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Having trouble hearing your horse's heartbeat through your stethoscope? 6 tips to better listening.

Amanda Edwards - Monday, March 23, 2015

 


Can’t hear a thing listening through a stethoscope? Don't worry, that's not uncommon. It's a skill that you can learn pretty easily.

Here are 6 tips for better hearing:

1. Get a reasonable stethoscope to start with. Cheap can be ok but some are better than others. Stethoscopes with a bit of a drum are better than flat ones. Something in the range of $20-$50 is sufficient to hear heart and gut sounds.

2. If the ear pieces turn a particular direction make sure they are inwards into your ears.

3. If the drum of the stethoscope has a small surface and a larger surface check that the sound is coming through the larger drum by tapping gently. If you can’t hear it loudly, then turn it half a turn and tap again.

4. Press the drum firmly against the horse, right into the skin.

5. Wait and tune in. Don’t be impatient, it takes practice to tune into the sound you are looking for. Heart sounds in a resting horse sound far away and like a soft bom bom sound. Gut sounds can be gurgly like your own belly when you are hungry or tinkly up higher.

6. Practice makes perfect - practice listening when you don’t need to. Practice listening when the sounds are louder - heart rates when the horse has been working, gut sounds when he’s eating.

If you want to learn more helpful information on how to look after your horse's health needs or what to do in an emergency stay tuned to our blogs, register for our newsletter or sign up for a First Response Workshop at www.equinecareclinic.com/events

Looking after your horse in a fire zone

Amanda Edwards - Thursday, January 08, 2015

Last year we had a really close call with the Gisborne South fires starting 2km from our place. Fortunately for us the wind was blowing away from us and that and the CFA kept us all safe. Friends were not so lucky and we ended up with 15 horses here for a horsey sleepover on the Sunday night!

Fear is a funny thing though, and people respond in different ways. What was obvious was that many in such an open grassland environment had not given serious thought to their fire plan response.

Horses are smart and instinctually know what to do in the event of fire. Some better than others (a bit like people)

I remember a few years ago we had a grass fire at a friend’s paddock. The horses were in the back paddock of around 7 acres. A group of 5, they ran to the furthest corner away from the fire and waited whilst it approached them. We were beside ourselves and unable to get to them or catch them. We watched as the fire came closer and closer. When it was almost upon them the lead horse jumped the fire front (about 1-2m high) and galloped to the furthest (and coolest) corner away from the fire. The others followed and they all came out well with only minor singeing on one horse.

In grassland areas choose your biggest and lowest grassed area. Open all the internal gates, remove any rugs, halters and particularly nylon fly veils etc and let them work it out.

In bush areas remember that the more bush surrounding your property, the higher the fuel load and subsequently higher the temperature put out by the fire. (The height of the fire will be approximately twice as high as the fuel. Ie grass at 500cm will have 1m flames, trees at 2 metres will have a 4 metre flame) Additionally, the fire creates its own energy and wind which propels it forward to places you might not expect. In a bush area you need to fully consider all aspects of your fire and evacuation plan, particularly if you have horses and/or other livestock. Where are you going to evacuate to and how are you going to transport them? Think nearby solutions with good horse facilities already there such as trotting/race tracks, pony club/horse club grounds, show grounds, horse studs etc. The closer the better as you will need to be able to get to them to provide ongoing care plus if you have to make several trips then you want to be able to return quickly to your property. Get them (and you) out early. You will not have the time you think you will. Things happen super quick in wildfire situations. There is also no specific evidence that a horse will walk into water to avoid fire. Most horses will instinctually look for a cleared area or a space that’s already burnt out. Anecdotally, in the Black Saturday fires, horses went for space rather than water.

Water access is important though. Horses will need access to a water source if you are evacuating. You will not be allowed back. Shield water pumps and piping with bricks or tin so that when the power comes back any automatic water troughs will fill.

Water may become contaminated if the fire comes close or through your property If you have time store some in containers that you can give them later that’s helpful.

Post Fire Care

Consider electrolyte replacement as they are likely to have suffered mild to moderate dehydration.

Check hooves. If the ground has been scorched and hot, cool the hooves in water or mud as soon as possible. Hooves can retain heat and the heat may have damaged the sensitive laminae causing the hard hoof wall to shear off weeks or months later.

Check nostrils and whisker hairs - if there is noticeable singeing or soot, the Vet should review as soon as possible as the horse may be suffering from respiratory damage and need treatment.

Are there any injuries such as cuts, swelling etc? These need attention promptly as risk of infection is high.

Commonly the irritation from smoke, soot, etc can cause eye problems such as conjunctivitis and ulcers. These should not be ignored as ulceration can quickly lead to the loss of any eye. Vet advice should be sought.

Nutrition post fire is also important. Feed may not be available in the days post fire and horses may ingest foods that lead to colic. Access to hay is important as soon as possible. Longer term consider soil analysis as the high heat associated with bushfire can deplete the soil of key nutrients for our horses which can result in longer term deficiencies in vitamins and minerals.

One of the most stressful things for people was not having any power and access to TV for updates. However, the radio is your best bet. Ensure that you have a battery operated radio (or remember you have one in your car) to listen to ABC 774 or your local station and get a generator to run your water pumps in the event of likely power outage (places like supercheap auto have them for around $150). If you are on mains water, there is a high liklihood that water pressure will be poor in the event of a major fire and you should have a contingency for this. You can also charge your phone in your car or the generator.

Consider that if you have decided to stay and fight that you may not be able to get out and get supplies so you need enough to get you through about 1 week.

Having been in the middle of the 2009 Black Saturday fires and then experiencing what we did last year, I can only say that we have come a long way in many ways but not very far in others. I think the CFA and other emergency services coordination was sooooo much better than 2009 and I'm incredibly grateful to all those who give their time. On the other hand I noticed that many people had not given fire much thought or planning, particularly in relation to their horses where I saw many with nylon fly veils, halters and cotton summer rugs still in situ within close proximity to the fire zone. I would encourage every horse owner to think through the options and take actions BEFORE a high fire danger day.

Check out the CFA website for the fire ready kitand actually take the time to work through it. Think about the 'what ifs' and make a plan. Then, when the time comes to take action, you know what to do and do it.....without panic and with good knowledge of what you are doing.

Fires, like we are experiencing now in Victoria and South Australia are incredibly scary. Preparation and little bit of paranoia is probably a very good thing in this case.

Remember, we are here to help all horses and people during this time and have offered support. Just call on 0422 809 060, message us on facebook or send us an email on info@equinecareclinic.comif you have any questions or concerns.

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Snakes and Horses - what every Australian horse owner should know about snake bite

Amanda Edwards - Sunday, December 28, 2014

 

 

We live in Australia and we have snakes - venomous ones. Fortunately horses and snakes tend to stay away from each other but occasionally their worlds collide and the results can be devastating. 

Here's an article on snake bite in Australia, signs and symptoms, first aid, treatments and other useful info.

Snakes are pretty cool and mostly stay out of our way.  Here’s some stuff that you might not know about snakes.

 

 

Types

Australia has the highest number of venomous snakes which is why we are quite well known for our ‘dangerous’ snakes.

 

However we have very low numbers of snake bites each year and even fewer fatalities – less than 4 each year and usually because people didn’t realise that they were bitten.

 

There are no reliable figures on how many horses each year die of snake bite so the incidence is unknown.  However, most equine Vets will see one or two suspected snake bites each year and know a couple of horses that die as a result.  So it’s not that many considering how many horses we have in Australia. 

 

Back to cool snake facts…..

 

There are 9 species of brown snakes with the most common being the  Eastern, Western and Dugite.  They live all over Australia.  Eastern browns tend to be more aggressive than the others and  More people are bitten by browns due to their higher prevalence.


King Browns or Mulga snakes are not actually brown snakes.  They come from the black snake species. They have the most venom per bite – up to 150gms compared to around 40gms from other species.

 

Tiger snakes have less venom but they are more aggressive and so if they do bite they often bite more than once.

Taipans have highly concentrated venom and really long fangs which is why these were considered fatal bites in the past.  They are really shy though and tend to flee rather than strike.

 

Red bellied blacks are both shy and not very aggressive with small amounts of venom so serious bites are rare from these guys.

 

Identification is not as clear cut as it seems.   If snakes are shedding their skin (as they do each year) it can be hard to tell what type they are.   Definitive identification is made by snake experts who use a range of techniques such as counting the number of scales per square inch.

 

The amount of venom each snake type has varies – somewhere between 2mg-150mgs when they are milked to create antivenom.

 

Most snakes hatch from eggs but some are born live.  Except for some pythons, snake parents don’t look after their young at all and they are left to hatch on their own or are born and left in long grass.

 

Venom is the snakes way of catching and subduing it’s prey – after all it doesn’t have any arms or legs!

The venom has a number of actions and again these are a bit dependent on the type of snake.  Venom aims to paralyse the victim so it can’t get away and then breaks down the tissues to make it easier to digest.  Venom has neurotoxins that affect the nerve system and anti coagulants that stop the blood clotting or cause it to bunch together along with toxins that break down muscle tissue.  A very effective poison.

 

Horses are a flight animal and recognise that snakes aren’t good.

 

Snakes know that horses aren’t food and will avoid wherever possible.

 

However, occasionally a horse will inadvertently sniff or step on a snake which will bite to scare it away.  Young horses can be curious and get themselves into trouble that way.

How badly the horse is affected depends on where the horse was bitten, how much venom has been deposited into their system, how quickly it is circulated and whether you noticed it in time or not.

 

One of the reasons horses die from snakebite is the delay in recognition and treatment.  Treatment is aimed at both correcting the effects of envenomation and supporting the horse while it recovers.

 

Signs and Symptoms

 

If you suspect snake bite, check the horse’s legs and face. It can be very difficult to notice bite marks on a horse.  They may look like scratches rather than a bite or you may notice swelling of the affected area.

 

Symptoms include:

  • Listless, headshaking, irritability
  • Muscle twitching, ‘wonky’ walking, goose stepping
  • Colic like symptoms
  • Difficulty breathing, sweating, bleeding from the nostrils,
  • blood in the urine

 

First Aid

 

Keep the horse in a quiet dark place if possible.  Keep a mate close by to reduce stress.  If the horse’s nose is swollen cut two pieces of hose, tape around the edge so you don’t damage the swollen nostrils and insert to ensure he can keep breathing.  If you have identified marks/bites on a limb, compression bandage above and below the strike site until the Vet arrives.

If you are out on the trail and you know/suspect your horses has been struck STOP.  Keep your horse still.  If it is a limb, bandage the affected area and arrange for your horse to be floated to the nearest Veterinary hospital.

 

The first thing is to confirm the horse has been bitten by a snake.  Most often the Vet will make this assessment based on the clinical findings he sees.  There is a test in Australia that detects snake venom.  It’s expensive but pretty accurate.  A sample of blood or urine is used to detect the type of snake.  The antivenom for the specific snake can then be chosen.

The Vet may also take blood samples to check the clotting time.  If this is delayed and the horse is exhibiting other signs and symptoms this is also good confirmation.

Whilst the antivenom is expensive it is the only cure.  And even then it is not guaranteed.  The amount required will depend on the amount of venom the horse has received.  The amount required will be gauged on the response.

Supportive treatments may include intravenous fluids to flush the toxins through the horse’s system, antibiotics to prevent infection from the bite site and tetanus booster to prevent tetanus entering the bite site.  You may need to syringe fluid and electrolytes into the horse if it cannot drink through swelling.

There is quite a bit of talk about Vitamin C  as a treatment.  Vitamin C is a water soluble Vitamin that horses synthesis from the food they take in.  There has been a small amount of study in this area on horses.  Melbourne University found that Vitamin C did not counteract snake venom.  It should be clear that it is not a cure for snake bite.

Vitamin C aids in the production of collagen (elastic fibres in skin and muscle), the development of hormones, conversion of Vitamin D, boosting immunity and the production of haemoglobin.  These are all good supportive measures for a horse suffering snakebite.    Kentucky Equine Research review of the data suggest that horses will need at least 3000mg of Vitamin C to have an impact.  This can be added to the feed but if the horse is very sick he probably will need intravenous or intramuscular injections or you can mix the powder in water and give via a syringe orally.  Naturopaths and homeopaths suggest 20-30mls  of 2mg/ml each 2 hours for 24 hours or until the horse starts to improve.  There is a risk of abscess at the site if injecting as the tissues are already being affected by the snake venom so monitor this carefully.

If you are a long way from a Vet, it won’t hurt to give Vitamin C while you are waiting.  However if the horse has received a significant dose of venom when bitten, it’s not going to save him.

 

Review

 

Monitor your horse’s vital signs 3 times per day for the first 48 hours and document this.   (go to our website for a free vital signs download www.equinecareclinic.com).

The horse’s heart rate and respiratory rate should start to return to normal as the horse improves.

 

Watch the bite site carefully – there is a high risk of infection and break down of tissues around the bite area.  Treat the symptoms as they arise.

 

Keep your Vet in the loop.  He/she will need to attend each day to determine ongoing treatment.

 

Recovery

 

If your horse recovers from snake bite it may take weeks or months for him to recover fully.  You may notice that he loses a lot of muscle mass post envenomation and has swelling problems of the legs due to the damage to the muscle and kidney cells. Consult an equine nutrition expert to help design a feed regime that supports muscle development, blood and kidney function recovery. 

 

Bring back in to work slowly and build up muscle and stamina as tolerated.

 

Some horses will not survive snake bite but many will.  Given appropriate treatment and management they can and do recover fully.

Happy Horsing!

 




Exciting times for the Equine Care Clinic

Amanda Edwards - Monday, December 15, 2014

As we near the end of the year I can't help but be happy with what we've achieved this year.  My book First Response - A practical guide to caring for your sick or injured horse was released just in time for Equitana and it's going great with over 100 copies sold already.  We've developed and released our First Response Horse Aid and Trail Aid kits which our customers are raving about.  And yesterday, to top it all off I was happily surprised to win the Key Person of Influence 2014 Product award.  We are now just working on the final pieces to make this website an e-commerce site where you can get all the things you need to care for your sick or injured horse and then our plans will be complete.   The focus for 2015 will be to find a new and bigger site for the Equine Care Centre and to spread the knowledge across Australia with our workshops.  If you  are interested in hosting a workshop, contact me on info@equinecarecinic.com.  Merry Christmas and Happy Horsing!!

I love to blog

- Tuesday, October 07, 2014

I love to blog. I like to talk about horses I love, interesting cases, new treatments, preventative health, cool products I’ve found and cool horse people I’ve come across in the horse health journey.

I aim to give horse owners a bit of info they didn’t know or a helpful hint or tip to nurse their horse back to health when they get sick or injured. I also love to hear about your stories that I can share with others.