What to expect!
- Lots of rain
- Increased intensity of biting insects
- Abundant green grass
- Diseases associated with climate change
- Wet ground and soft hooves
- Insurance Cover
As an owner what should I do?
LOTS OF RAIN
- Will the paddock be subject to flooding? Could flooding cut off access to the horses?
- Will the horse have adequate shelter to reduce the consequences of over exposure to the elements?
- Make plans early. Shift the animals to a safer location. Charters Towers or even further.
- Float and trailer maintenance is a must. I have attended horses and foals that sustained tragic injuries as a result of breakages to flooring, dividers, tail gates, tow balls and safety chains.
- Lack of adequate shelter allows heavy rain to damage the horse’s skin allowing the skin to scald. I have attended to horses that have been fly blown as a consequence of rain scalding. A light application of paraffin oil with a soft cloth improves water resistance and markedly reduces the incidence of dermatitis. Coloured horses are more prone to solar dermatitis and greasy heel in non-pigmented regions, particularly the face and lower limbs
INCREASED INTENSITY OF BITING INSECTS
- Sandflies, Midges, Tabinids, March Flies, Common House Fly, Mosquitoes and Ticks
Biting insects are all capable of causing acute skin irritation, sleeplessness, weight loss, infect animals with viruses, and infect skin lesions with worm larvae. The common house fly can carry Habronema larvae from the horse’s manure, via the maggot to the adult fly which then allows the irritable larvae to enter the wound while the fly feeds from the raw surface. The resulting sores can be enormous and frequently confused with Swamp Cancers (a distressing fungal growth caused by a soil organism called Pythiosis). It is an interesting exercise to take a torch at night and just see how many insects can annoy your horse during the dark hours of the day. Long acting Pyrethrins are available to spray or wipe the horses coat for good protection. It pays to check with our horse vets to discuss some of these products. Smoke from small smudge fires placed in drums next to horse stables or shelters will repel most biting insects. However, for obvious reasons, this practice is not favoured in the suburbs.
If cattle have ever grazed in your horse paddock, then larval cattle ticks are a possible cause of acute dermatitis. This is seen particularly around the horse’s face and lower legs. These larval stages are almost not seen by the naked eye as they are so small. Always check with us as some tick products can kill your horse. Always check the labelling instructions. What may be ok for cows may not be so for horse.
- Remember to always treat wounds early. This applies to tiny wounds as all wounds will potentially allow access to many infections. It is often wise to check with our staff for a suitable ointment
ABUNDENT GREEN GRASS
- All the grasses in this region will grow quickly during warm moist weather. However, with excessive rain, even the grass becomes water logged. When this happens some domesticated grazing animals have difficulty ingesting their daily requirements of dry matter. A shortage of dry matter will cause horses to lose body weight and at times have difficulty in maintaining their core body temperature. This may even compromise their body’s defence mechanisms and could lead to a fatal pneumonia.
- Many rapidly growing introduced grasses concentrate a chemical called oxalate. If this accumulates to high levels in the horse’s tissues it will displace calcium in the bones for a much softer compound called phosphorus with resulting soft painful and sometimes swollen bones. Commonly referred to horses as having “Bid Head “Horses can be managed on these grasses if you supplement their diet with Calcium. Lucerne hay is high in calcium and commercial supplements are available. You just need to be able to identify these grasses. Arrange a visit with the local government agrostologist or collect samples for your veterinarian.
- Storage of horse feed is important. Any moisture will spoil feed and allow moulds to grow. Mouldy feed often causes colic and respiratory allergies. The colic can always be fatal. Used shipping containers can provide suitable storage if placed away from flood prone areas of the paddock.
- Rhodes grass hay can be an option. It has its hazards. It does not provide a ready source of calcium like lucerne. It is a more suitable feed for working and competing horses which are also receiving extruded supplements and some molasses. Rhodes grass isn’t as readily digested by horses compared to other grazing animals and other grasses. This grass also loses its quality quite quickly if left to the elements. It is better stored and fed out daily. It is also a common cause of impaction colic’s when fed during drought conditions.
- Ensure you have a good feed supply as local feed merchants may not be able to access supplies for some time after the cyclone has passed. Have several weeks supply.
- Never attempt to visit your horse during a cyclone, they can cope extremely well. They usually stay in the corner of a paddock so check that those corners are as safe as you can make them.
- If you are on vacation, always leave clear directions with your vet in case it is necessary for a call. Information should include telephone numbers and an e-mail address.
- There are an increasing number of animal and pet insurance firms keen for business. Insuring pets including horses has almost become a standard process for owners in Europe and the United Kingdom.
- These firms provide home pages on the internet if you wish to make contact
- Is your horse easily identified? Correct identification is vital if the animals wander because a fence has been damaged during a storm. Lightning and thunder often cause horses to take fright and they escape, often sustaining injury in the process.
- Freeze branding, micro chipping and photographs provide accurate identification. Microchips provide a register of information about the owners which enhances the horse’s recovery after it has gone missing.
- Vaccinations for tetanus are essential. Check if the horse is vaccinated and consider boosters if ever in doubt.
- Inform neighbours of your contact details in case you can’t be found in an emergency
- First Aid. Discuss this with your veterinarian. Have something for eyes and something to clean and dress wounds
- Just because it is the wet season always ensure a good supply of suitable drinking water
- Other considerations include intestinal parasites. We still treat horses for major worm burdens. Intestinal worm larvae thrive in the pasture if there is moisture available. In these situations they are readily consumed by the grazing horse. Speak to your vet as there are so many products on the market, you may be selecting one which is unsuitable for your horse.
- Organise an annual health check which allows you the opportunity to discuss plans and options for the wet season
- If you paddock gate has a lock and key, have a spare key for a friend or a neighbour
- Don’t check your horse in the dark following a storm as there have been occasions when horses have been electrocuted after standing on a downed live wire. Always look up and note where wires come from and run to.
- Old horses need special attention. This includes proper feed and shelter. These oldies are always the first to show adverse health going into any major weather change.
- Transport. Veterinarians may be stretched for mobile staff following a serious weather event. If this happens, having your own horse transport will be a bonus for everyone. Shipping the horse to the clinic may enhance a better outcome because of more available staff and equipment.
- On a rare occasion your horse may have suffered so badly during a storm, the only option may be humane euthanasia. This is often a very emotional time for everyone concerned. Having a plan for such a situation can be important. This is why contact details can be so critical. Sometimes having contact with a particular backhoe operator can be a very sound option.
- When there is a serious injury and it is difficult to arrive at a decision it is not unacceptable to seek another professional opinion.
- Remember if you have your horse insured that some insurance firms request that they be notified as soon as possible whenever there is an incident
- Stallions and pregnant mares and foals will need special consideration. It may be wise to stable these ones in a suitable well-constructed building or shift them away to a safer location. Remember to be able to handle your foal from the time it is born as it pays off when an emergency arrives. It can be extremely difficult to treat an unhandled foal.
- Remove any dead standing trees or fence them off.