Don’t Let Small Problems with Your Horse Turn into Big Problems


ALL HORSES require regular maintenance and preventive care for the best possible health. As a horse owner it is your responsibility to provide regular health care for your horse.

Fortunately, many equine health problems can be prevented or minimized with regular wellness care and/or treatment by a qualified veterinarian. Four key areas of health-care concern for horses are vaccinations, hoof care, dental care, and skin care.

VACCINES — Vaccinations do not prevent disease but instead create antibodies that allow your horse to fight the infecting virus. Keeping your horse up to date with vaccinations allows their body to stay alert and ready to fight off any possible infection. Vaccinations that are highly recommended for every horse in Florida are Eastern and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis with Tetanus (EWT), West Nile Virus (WNV) and Rabies. All of these viruses cause neurological damage and can be deadly. Rabies is one that is zoonotic and can be transmitted from your horse to you. Once infected with any of these viruses, there is no cure only supportive care. Rabies is always fatal.

TEETH CARE — While horses don’t get their teeth cleaned, they do require “floating,” a procedure that involves smoothing rough edges and reducing them down to an even height. Horse’s teeth grow their entire life and due to their circular pattern of chewing, it creates sharp points on the edges of the teeth. Sharp or overgrown horse teeth can lead to pain from oral ulcers, chewing difficulties, and digestive problems. Teeth should be evaluated yearly and floated every 1-2 years.

HOOF CARE — Well maintained hooves allows the horse to move comfortably and is the foundation for a healthy horse. Horse hooves grow similar to fingernails and must be trimmed regularly. Poorly maintained hooves can lead to lameness from sore joints, arthritis, abscesses or even traumatic injuries. Any problem with feet or lower limbs can be evaluated using nerve blocks, palpation (examination with the hands), hoof testers, lameness examinations and radiographs.

SKIN CARE — The first thing people notice when they look at a horse is its skin and coat. A healthy coat is shiny and smooth. While healthy skin should be a goal, many factors in Florida can make it a challenge. There are many causes of skin problems including parasites, infections, fungi, bacteria, allergic reactions, and other conditions that can result in skin lesions and/or hair loss. Your veterinarian can run tests to determine the exact cause of the problem and then prescribe the appropriate treatment.

No one knows your horse better then you, so if something doesn’t seem right or your horse is acting differently than normal, contact your veterinarian. Careful observation can alert you to small problems before they become big ones.

This column is sponsored by Polk Equine.

BIO: Dr. Katie Hennessy graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008 with a degree in large animal health and equine medicine. She completed an advanced internship at The Equine Medical Center of Ocala and is currently the owner and practicing veterinarian at Polk Equine. Her expertise ranges from small and exotic creatures to large animals, specializing in equine medicine.