prescribed systemic antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. Application of a “throat spray” [a combination of an antibiotic, corticosteroid, and DMSO] is commonly used in my practice to treat the upper airway directly via a catheter inserted through the nasal passages at the level of the nasopharynx. This form of therapy can have a dramatic effect of improving the health of the upper airway and the endoscopy score.
Skin Disease and Warts: It never seems to fail that in the weeks leading up to the sale that younger horses develop either “ring worm” which is a fungal dermatitis, “rain rot” which is a bacterial dermatitis/folliculitis, or viral warts around facial regions and ears. As with the increased propensity for this age group to be infected with internal parasites due to an immature immune system, these skin pathogens “rear their ugly heads” due in large part to a stressed or immature immune system. Thankfully these are solely cosmetic conditions and will have no long term detrimental effect on the animal. However, part of selling a horse is having them look their best on the day of the sale!
“Ring Worm” is commonly caused by the fungal species Trichophyton equinum, which rarely is passed on to humans (unlike the “ring worm” infections seen on cats). This condition is commonly treated with topical antifungal medications. In my personal practice, I tend to use a combination of topical treatments including lime sulfur solution and/or a compounded shampoo which includes lime sulfur solution, captan (a fungicide), and aloes. Areas of fungal infection can be spot treated with a dilute iodine solution as well. Systemic treatment options may be used as well depending upon the severity of the infection. Two such options would be griseofulvin administered orally or sodium iodide solution administered intravenously. Please consult your veterinarian to determine the exact nature of the skin condition and what the proper treatment protocol would be.
“Rain rot, rain scald, or dew poisoning” is a dermatitis/folliculitis typically caused by the bacterium Dermatophilus congolensis. As with “ring worm”, a proper veterinary diagnosis of the skin condition is necessary to determine the appropriate systemic therapy. In the case of this condition, I would typically use a systemic antibiotic to treat this condition in addition to a topical antibacterial shampoo similar to that used for “ring worm”.
Warts occur frequently in horses two years of age and younger. They are caused by a cutaneous, viral infection which is specific to the horse and will not transmit to humans. Warts occur most frequently around the head and ears. The occurrence of warts is primarily of a cosmetic concern, although a given lesion may interfere with the bridle or bit seat and cause discomfort. Warts can be removed mechanically with sedation by your veterinarian, or chemically with a compound containing podophyllin. The affected areas typically heal rapidly and without scarring.
As mentioned previously, your veterinarian should be consulted when diagnosing skin diseases and care should be used in the application of these medications around the eyes or sensitive mucous membranes. Also, a “Cardinal Rule” of prepping horses for a sale is to maintain clean equipment. Brushes, bridles, girths, even clippers can transmit these pathogens from one horse to another. A proper disinfection technique may involve a dilute bleach solution [1:4 dilution] in addition to placing the items in the direct sun light to dry for an hour or two.
Summary: What I have presented are a few of the most common ailments or conditions which are presented in my practice. While this is by no means a comprehensive list of all the possible medical problems your horse will attempt to contract to spoil the sale; these are issues which can be prevented or dealt with if handled appropriately. I hope that the information provided here is helpful but please involve your veterinarian in the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions. To find your perfect Hagyard veterinarian, check out our impressive veterinarian staff page here.