By Maneka Gandhi
In this week’s Pet Talk, Maneka explains how to treat and prevent cracks in horse’s hooves, why does horse have bald patches and about the internal parasites that can affect a horse?
How to treat and prevent cracks in your horse’s hooves?
There are many reasons why hoof cracks form. Nutritional deficiencies can cause fine cracks on all four hooves. The hoof walls may be thin or weak, slow growing, show ridged horizontal rings, and the free edge of the hoof may chip easily.
In very wet or dry conditions hooves can weaken, especially if the horse is exposed to extremes such as wet, then frozen ground, or wet then very hard, dry surfaces. If wet, dry or very hard conditions are to blame, you may have to change the horse’s environment. If mud or wet is a problem your horse may have to spend at least part of the day on a dry surface like wood pellets or dry sand that will help draw moisture out. If dry conditions are the problem, many people let their water troughs run over, forming a damp area that the horse must stand in to drink. Hoof oils may not help, as these products may seal out moisture. In extreme cases, where hoof cracks are affecting the horse’s soundness, shoes, staples or other supportive materials may be necessary to reinforce the hoof at the hoof crack heals. If laminitis, or severe infection is involved, a veterinarian can prescribe treatment options such as antibiotics.
Balanced trims by a good farrier, and good nutrition, are the cornerstones of good hoof health. If the horse must travel over rough surfaces, such as roads, gravel, rocks or ice, consider using either shoes or hoof boots. Some horses will ‘toughen up’ if exposed gradually to these surfaces, but some may always stay sensitive and need some extra protection. It’s important to realize that because hooves grow relatively slowly, repairing cracks can be a long slow process.
Why does my horse have bald patches?
Horses shed their winter coats naturally in the spring. If a horse has a heavy winter coat, the shedding may appear patchy and extreme.
- An ill-fitting saddle will cause hair loss and can be quite painful. Check the saddle blanket, girth and the padding under the saddle, for worn places that could be causing irritation.
- Hair loss can be an overt indicator of malnutrition. A malnourished horse will sometimes eat whatever hair he can reach on his own body, or from another horse.
- Simple changes in horse care can cause skin issues and hair loss. Horses can have allergies to any chemicals used on them, including fly spray and medications.
- Sometimes a horse loses hair from minor injuries when turned out in a pasture. A kick from another horse might scrape off hair and not leave a bruise or cut. Scrapes from shrubs, or from rubbing along edges of fences or buildings, can easily remove hair. This kind of hair loss usually leaves spots with jagged edges and broken hairs left behind.
- When a bald spot occurs, that has smoothly defined edges and no hair at all, and perhaps sore or oozing skin, it is probably caused by a skin condition rather than an injury. Rain Rot is a common fungal infection. It appears as small round spots where hair falls out, and can grow to large blistered areas. There is usually some oozing with rain rot. Ringworm is similar, but the oozy bald patches have a red ring around the perimeter of the sore.
- Fleas and horse lice will cause itching and hair loss. Internal parasites, such as worms, will often cause horses to lose hair, especially on the tail and rump, from rubbing to scratch the itch
What are the internal parasites which can affect my horse?
Many different types of internal parasites can take up residence in your horse. Here are the most common kinds.
- Redworms, Bloodworms or Strongyles: These worm-like vampires suck blood. Stronglyes are the most common type of internal parasite. After the horse ingests larvae that have attached to plants, the parasites attach themselves to the intestinal wall, where they can damage the lining, cause bleeding, clots and damage to the intestinal wall which can lead to colic symptoms, arterial damage, and serious arterial blockages which can even lead to death.
- White Worms, Round Worms or Ascarids: They are long, round, pale grey worms that can grow up to a foot long. Because of their size they can cause impaction colic.
- Pinworms: If you see your horse scratching the base of its tail and there’s no obvious external reason, suspect pinworms. Pinworms live in the large intestine and lay their eggs around the anus.
- Lungworm: These worms live within the horse’s lungs. They are most common in areas of heavy rainfall. Lungworms cause irritation in the bronchial tubes that can lead to coughing, bronchitis, secondary bacterial infection, pneumonia and death.
- Tapeworm: Tape worms, as their name suggests, are flat, tape like parasites made up of segments. They are pale yellowish-white in colour. The end-most segments of the worms are filled with eggs. When the horse passes manure, the egg filled segments are dropped into the pasture. These eggs are then consumed by a mite — which can then be eaten by a horse as it grazes. Tape worms steal the nutrients from the food the horse eats, leading to the poor condition.
- Bots: In late summer and early fall, your horses may be pestered by the bee-like bot fly.
- Threadworms: As their names suggest these are small threadlike worms about 5/16 of an inch long. Threadworms enter the horse either by ingestion or by penetrating the skin. The worms can cause damage to the horse’s lung tissue, lining of the digestive system and cause skin irritation.