Health Alert: 02/04

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Bermuda Hay And Impaction
Any intestinal impaction will cause pain, but those in the small intestine are particularly dangerous. The impactions are more violent and progress more rapidly, due to the smaller volume of bowel available to hold the secreted fluids. They’ll rapidly back up as far as the stomach, potentially resulting in rupture of the stomach unless a stomach tube is placed to relieve the pressure.

A study at North Carolina State University looked at various factors in the management of 78 cases of small-intestine impaction. Compared to 100 other horses admitted for other types of colic, the researchers determined that feeding Bermuda hay and failure to deworm for tapeworms in the three months prior to admission for the colic were significant risk factors for this type of impaction.

These researchers noted that differences in hay quality among Bermuda hays may be an important factor, but it couldn’t be evaluated in this study. Many believe that the softer, finer stemmed Bermuda hays are most problematic, possibly because they aren’t as well chewed.

Additional factors may be involved here as well, since fine Bermuda hays are a favorite for older horses with trouble chewing. Plus, colic and impactions are more common in older horses due to their difficulty chewing and their decreased digestive efficiency anyway.

Bottom line: Owners feeding Bermuda hay need to be aware that fine-stemmed varieties may not be adequately chewed and could result in impaction. This is not necessarily a call to stop feeding Bermuda hay, as it is a nutritious hay that horses tend to like.

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Purpura Can Scar And Harm Your Horse
Purpura hemorrhagica — a problem that may be related to strangles, pigeon fever and more — is a skin disorder caused by the deposition of antigen-antibody complexes in the skin. It causes inflammation, clotting and varying degrees of skin loss. The antigen-antibody complexes also cause hemorrhages on mucus membranes and may damage the skeletal muscles or other internal organs.

Many veterinarians believe purpura is on the rise. If your horse develops purpura, it can leave him with extensive scarring and permanent hair loss on the legs, laminitis or worse. High-risk horses include those with:

• Strangles infection/exposure
• Recent strangles vaccine
• Pigeon fever
• Any infection that causes a fever.

Symptoms of purpura are stocking up, oozing on the legs/coronary bands or a development of separations, and pinpoint hemorrhages on the gums or in the vulva.

Bottom Line
Purpura is a medical emergency. If you suspect your horse may be developing this problem, call the veterinarian immediately. Rapid treatment will minimize chances of skin loss, scarring or serious laminitis.

Also With This Article
”Purpura Causes.”