Humans and small animals have a better system of preventive health care than our horses. Many health-insurance plans cover some “well” visits, since it’s proven that catching a problem early not only increases the odds of a cure but also costs less money in the long run. Even Medicare increased its coverage of screening exams and tests in 2005.
While most small-animal pets generally get at least a quick check-up at the time of their yearly vaccination boosters, horses rarely do. In many barns, the veterinarian isn’t asked to do anything more than give the shot. The horse may not even be taken out of its stall. This is a mistake.
A barn-call fee is costly — regardless of why you called the veterinarian out — so we advise you to take advantage of the visit and schedule more at the time of your horse’s vaccination than just an injection. Your veterinarian can give you direction in whether your farrier is doing a good job, if you need more frequent dental exams and even if your horse’s feeding program is optimal (you can overdo that, you know). Your horse may look perfectly fit to you — since you see him every day — but your veterinarian may tell you he’s actually overweight, a risk factor for an increasing number of equine ailments. You need that added viewpoint.
We’re not advising anything as extensive as a pre-purchase exam, but asking your vet to watch your horse move, check his eyes, listen to his heart and lungs, and inspect him for healthy skin and coat shouldn’t be cost prohibitive. In fact, most vets will be glad to do it, as getting to know your horse better may help a diagnosis in the future, if a critical health issue arises.
We’ll help, too. Our new section, Preventive Care, will bring timely information on what illnesses are most likely at a particular time of year (such founder risk), deworming notes (such as spring’s the time for praziquantel to get tapeworms) and nutritional/health watches (like breakouts of rhino). We’ll also guide you in doing checkups yourself.
We’ll help you take the best possible care of your horse, with straightforward product evaluations that save you money and informative articles you can truly use. We embrace the hands-on approach to horse care and believe that you, the horse owner, belong in the driver’s seat.