February "Ask Horse Journal" Letters

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Older Horses And Dental Care
My vet said I should have him in every six months to check my three older horses? teeth. He claims they need to be done more often in order to avoid mouth problems when the teeth stop growing and to them losing teeth completely, forcing me to feed them mash and wet pelleted hay. Is this true' What do I really need to do for horses over 18 years of age'

Contributing Veterinary Editor Deb Eldredge DVM responds:
This is a loaded question. Yes, older horses do tend to have more problems with their teeth. This can be influenced by where you live and how your horses are managed, as well as simple age.

Horses living with sandy soil will naturally get more wear and tear on their teeth. A horse who does not have a good ?bite,? with teeth articulating perfectly will have abnormal wear and tear on his teeth.

I suspect if your veterinarian is recommending the extra dental check, it's because he is seeing some indications of present or future problems. Certainly, an extra check won?t hurt and it might help your horses stay in better condition into old age. If your concern is that your veterinarian is padding his pocket, well, no good veterinarian will be offended by a second opinion.

Sticky Leg Problem
Please settle a disagreement I have with my barn owner. My Thoroughbred mare, who is 29, gets the inside of her rear legs all sticky from urine each blanket season. I think it's because the blanket leg straps crisscross, and when she urinates it runs down the straps to the inside of her legs. I thought just wrapping each one around a leg on the same side would help, but the barn owner says the tail flap on the blanket is causing the problem, not the leg straps. Which is right'

Associate Editor Margaret Freeman responds:
Probably neither. We suspect the problem is related to the mare?s age and not the blanket. You might not even notice the problem during the warmer months if she is outside a lot and it gets missed, especially with a lot of rain. She could also be more stiff from arthritis in the colder winter months. Talk to your vet and try her of firocoxib (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) for a month to see if the problem stops.

Another strategy would be to watch your mare?s posture when urinating, both with and without a blanket. If the postures are different, fool with the blanket (with/without tail flap, arranging leg straps differently, etc.). If the postures are the same, consider loss of muscle tone or arthritis from old age. Supplements for arthritis or acupuncture may also help her.

Tetanus Vaccines
Am I reading your January 2012 guide to vaccines wrong' You?ve listed tetanus antitoxin as ?S,? meaning to skip it. The article says it's for all, so I think your chart is wrong.

Contributing Veterinary Editor Deb Eldredge DVM responds:
Tetanus does get confusing. Tetanus toxoid is the vaccine used to stimulate immunity in your horse. All horses should get this as a preventive vaccine. Tetanus antitoxin is an injection to give horses who do not have adequate tetanus vaccination histories a booster if they get cut or injured. You would skip this unless you had an emergency. For some wounds, such as a rusty nail, your veterinarian may recommend a booster with antitoxin just to be on the safe side. This booster is cheap insurance against a case of tetanus.

So, there are two versions of tetanus injections?one for prevention and one for an injury.

Medical-Alert Bracelets
I liked your October Safety Thought on cell phone use. I know several horse people who don't carry their phones with them at the barn, but they should. However, I had one concern with your rationale:

I am a paramedic with training/experience in Texas, Kansas and Wisconsin. I've been trained not to check for an ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact in someone?s phone, although it could be different in other states, of course.

I've been taught to not touch personal belongings, except to bring them to the hospital with the patient, if possible. The law-enforcement officers or the hospital staff will go into cell phones or wallets.

This is because we want to avoid complaints from people seeking money if they can blame us for lost items. it's a sticky situation to be in when a patient or patient?s family questions where something is after a transport to the hospital.

Why bring it up' I'd like you to share this tip from a paramedic who has taken care of her fair share of unknown, ?man down? calls. Some had obvious causes (i.e., head injury with witnesses to the fall and external signs) and some without (i.e., aneurysm, no witnesses).

If someone has an important medical condition, that's what we want to know first. Please wear some type of medical alert tag/bracelet, which what we are trained to look for, if you are diabetic, have a heart condition or any allergies.

Honestly, if someone is unconscious, that medical-alert tag is the best way to tell us major information, such as an allergy to a medication, I want to use to save your life.

We ignore cell phones and wallets. Our job is to keep the patient alive until we can get them to the further care, such as the hospital.

Thank you again for the tip, as I will keep a cell phone close. But my conscience wouldn?t let me just ignore adding this tip to it.

Lisa Baldwin
Wisconsin