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Southern Pines, NC

910-992-8225

Foundation Equine Clinic is an equine exclusive veterinary practice serving Southern Pines, NC, Aberdeen NC, Pinehurst NC, Raeford NC, Vass NC, Sanford NC and surrounding areas. The practice is dedicated to preventive care and dentistry, and values all types of horses and their owners. If you are looking for a horse vet or equine dentist in the sandhills of NC, please give us a call! 

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Horse Stomach Bots- The Life Cycle in Pictures

Lisa Kivett

You've seen the little yellow eggs on your horse's legs. . . but do you know how those eggs eventually turn into bots inside your horse's stomach?  It's actually pretty cool (if you like that sort of thing)!

Read on to see the complete bot life cycle!

 

The life cycle begins when an adult bot fly (which looks a bit like a bee) lays eggs on your horse's coat.

 
 

The eggs look like this:

horse bots
bot eggs

The horse ingests these eggs when he scratches his legs with his mouth and teeth. The eggs hatch inside the horse's mouth, and small larvae burrow into the soft tissues around the teeth.

Here's a video of bot larvae crawling around in a horse's mouth:

bot nest in horse mouth

This image shows a "bot nest" in between a horse's teeth. We commonly see this in the fall and early winter months. The red arrow points to the nest in a mirror, the green arrow points to the actual nest.

horse bot larvae.jpg

A single bot larva, recovered from a horse's mouth, is circled in red.

After about three weeks living the mouth, the larvae are swallowed by the horse. The bots then attach to the stomach lining where they live for 8-10 months.

Here are the bots inside the horse's stomach (seen with an endoscope):

bots in a horse's stomach

After 8-10 months, the larvae pass out of the stomach in the horse's manure. They burrow into the ground, mature, and emerge as bot flies to begin the cycle again!

So how do you treat bots?

There are two methods of control, and both are important. When you see bot eggs on your horse's coat, you should use a bot knife or stone to remove them. This will reduce the amount of bots that complete their life cycle.

In addition, horses should be dewormed once yearly, after the first hard frost of the year, with an ivermectin product. At Foundation Equine, we recommend combining this treatment with the yearly treatment for tapeworms. This means that each horse should be dewormed with a product containing ivermectin + praziquantel (Zimectrin Gold or Equimax) in the winter. It's important not to deworm all the horses on a property (or in a pasture) at the same time, since this creates resistant parasites (the only ones that survive will have resistance genes). We recommend deworming half the horses in December or January, and the other half in February!

Frequently Asked Questions about Equine Gastroscopy (Stomach Scoping)

Lisa Kivett

Frequently Asked Questions About Gastroscopy

 

What is gastroscopy?

Gastroscopy is the procedure used to view the inside of a horse’s stomach. The procedure uses a 10-foot long endoscope (camera), passed into the stomach via the nose. This is the only accurate way to diagnose stomach ulcers in horses, which are very common and can cause signs of colic, weight loss, poor performance, etc. Gastroscopy can also identify tumors, stomach impactions, and other abnormalities of the upper GI tract.

 

“How do you get the camera/scope into the stomach?”

The equine gastroscope is 10 feet long, and is designed to reach the horse’s stomach and the first part of the small intestine. Like passing a tube for a colic, the endoscope is advanced through the horse’s nose, to the back of the throat, where it is swallowed. Unlike a colic tube, the endoscope is only about 1cm in diameter (much smaller than a tube)! After passage down the esophagus, we are able to see the entire stomach.

 

“Does scoping hurt the horse?”

Gastroscopy is NOT painful for a horse. The scope itself is about a centimeter in diameter, and the horse cannot feel it inside his or her stomach. The only discomfort during the scoping procedure is a mild “ticklish” feeling that some horses experience when the scope is first passed into the nose. We often use a topical anesthetic to decrease sensation in the nose.

 

“Does my horse have to be sedated for endoscopy?”

Yes, but only lightly! Only in rare circumstances is it safe or appropriate to scope an un-sedated horse. Humans are sedated for scoping procedures, and we are able to understand and appreciate what is happening. While the procedure is painless, it can be stressful for a horse to be surrounded by people and strange equipment. The veterinarian and assistant will need to stand almost directly in front of the horse, and the scope cannot be removed from agitated horse quickly enough to keep everyone safe. The sedatives used for gastroscopy last less than an hour, and the horse remains standing during the procedure. He can return to his normal routine about one hour after the sedation is given.

 

“Does my horse have to be fasted/ starved before scoping?”

Yes. We need to be able to see the ENTIRE stomach during a procedure, so fasting the horse for 12 hours is necessary (water is OK). We usually schedule gastroscopy for first thing in the morning, at your farm, so the horse can eat a normal dinner and have breakfast almost on-time! Your horse will be able to eat about 30 minutes to an hour after we perform the procedure.

 

 

“Isn’t it cheaper just to give my horse ulcer medication and see how he responds?”

Probably not! At Foundation Equine, we take pride in competitive pricing for our scoping procedures. We want to have as much information as possible about a patient’s health needs, and a definite diagnosis of gastric ulcers is critical to understanding what type and duration of treatment (if any) is necessary. Horses with gastric ulcers vary greatly with regard to the type of clinical signs observed, and the duration of treatment necessary to see a response. In addition, there are many different types and grades of equine stomach ulcers, and different types may require different treatments. Attempting to blindly treat a horse with ulcer medication to determine response will often yield false positives and false negatives. This can result in expensive treatment of horses who don’t actually have ulcers, and the delay of treatment for horses that are suffering.

 

“Does my horse have to go to the clinic for scoping?”

Not anymore! We provide gastroscopy right on your farm!

Those aren't "old horse teeth!" That's EOTRH- a painful condition of equine incisors.

Lisa Kivett


“He’s just got ‘old horse teeth’ doc!”

That’s usually the response from the horse owner or farm manager when I bring up the subject of an older horse’s diseased incisors. Yes, older horses have changes in the size, shape and orientation of their teeth, but broken incisors, “laid over” teeth, loose front teeth, and gingivitis are not a normal finding in an older horse. In fact, these are signs of a serious, debilitating, painful disorder called “Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis (EOTRH).”


 
This horse has multiple symptoms of EOTRH. The red arrow points to a broken lower incisor and the green arrow points to severe gingival erosion. Both orange arrows point to thickened areas of the jaw.

This horse has multiple symptoms of EOTRH. The red arrow points to a broken lower incisor and the green arrow points to severe gingival erosion. Both orange arrows point to thickened areas of the jaw.

 

I know, it’s an awful name. I can barely spit it out myself and I sound like a pompous know-it-all when I do. Unfortunately, we’re unlikely to give it a newer, catchier name any time soon (gone are the days of naming diseases after fabulous descriptive terminology like “trench mouth,” “pizzle rot,” or “bog spavin”). Regardless of the tongue-twisting name, it’s extremely important that horse owners know the signs of this disease. Allowing horses to suffer for years with this condition is simply unacceptable.

EOTRH is a newly recognized disease; it was only first identified in 2004. Since then, the veterinary profession has become increasingly aware of it. The condition involves proliferation (out-of-control growth) of the outer covering of equine teeth, called cementum (this is the “hypercementosis” part). In addition, many horses also have destruction of the internal structure of the teeth (the “resorption” part). As the disease progresses, the front teeth can become loose and crooked, or break off due to weakness and infection. In addition, the bone of the jaw can become infected.

This is a severely-affected horse. Note the large, broken, infected incisor. Feed is actually collecting within the rotted remnant of the tooth. This horse was in tremendous pain.

This is a severely-affected horse. Note the large, broken, infected incisor. Feed is actually collecting within the rotted remnant of the tooth. This horse was in tremendous pain.

Another severely affected horse. The blue arrow points to a broken, "laid over" tooth and the red arrow points to a tooth with hypercementosis (note the bulging and amount of exposed tooth).

Another severely affected horse. The blue arrow points to a broken, "laid over" tooth and the red arrow points to a tooth with hypercementosis (note the bulging and amount of exposed tooth).

This condition is obviously painful, and one of the first signs of the disease may be the horse’s refusal to bite a carrot or treat. Other early signs include drooling, decreased appetite, or abnormal behavior at the water trough (rinsing the mouth, dunking the muzzle, etc). Tapping on the teeth may produce a painful response. To diagnose EOTRH, we need to take radiographs (X-rays). Radiographs of affected teeth show bulbous root structures and dark spots inside the teeth, which indicate resorption.

 
X-ray of a horse with EOTRH. The green arrows point to bulbous roots (hypercementosis) and the red arrow points to a tooth with both hypercementosis and resorption (the black area inside the tooth).

X-ray of a horse with EOTRH. The green arrows point to bulbous roots (hypercementosis) and the red arrow points to a tooth with both hypercementosis and resorption (the black area inside the tooth).

 

At this point, we don’t really know what causes EOTRH. It’s still very new, so research is ongoing. In 2013, Arizona researchers published a study that offered some insight into risk factors for the disease. Management conditions, endocrine diseases and certain previous dental procedures were identified as some of the possible contributors. Excessive dentistry (categorized as prior treatment by a lay floater [unlicensed, non-veterinarian] or incisor reduction) increased the odds for development of EOTRH by five times*. Horses with a history of periodontal disease were also five times more likely to develop the condition. Horses who were fed alfalfa and did not receive turnout (which is more common in western states than here in the Southeast) were twice as likely to have EOTRH. EOTRH was also more common in horses with Equine Cushing’s and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (insulin resistance). It’s way too early to fully understand how these risk factors actually predispose the horse to developing EOTRH, but new information will surely become available in the coming years.

A good example of a resorptive lesion. The surface of the tooth is not intact, and the appearance is a little like a cavity. There is often feed material or hair stuck in the lesion.

A good example of a resorptive lesion. The surface of the tooth is not intact, and the appearance is a little like a cavity. There is often feed material or hair stuck in the lesion.

The blue arrow points to pinpoint draining tracts (they look like tiny dots) and the green arrow points to an affected corner incisor. The red arrow points to a severely affected, broken tooth with visible resorption.

The blue arrow points to pinpoint draining tracts (they look like tiny dots) and the green arrow points to an affected corner incisor. The red arrow points to a severely affected, broken tooth with visible resorption.

So what do we do about EOTRH? Unfortunately, there are few treatment options. If the horse is in pain, removal of the affected teeth will restore his comfort. Unfortunately, many horse owners are uncomfortable with the idea of extracting some of the horse’s teeth, especially in cases where all of the incisors are affected. Horse owners seem to have a strong emotional response to the idea of a horse without front teeth, and often feel that the horse is better left with the diseased teeth (and the pain). This attitude is frustrating to veterinarians, since the horse should not be allowed to suffer. It’s important to note that horses without incisors are able to graze and live a normal life, and it’s unfair to allow the animal to be in constant dental pain.

This horse had his incisors extracted six months prior to this photo being taken. The owners were thrilled with the horse's brighter attitude and could tell that he was in much less pain than before the procedure. The best part? He at three flakes of hay the night after the removal! He was more comfortable immediately after the extractions than he had been for quite some time! 

This horse had his incisors extracted six months prior to this photo being taken. The owners were thrilled with the horse's brighter attitude and could tell that he was in much less pain than before the procedure. The best part? He at three flakes of hay the night after the removal! He was more comfortable immediately after the extractions than he had been for quite some time! 

Another aged Thoroughbred gelding, two years after incisor removal! This horse grazes normally (well, almost normally) and lives a happy life! 

Another aged Thoroughbred gelding, two years after incisor removal! This horse grazes normally (well, almost normally) and lives a happy life! 

This is the same horse from the image above. He's fat and happy, but his tongue does hang out a bit! This is common in horses that have all their incisors removed. 

This is the same horse from the image above. He's fat and happy, but his tongue does hang out a bit! This is common in horses that have all their incisors removed. 

If your horse has any symptoms of EOTRH, have your veterinarian evaluate him for this condition. Also, please be open to removal of diseased teeth! Your old friend has likely earned the right to be comfortable as he ages, so don’t deny him that.

 

- Lisa Kivett, DVM, MS, DACVIM

Foundation Equine Mobile Medicine and Dentistry, Southern Pines NC

 

* Please read comment below for more information regarding the statement that lay dentistry increases the odds for EOTRH.

Why does my horse need a Coggins? We don't travel!

Lisa Kivett


I hear this line often: “Doc, my horse doesn’t need a Coggins! We don’t go anywhere!” I also occasionally hear: “Hey Doc, I need to get my horse that Coggins shot.” Other horse owners refuse Coggins testing because they believe there’s no way a horse would test positive; the Coggins disease has been eradicated right? How did this test come to be surrounded by so much confusion and so many misconceptions?

It’s interesting that, over the years, the Coggins test has developed a reputation as “health papers” or a “travel permit.” While it’s true that a Coggins is legally required to travel with horses (In North Carolina, every horse over the age of six months must have had a negative Coggins test result within 12 months in order to be sold or taken to any public place), I think we’ve lost sight of the real reason for this test!

                  A Coggins Test Form

                  A Coggins Test Form


 

A “Coggins” is a blood test that detects antibodies to the disease Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA). This is a virus that can cause affected horses (or donkeys) to have fevers, anemia (low red blood cell count), edema (stocking up), or weight loss/muscle wasting. Some horses recover quickly from the symptoms, which may be nothing more than a fever for <24 hours. EIA is a relative of the virus that causes HIV in humans. Horses that become infected will carry the disease for life. These carriers often show no signs of disease and appear healthy. Carriers then serve as a source of disease transmission to other horses.

EIA is transmitted by flies (horse flies and deer flies), so your horse doesn’t actually have to come into contact with an infected or carrier horse to catch the virus. Flies come to your farm, so your horse is at risk even if he never travels, or lives in a closed herd. There is no vaccine for EIA and there is no treatment.

 
A healthy-appearing EIA carrier, used for disease transmission studies in the 1970's.

A healthy-appearing EIA carrier, used for disease transmission studies in the 1970's.

 

Another common misconception is that EIA has been eradicated from the United States, and that there’s no way a horse would test positive. In 2012, there were 36 horses identified as positive for EIA, 82 in 2011, and 49 in 2010. This disease remains active, at low levels, within the US horse population. Prior to introduction of routine testing, 3 in every 100 horses were positive for EIA. Since routine testing was introduced in 1973, the numbers have declined to 0.2% of horses testing positive. In the past, EIA was often transmitted from horse to horse through human intervention, with dirty needles or surgical instruments. Now that humans are more careful, the disease remains present due to biting flies. Since 1980, the majority of positive EIA horses were asymptomatic, so it’s incredibly important that we continue regular Coggins testing, to identify carriers and ensure that large outbreaks don’t take place.

What happens when a horse tests positive for EIA? After the result is verified, the law states that the horse’s owner has two choices- euthanasia or quarantine. If quarantine is chosen, the horse must be branded with a special “55A” and ID number on the left side of the neck. The horse must then be kept a minimum of 880 yards from any other horse for the rest of its life. Most people choose euthanasia.

 
EIA "hot zone" - disease transmission is more likely in these areas due to vector presence (biting flies)

EIA "hot zone" - disease transmission is more likely in these areas due to vector presence (biting flies)

 

So what’s with the name? Coggins? The test was was named after its developer, Dr. Leroy Coggins. Dr. Coggins was a veterinarian with a PhD in virology. He studied African Swine Fever in Kenya in the 1960s, and translated his findings to develop the test for Equine Infectious Anemia. The Coggins test was first approved by the USDA in 1973. Dr. Coggins lived in Cary North Carolina, until his death in Feb 2014 at the age of 81.

You probably hope that your neighbors are having their horses routinely tested for EIA, and they hope you are too! Is your horse’s Coggins current?