Monday 3 July 2017

Top 10 conditions diagnosed at the annual health examination.

The Top 10 conditions found during your annual equine health exam.

Even the healthiest of horses will see their vet annually, this is often the time that they receive their vaccinations and dentistry. In addition to this, your vet will also examine your horse's body condition, heart, lungs and abdomen. The head, body and skin are evaluated. A free of charge oral exam can be completed and advise is given regarding nutrition, de-worming and other management strategies for the year ahead. A manure sample can also be collected for faecal worm egg count analysis, as part of your targeted worming strategy.

The vets here at The Barn Equine Surgery recently compiled a list of the top 10 conditions diagnosed at annual health exams.

10. Eye conditions.
Uveitis is a term for inflammation within the front portion of the eye. The condition may be recognised by mild discharge from one or both eyes, the eyes being held slightly closed or mild swelling of the tissue around the eye. Equine Recurrent Uveitis, if left untreated, can lead to recurrent episodes of pain and eventual blindness. It is important to differentiate this condition from mild conjunctivitis that may be caused by flies or tearing due to blocked nasolacrimal ducts (tear ducts) that can be readily flushed by your vet.

9. Degenerative Joint Disease
You may mention to the vet that you have noticed some increased stiffness when first riding your horse. Arthritis becomes more common as the horse ages. Although it is often a progressive condition, early diagnosis can lead to prompt management changes that may prolong the soundness of your horse and improve their comfort.

8. Dermatitis
Skin problems are often noted on yearly examinations. Advise and treatment options can be provided for conditions ranging from rainscald to sweet itch allergies. Sweet itch can be differentiated from those animals that are rubbing their tails due to pinworm and approprate treatment can be implemented. Mud fever (pastern dermatitis) can be differentiated from the more serious condition of pastern leukocytoclastic vasculitis, a condition specific to white legs that can extend up the pastern and include portions of the canon region of the limb. This condition can have an immune mediated element or be an early indication of photosensitivity.

7. Equine Asthma
Equine asthma, formerly known as recurrent airway obstruction, can be detected whilst in the early stages of disease, prior to performance limitation. This is an allergic disease of the airway, often triggered by environmental allergens such as mould spores, bacterial toxins, dust particles and ammonia. Sensitivity to pollens can cause a pasture associated asthma condition. Auscultation of the chest can often identify early signs of disease and environmental, feed or medical management can be implemented promptly.

6. Laminitis and hoof problems.
Many horses will develop sub-clinical hoof changes before lameness develops. Wide white lines, converging hoof rings, recurrent solar bruising and increased sensitivity to riding over hard or uneven ground can all be early signs of laminitis, that are found on annual health exams. Poor hoof quality, conformation or conditions such as thrush can also be addressed.

5. Dental conditions
A free of charge oral examination with an oral speculum (gag) can be performed at your annual exam. If dentistry is required then this can be performed. All horses should receive an oral exam every year, a sedated oral exam should be performed at the very minimum of once every 2 years, to allow accurate use of a dental probe and mirror to evaluate each tooth for signs of infundibular decay or caries, abnormal occlusal wear patterns, periodontal disease, crown fractures or disease of the dental pulp. This sort of detailed examination can not be performed fully in an unsedated horse.


4. Cancerous lumps
Sarcoids are the most common skin tumour of horses and are caused by bovine papilloma virus. Early diagnosis and removal reduces the chance of the lesions seeding around the body and improves the prognosis. Melanoma is a common tumour of grey horses and can often be found under the tail, around the mouth and infiltrating the parotid region of the throat. The majority of melanomas are benign, however malignant melanoma does occur and melanoma found in non-grey horses is often more severe. The location and size of melanoma growths are recorded to allow accurate monitoring. Squamous cell carcinoma is often found around the eye of horses lacking eyelid pigment, on the third eyelid and in male horses around the sheath and penis. This type of skin cancer can be easy to miss in the early stages, prompt treatment will improve prognosis.

3. PPID (Pars pituitary intermedia dysfunction) or Equine Cushings Disease.
This common endocrine disease is more prevalent in older horses, although it can occur at any age. A simple blood test can be used to screen for the disease and during the summer season the laboratory fees are free of charge for this blood test. The disease causes a reduced ability to fight off infection, muscle loss, a pot belly appearance, delayed shedding of the winter hair coat or the presence of guard hairs and of course, laminitis.

2. Heart murmurs or arrhythmias
Heart murmurs indicate an abnormal flow of blood through the heart, not all murmurs cause problems, however ongoing monitoring is important to detect changes in the status of the heart. This includes monitoring the rate and rhythm of the heart to allow early detection of compromised heart function.

1. Obesity
By far the most common health condition detected on health exams, that owners are often not aware of, is obesity. Obesity greatly increases the chance of your horse developing laminitis, arthritis and colic. Increased fat deposits are known to cause insulin resistance and are often a component of equine metabolic syndrome. Blood testing for insulin dysregulation is available and your vet can guide you on your nutritional and exercise management. You may consider opting for ongoing weight management with our Weight Wise Scheme. 

Helen Christian BVetMed CertAVP(EM) MRCVS

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