Spring and Fall Wellness Exams Help Keep Horses Healthy

Nearly every horse owner has experienced an equine medical emergency. Certain kinds of colic, lameness, some foaling conditions and nearly all common equine diseases are examples of "potential" emergencies. Many crises, however, can be prevented with twice-a-year wellness exams, routine vaccinations, and year-round parasite control.

Semi-annual wellness exams allow a veterinarian to tailor season-specific vaccinations and parasite control treatments at the time of year when they are most beneficial. By scheduling exams in the spring and fall, horse owners also have the opportunity to consult with their veterinarian about nutrition, behavior, emerging disease threats in the area, and other horse health issues.

"While there's no way to completely eliminate emergency situations, a comprehensive health program, complete with spring and fall wellness exams, will minimize the chance of unexpected, life threatening, and costly illness," says Robert Magnus, DVM, founder and partner of the Wisconsin Equine Clinic and Hospital in Oconomowoc, Wisc. "Wellness exams are the best way to detect, treat, and, ideally, prevent health problems before they become serious or result in a prolonged setback."

According to Magnus, whose clinic has offered a twice-a-year wellness exam program for the past six years, a typical equine wellness exam includes:

  • Evaluation of the horse's diet, level of activity, behavior and any changes since the last veterinary visit
  • Assessment of the horse's overall conditioning
  • Analysis of posture and gait
  • Examination of hair, coat, and skin
  • Listening to the heartbeat, lungs, and abdomen
  • Conducting an eye exam and dental exam
  • Administration of appropriate vaccinations
  • Recording vitals: pulse, temperature, respiratory rate, and character

Horse owners can learn more about wellness exams through America's Healthy Horse, the new equine wellness educational campaign sponsored by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and Fort Dodge Animal Health. The campaign provides veterinarians with materials to help educate clients about the importance of spring and fall wellness exams in helping to prevent problems before they result in emergencies or a prolonged setback. In addition, twice-a-year wellness exams help veterinarians better address the many medical issues of senior horses, which, like other animals, age faster than humans. The best source for equine health information, including nutrition, behavior and emerging disease threats, is the horse owner's personal veterinarian.

When should you call your veterinarian?

  • According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the following situations are serious enough that a veterinarian should be called immediately:
  • Any uncontrolled bleeding
  • Foreign objects protruding from the body (don't remove them!)
  • Lacerations
  • Injury to the eye or eyelids
  • Aggressive or unusual behavior
  • Neurological signs (tripping, walking into objects)
  • Lameness
  • Mares which are actively in labor for more than 20 minutes without progress
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Multiple animals getting sick at once
  • Off feed
  • Signs of abdominal discomfort (colic)

When in doubt, call the veterinarian! Keep your veterinarian's phone number and your first aid kit handy. In an emergency, time is critical. By acting quickly and promptly, you can minimize the consequences of an injury or illness. Your horse's health and well-being depend on it.

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