Tetanus is a life threatening disease which we still see sporadically. It is spread caused bacteria in the soil entering through wounds which can be as small as a puncture hole. The disease causes paralysis (typically ‘lock jaw’ with the horse unable to open its mouth), progressing to being unable to stand then finally death.
Tetanus can easily be prevented by vaccination. The primary vaccination course of two injections four to six weeks apart is followed by a booster after twelve months then every two years.
Generally, tetanus antitoxin is given as a preventative measure when any wounds are treated or surgery is performed. This is a form of immediate short acting preventative therapy as apposed to tetanus toxoid which provides long term vaccination cover.
Equine herpes virus is a common virus. EHV-1 causes abortion, respiratory disease and paralysis,
EHV-4 normally causes respiratory disease but occasionally will lead to abortion.
EHV abortion can occur between two weeks and several months of gestation but usually happens in late pregnancy ie 8 months onwards.
Respiratory infection is most common in weaned foals and yearlings in autumn and winter but older horses can be susceptible and can spread the virus without showing any symptoms.
Respiratory disease signs include mild fever, coughing and nasal discharge.
Signs of paralysis include inco-ordination of the hind limbs- less commonly the forelimbs- urine retention and, in some cases, inability to stand.
The virus is very contagious and is spread easily between horses.
This is recommended for breeding stock and consists of a primary course of two vaccinations six weeks apart followed by boosters every six months for the control of respiratory disease.
For the prevention of abortion vaccination should be given during the 5th,7th and 9th months of pregnancy.
Although not a common disease, this can be debilitating and highly contagious with several forms being spread rapidly between horses and yards.
Due to its very nature, as with human ‘flu’, it can lead to whole yards being affected so the potential effect within the horse population, if not protected by vaccination, could be devastating. As a result of this the Jockey Club stipulate guidelines that most horse societies adhere to:
Second vaccination 21-92 days later (generally 4-6 weeks)
Third vaccination 150-215 days later (generally 6 months later)
Annual boosters have to be less than 365 days
Although we do send vaccine booster reminders to our clients it is important to remember that the practice is not responsible for organising any boosters and it is the sole responsibility of the owner.
If the booster is more than 365 days since the previous one and the horse is being competed under Jockey Club rules the vaccination programme will have to be re-started.
If the horse is purely used for pleasure this does not apply and there is residual vaccine efficacy so the horse does not become immediately susceptible to flu.
FEI guidelines require a flu vaccination within 6 months of the previous vaccination.
Strangles is a disease characterised by swollen lymph nodes (glands) which can develop into abscesses, a purulent (pussy) nasal discharge, often a cough, reduced appetite and a depressed horse.
The disease is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus equi, it is very contagious, and easily spreads, particularly among young horses. In the event of a suspected outbreak all movements on and off the yard should be stopped and advice sought from your vet who will usually perform nasal swabs to confirm the presence of the disease. There is now a blood test available which in some situations can be useful. However the blood sample measures the level of antibodies to strangles so it is not an indication of active disease, the horse may have had strangles but is now recovering. It is used as an indication of the horse having met the disease. Naso-pharyngeal swabs, a long swab is passed up one nostril to the throat, is a better indication of the active presence of strangles. However the strangles bacteria are notoriously difficult to swab so false negatives can arise. The recommended protocol for swabbing is to take 3 swabs over a period of two weeks. If these swabs are all negative then the horse does not have strangles. In the face of a strangles outbreak on a yard it is very important to contact your vet for advice but the most important aspect is that of biosecurity. Special care should be taken to this aspect of disease control as strangles is so infectious and can be spread easily by people, horses, tack and equipment.
The vaccine has to be injected in to the horses lip; it is a small amount (0.5ml) and is given by an insulin syringe so the needle is very fine. Despite owners concerns the vaccine is well tolerated, although occasionally there can be a reaction with a typically swollen lip developing within 12 hours of vaccination and lasting 24-48hours. The few horses that have reacted have been well in themselves and recovered spontaneously, usually this has been seen with the first vaccination but not with any subsequent vaccinations.
The primary course is two vaccinations four weeks apart with boosters every six months although in the face of an outbreak in the area it is recommended boosters are given every three months. As a practice we have found it extremely effective at controlling strangles outbreaks.
It is now a legal requirement that all equidae, i.e. horses, ponies and donkeys should have a passport.
Since 2009 it has also become legal that they have to be microchipped when a passport is issued.
The microchip is inserted into the mid third left side of the neck, and although it is quite a large needle most horses are tolerant of inserting the chip. Before any microchip is inserted the horse is scanned to check it has not already been microchipped. It if has already chipped then the vet will contact the issuing authority. Occassionally we have had stolen horses found in this way but the majority of horses have either not had the microchip registered or the passport has been lost and the agency who issued the original will re-issue a passport.
It is no longer neccessary to complete the silhouette on the passport application and just to mark with a circled M the position of the microchip. Most people however prefer to have the silhouette completed as without a scanner this is the only method of identification.
We would strongly recommend a prospective purchaser to consider a pre-purchase examination of any horse they are considering buying. The purpose of the examination, which consists of either a five or two stage vetting, is to identify any possible problems and vet the suitability of the horse for whatever it is required.
A five stage vetting consists of:
• Preliminary examination; checking age by dentition, heart, eyes and general conformation.
• Trotting up. The horse is trotted in a straight line and on a circle. Flexion tests are performed, these involve each leg in turn being flexed for one minute then the horse is immediately trotted away. The purpose of this procedure is to identify any possible underlying joint problems, principally arthritis, which are apparent if the horse trots away lame after flexion of the leg. The horse is also turned in a tight circle each way and made to ‘back up’ as these can identify some neurological problems.
• Strenuous exercise. During this part of the vetting the horse is ridden, generally in walk, trot and canter on both reins. There is a period of strenuous exercise during which any possible breathing problems can be determined. At the end of this period the horse's heart is again checked as this may highlight problems which are not evident during rest.
• Period of rest. The horse is allowed to stand usually until the heart rate returns to normal and often for a period of twenty minutes.
• Final trotting up. The horse is trotted up and the feet are examined during this period.
A two stage vetting consists of only parts I and II and is requested by some insurance companies although more recently and with horses over a certain value they will request a five stage vetting.
The five stage vetting generally takes 1½ hours to complete. With both forms of vetting a certificate is issued which details a description and outline of the horse and notes any points found during the examination.
It is always recommended that a blood sample is taken at the time of the vetting; this is sent to the VDS (Veterinary Defence Society) who will store it for six months. If there was any suggestion at a later date that the horse had been receiving medication of any sort then this can be recovered and tested.
It is advisable that the horse is stabled overnight prior to a vetting, often this will aggravate any stiffness the horse may have so it becomes evident at the first trotting up.
Although we try to avoid vetting horses that belong to clients as this can lead to a conflict of interests there is now a part of the pre-purchase form which asks if the horse is known to the practice and if there is any relevant history relating to any previous treatment it may have received. It is important that with either a two or five stage vetting that there is a suitably dark place to examine their eyes, a level hard trotting up area and a suitable riding surface. It is important to raise any concerns with the vet prior to the vetting but we do make every effort to discuss the suitability of the horse and any concerns with the prospective purchaser prior to the vetting.
We are offering half price visits to certain areas on specific days. This will offer massive savings, particularly if the visit is shared with several people. On average a shared visit for most of our clients will be about £8, so please ring the surgery for further details or see below:
Area 1 and 4 will be covered on Tuesdays
Area 2 on Wednesdays
Area 3 on Thursdays
Click here to see our area map.
The visit MUST be booked by 4pm the previous day
You cannot request a specific vet
You cannot request a specific time but we will endeavour to accommodate you if at all possible
Only routine work is covered with these visits:
If your horse is not already insured it is something to think seriously about. As veterinary medicine has become more advanced, as with human medicine, it has become more expensive. There is no NHS for our horses, treatment must be paid for as it is given. We often don’t have the money to pay out for large veterinary bills. Insurance gives us a way around this. It involves a small payment monthly or yearly, much like car insurance (but usually cheaper). This means you don’t pay for any genuine illness or injury apart from a yearly excess for each separate condition.
At Robson & Prescott we are strong advocates of horse insurance, but feel you should have a look around for the policy that suits you best. There are now hundreds of insurance firms so please be careful who you choose. If possible consider a covered for life policy rather than a twelve month one. Covered for life means your horse is insured for life, so if they were to develop a lifelong illness such as arthritis it would always be covered, whereas under a twelve month policy the cover will cease after a year.
The following is not an exhaustive list of insurers, but they are companies that many of our clients have recommended to us:
Parasitic worms live in the intestines of horses and ponies. Small numbers of worms can be tolerated causing no effect on well being. However large worm burdens can cause a range of problems including: Ill thrift, diarrhoea, colic, DEATH. It is therefore extremely important to have a suitable worming programme in place for your horse.
Types of Worms
Small redworms (cyathostomes)
Larvae ingested from grass, live in lining of large intestine, can go into hibernation in the intestine wall (encysted larvae), emergence from the bowel typically in spring causing severe diarrhoea.
Large redworms (strongylus)
Larvae ingested from grass, migration of larvae through the blood vessels of the intestine and liver, cause inflammation and obstruction of blood vessels resulting in damage to intestine.
Typically affect younger horses, eggs develop into larvae and migrate through other organs such as the liver and lungs before returning to the small intestines to develop into adults.
Live at the junction between the small intestine and caecum, mites on the pasture act as the intermediatic host for transmission allowing the tapeworm to complete its cycle, can cause colic, weight loss and diarrhoea.
Larvae of adult bot fly, horses lick eggs from legs and ingest them, can cause ulceration of the stomach wall
Types of wormer and when to use them
Kills large redworm, small redworm, pinworms, large roundworms, lungworms, threadworms and stomach worms. Dosing interval 8-10 weeks. Single dose given in May, July and December. Eqvalan.
Kills tapeworms. Single dose given April/May then September/October. Can be used alongside any wormer treating routine worms. Equitape.
Ivermectin & Praziquantel
All the benefits ivermectin with added tapeworm control. Single dose in Spring and Autumn (March/April and September/October) for roundworms and tapeworms. Eqvalan Duo or Equest Pramox.
Kills small redworm including encysted stages, large redworm , pinworms, large roundworms, intestinal threadworms, stomach worms and bots. Dosing interval for small redworm 13 weeks. Single dose in winter to treat encysted small red worm. Equest.
Kills large redworms, small redworms, large roundworm and pinworms. Can be used at a double dose to kill tapeworm. Dosing interval every 4-6 weeks during summer and autumn. Pyratape P.
Worm Egg Counts
Treat for worm threats as they arise, keep an eye on worm population with worm eggs counts (WEC). These can be carried out over the summer grazing period every 8-10 weeks after your horse's last dose in April/May.
If your horses WEC is < 200 epg then worming in not required and another WEC should be carried out again in 8-10 weeks (this process is repeated throughout summer, worming when needed) WEC however do not detect tapeworm or encysted small redworms
If you treat your horse when it is not needed this may result in the survival of only the treatment - resistant worms. Overtime these breed and begin to out number the sensitive worms. With a population consisting of only resistant worms worming treatments become ineffective and parasites cannot then be controlled leaving horses prone to all the health problems associated with large worm burdens.
Refugia is the population of worms that can still be affected by wormers and the more of these worms we have the smaller the proportion of resistant worms.
Dosing: Ensure you have an accurate weight for your horse. This can be achieved using a weight tape or a weigh bridge. Giving too small a dose of wormer increases the risk of resistance as the worms are exposed to treatment at a dose that doesn't kill them but allows them to develop resistance. Too large a dose gives no additional benefit.
Poo-picking at least twice a week is one of the most effective ways to control worms. Parasites on the pasture are ingested by grazing horses. Removing the droppings is a good practical way to reduce pasture contamination.
If you have any questions regarding worming your horse or you would like your own personal worming planner please contact the surgery - 01670 512275
It is very important to look after your horse's dental health. Our team of equine veterinary surgeons are fully qualified to carry out a dental procedure on your horse.
We offer a dental check free of charge whenever we vaccinate your horse, if they require any dental treatment we would book a visit for a vet to call out again.
Chronic lameness problems, resentment to being ridden?
If you have ongoing problems with your horse and would like a second opinion then why not book an appointment at the next lameness clinic at Whorral Bank with Dr Phil Dyson BVMS CertEM(INTMED) CertES(ORTH) PhD MRCVS.
To book a consultation please ring Jill on 01670 512275.
Morpeth Whorral Bank
Staithes Lane Branch
Kirkley Hall - Ponteland