Question: I read with interest your Ask the Vet article about the horse that kept stretching out as for urination and then didn't urinate. Is there any reason to believe that a horse could not have a urinary tract infection or other similar infection just as humans do? If so, perhaps they, as humans do, have the feeling that they need to urinate, but cannot. Can a male horse get prostrate problems? If it were an infection, antibiotics could help that horse immensely.
If it is a stomach problem, symptoms would appear at times other than when being ridden. In regards to stomach ulcers, I think most of us old timers probably had never heard of them until recently.
Answer: Thank you for your questions. And yes, it is possible for a horse to have bladder and kidney problems, however, in horses these conditions are rare, though not unheard of, compared to the other issues discussed. Other species, including humans, have frequent urinary tract issues. Prostrate problems are very rare in horses also. The simple way to eliminate a bladder or kidney problem from the list is to perform a urine analysis. Any veterinarian can do this for you, if you collect the urine in a small cup, put it in a jar and take it to the office that day. Blood samples can also be helpful to identify kidney problems.
It is best not to just give a course of antibiotics without a very good reason. If you read the news lately, there is a lot of talk about the overuse of antibiotics leading to our current antibiotic resistant bacteria. This is becoming a serious worldwide problem, so please have your veterinarian do a complete workup on any case where antibiotics are needed and use only the most appropriate ones.
In regards to stomach ulcers, horses show a huge variety of symptoms, and many do not show any noticeable digestive symptoms such as poor eating, colicky behavior, gas, diarrhea or constipation (dry fecal balls). There is a new fecal blood test that you can have your veterinarian perform to test for ulcers throughout the digestive tract, not just with an examination of the stomach with an endoscope. Using this test, I believe we will find many more horses with some degree of ulceration outside of the stomach, which may explain the behaviors of many horses.
Dr. Joyce Harman is a veterinarian and respected saddle-fitting expert certified in veterinary acupuncture and veterinary chiropractic; she is also trained in homeopathy and herbal medicine. Her Harmany Equine Clinic is in northern Virginia.
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