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Cushing's disease is one of the few disease found in horses that is very rarely seen in horses under twenty years of age. Any breed of horse can develop Cushing's disease however it is most prone in Morgan horses and crosses with Morgans. Mares, geldings and stallions are equally at risk for developing the condition and both working horses as well as pleasure horses seem have about the same odds for Cushing's disease.
The first signs of Cushing's disease are usually noted in the coat. The horse will retain or develop a thick, winter like coat that does not shed, even in the warm summer months. Typically the long, thick hair will be curly or wavy in appearance and will be dull and much longer than the winter hair the horse would have normally grown. [...]
Just like any type of mammal, the horse depends on the spine and skeleton to support the body, and the spinal chord and the brain to send impulses through the skeleton and muscles to move. In conditions that are known as degenerative disorders there are either toxins, injuries, infections, genetic conditions or other forms of diseases that cause the natural functioning of the skeleton or nervous systems to degenerate or break down over time. Once these conditions are present, unless noticed and treated very early on there is likely to be permanent and non-reversable damage that will affect the horse throughout his or her life, even if the condition is managed. [...]
Horses, like any other animal, can suffer from different diseases, pathogens and infections of the digestive and urinary tract. Often these conditions are signs and symptoms of much more serious conditions, many which can be fatal. Some causes of diarrhea or colored urine in horses can also be infections that are relatively localized and easily treated as long as they do not become progressively worse through lack of treatment.
Diarrhea can be ongoing or chronic, or it can be episodic, lasting only a few days. Often diarrhea in horses is due to a highly infectious disease known as Salmonellosis. This condition is caused by the bacteria Salmonella, which is commonly found in small numbers as a helpful digestive bacteria in most horses. For some reason, often illness, colitis or even other health issues or exposure to other infected horse's fecal material, the bacteria multiplies and becomes problematic. [...]
Some breeds of horses, especially the Lithuanian Heavy Draft Horse, are prone to posture problems that result in a dipped back. Typically dipped back, which gives a characteristic sway or noticeable depression in the back where a saddle would normally sit, becomes more pronounced and obvious as the horses ages. This is due to a combination of factors including natural degeneration of the muscles supporting the spine, decrease in muscle tone over the entire body as well as increase in the weight of the horse that is supported by the spine. In breeds of horses with very long backs or in large draft horses that simply weigh more the likelihood of dipped back is greater than in shorter backed, lighter breeds. [...]
Many people incorrectly think that Miniature Horses and the Falabella breed are actually dwarf horses, which is false. Miniature horses and Falabellas are bred to be small and through selective breeding have developed into their own breeds that breed true to small, usually well-conformed horses. However, it is true that dwarf horses have been used in the development of the Miniature Horses bred by disreputable breeders resulting in a greater likelihood of dwarf offspring from Miniature Horses. This short cut to developing the smallest possible Miniature Horses has had disastrous results. Falabella horses, only being bred by one family, have had fewer problems with dwarfism as the breeding herd was comprehensively managed. Full sized or "normal sized" horses of any breed will very rarely produce a dwarf offspring, but this is extremely uncommon. Some pony breeds, especially in remote areas of the world where the breeds have been very isolated and have inbred continually, dwarfism is a serious concern to the continuation of the breed. [...]
Dyscoria is a distortion or irregular development of the pupil of the eye that leads to vision problems as the pupil may not dilate and expand correctly in changing light environments. In horses dyscoria is most commonly noted in breeds that are part of the gaited horses bred in the Rocky Mountain areas of the United States. These breeds include the Rocky Mountain Pleasure Horse, Kentucky Mountain and crosses between these breeds. This condition can also be found in dogs and humans.
Most horses with dyscoria also have an eye condition known as ASD or anterior segment dysgenesis. This condition causes an irregular formation of the front parts of the eye that is genetically linked but often not serious. It is not progressive and does not become more pronounced as the horse matures, in fact many horses have such mild symptoms of the condition that it is not known unless an ophthalmologic examination is completed by a vet. Diagnosis of dyscoria is done by applying drops of mydriatic drug that causes normal pupils to dilate. The pupil with dyscoria will not dilate normally and will confirm diagnosis of the condition. [...]
Equine encephalomyelitis, also commonly known as sleeping sickness or sleeping disease is caused by one of several different strains of the encephalomyelitis virus. It can be extremely dangerous and horses, birds and even humans can develop sleeping sickness if infected. The disease is actually transmitted by mosquitoes that bite an infected bird and pick up the virus, then bite a human, horse or other bird. Once a horse or human is infected, he or she cannot pass sleeping sickness on to another horse or person, so there is no need to be concerned about direct transmission to others. The encephalomyelitis lives in the bird species with the most commonly infected birds being ducks, chickens, pheasants, turkeys and quail with pigeons also being carriers of the disease. In birds the virus is not usually fatal, but it can be when transferred to a human or equine host. [...]
There are actually two different types of equine herpes virus that is found in horses. The first variety, EHV-1 is the most problematic resulting in abortions in infected mares and respiratory tract infections and disease as well as paralysis in foals. EHV-4 is also linked to causing abortions in mares but is more likely to result in respiratory disease in foals.
For mares EHV-1 and occasionally EHV-4 cause abortion within a few months of becoming infected and pregnant. This infection can occur through close contact such as between breeding mares and stallions as well as between mares and foals. Once a mare has had an abortion she should be tested for the presence of equine herpes virus and then taken out of the breeding program, even if she recovers completely. As with humans, there is no control for the equine herpes virus and it can remain dormant in the nerve ganglia and the tissues of the respiratory tract. [...]
Equine infectious anemia has been a horse owner's worst nightmare for many years, but thanks to new federal, state and provincial government testing requirements this condition is not nearly as devastating as it was just 20 years ago in North America. Equine infectious anemia is what the Coggin's Test is designed to identify. This simple blood test is the best and easiest way for a horse owner to ensure that his or her horse is safe both for their own peace of mind as well as to let others know that the horse is free from the condition.
A vet must do the Coggin's Test, which simply includes a small blood sample that is drawn from the horse then sent to a government approved testing lab. Once a negative result is obtained, the horse is considered to be free from equine infectious anemia and can usually be moved across state lines, boarded or stabled as well as entered into events and competitions. Horses with positive results cannot and must be kept under very controlled situations to prevent the spread of the disease. [...]
We all know how achy, horrible and sick we feel when we have the flu; can you imagine how bad it must be for a horse? Horses, just like people, can come down with influenza that is caused by a virus. There are other viruses besides the influenza virus that causes flu-like symptoms in horses and they include Equine Herpes virus, Adenovirus and Rhinovirus, but the influenza virus typically produces more severe respiratory symptoms that may have more likelihood of causing secondary bacterial problems.
The first symptoms of the equine influenza virus are usually a mild to low grade fever, general depression, lack of appetite and energy and some discharge from the nostrils. Within two to five days these symptoms have usually become more pronounced and often include a very deep, dry, hacking cough as well as thick discharge from the nose, high fever as well as food refusal. Most horses will not want to exercise and should not be stressed or worked during this time. [...]
Most commonly associated with Quarter horse bloodlines, EPSM or Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy is a muscle condition or disease. There are documented occurrences of EPSM in other horses such as American Paint horses, Warm bloods, draft horses, quarter horse crosses, and draft crosses. Evidence shows that in Quarter horses, EPSM is a inheritable disease, but this remains unproven in many other breeds. A horse with Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy has an excessive glycogen buildup or storage in the skeletal muscles due to improper digestion of sugars, starches and carbohydrates found in cereal grains such as barley, corn, and oats.
Often, there are very few or very subtle symptoms in the early stages and because of the recent discovery of EPSM, it is often not considered or diagnosed until fairly advanced. [...]
It is hard to believe that in most soils there exists a microscopic organism that is capable of killing a horse or a person just by a small amount getting into a cut or open wound. Clostridium tetani is the microbe that is responsible for causing the condition most commonly known as lockjaw in horses, but also known as tetanus in humans.
Tetanus or lockjaw is caused when an open wound, cut or lesion is in contact with the Clostridium tetani in the soil or on items that puncture the horse's skin. The microbe then produces a toxin in the body that binds itself to the nerves close to the injury, using them to travel up to the brain and spinal cord. Once in the brain or spinal cord the exotoxin begins to destroy the cells, resulting in several serious conditions. [...]
As with many of the hardest to eradicate genetic conditions Fell Pony Syndrome is linked to an autosomal recessive gene. This means that the condition will only occur if both the dam and the sire have the gene but are only carrying one, not two copies. When the two mate, each contributes one half of the double gene needed, and if both contribute the recessive gene for the syndrome the result is a foal that will only live a few short weeks before dying.
Autosomal means that there is one, two-part gene that is responsible for the condition. The foal will inherit one part of the gene from the mother and one part from the father to make the complete gene pair. Since foals with the condition will die and not reproduce, only carriers, adults that have one Fell Pony Syndrome gene and one normal gene, or clear, adults with two normal genes, will continue on in the population. Since horses with only one gene have no visible symptoms of carrying the gene, they can only be detected through careful monitoring and recording of breedings that produce either healthy or unhealthy foals. [...]
Great Britain is the country most commonly associated with grass sickness although it also occurs in high frequency in Scotland, with lesser reports in Ireland, Wales as well as France, Italy, Holland, Sweden and Belgium. The condition is only seen in horses that are on pasture although even horses that are fed dry feeds in addition to pasture may develop the same condition. Donkeys, ponies and mules will also develop grass sickness and it can strike horses of any age, condition and sex.
Grass sickness is a gut paralysis that is believed to be caused by a toxin in or on the pasture grass. Many researchers now believe that the problematic toxin comes from a variety of fungus that is almost always present in pastures where reports of grass sickness occur. The fungus most likely linked to the condition is Fusarium and often a dry, cooler period that may affect the production of spores in the Fusarium is present before an outbreak. [...]
Heat stroke is a serious issue with horses that owners should be aware of and watch for whenever they are exercising their horses. Backyard horses or horses that are only worked or exercised occasionally are at a much higher risk that horses that are used routinely. In addition horses that are overweight or have respiratory problems are more susceptible to heat stroke than horses of the same age that don't have weight problems or breathing issues.
Heat stroke is more problematic in the summer months, but it also happens in the spring and fall, especially on hot days or days where the humidity is very high. The combination of high humidity and heat is far worse than either condition separately for both horses and riders, so care must be taken under these conditions. [...]