Millennium Post

Treating you dear stallion

Intense pain associated with generalised tying-up might incapacitate a horse making it unable to stand or bear weight.

Treating you dear stallion
I have a horse that I have been using for riding. He has been limping and walking stiffly for over a week now. His heartbeat increases and he starts sweating profusely. What should I do?

A. Tying-up is a broad term that frequently is used to describe a wide variety of muscle disorders that affect the performance horse. The clinical signs are varied, depending on the severity. In mild cases, affected horses will be somewhat stiff after exercise. At the other end of the spectrum, the intense pain associated with severe and generalised tying-up might incapacitate a horse to the point that it is unable to stand and bear weight. During exercise, affected horses develop a short, stiff stride; these signs can worsen if the exercise is continued. Upon stopping, horses often are very reluctant to move and might adopt an unusual stance; males frequently posture as if to urinate. The muscles of the hindquarters usually are the most severely affected. This area will be firm and painful, and cramping is evident when these muscles are palpated. Other signs that the horse is in pain include profuse sweating and persistently elevated heart and respiratory rates. The pain persists for several hours after the onset of a tying-up episode. In the latter, additional clinical signs include depression, severe dehydration, hyperthermia, and "thumps" (synchronous diaphragmatic flutter). Some endurance horses might develop extensive muscle damage without concurrent signs of muscle cramping.
In severe cases, horses will pass a dark, red-brown colored urine (myoglobinuria). This discoloration is due to the presence of a muscle protein called myoglobin. With extensive damage to muscle fibres, a large amount of myoglobin, together with other muscle proteins, leak into the horse's blood and subsequently are excreted through the kidneys. If horses with myoglobinuria are allowed to become dehydrated, they might develop kidney damage due to the protein accumulation
Correction of dehydration by administration of oral or intravenous fluids is of critical importance. Physical therapy is an important part of the treatment plan. Beginning approximately 24 hours after an episode, if not sooner, the horse should be provided a large box stall to move about as it desires. A few minutes of hand walking can be performed after 24 hours, but it often is best to allow the horse to move about on its own. In horses which tie-up two, three, or more times, a detailed diagnostic evaluation to identify an underlying cause of the exertionalrhabdomyolysis is warranted. This work-up will include a complete blood count, serum chemistry (particularly for measurement of CK and AST), and collection of a sample of urine to allow assessment of electrolyte balance. Do not ride the horse till he is well.
My horse hasn't been eating well since a couple of days and has perpetual yellow nasal discharge. What should I do?
A. Strangles is one of the most common respiratory illnesses in horses. Strangles is caused by an easily transmissible bacterium called Streptococcus equi. The bacteria can easily be carried from horse to horse, by human hands and clothing, brushes, buckets and persist on stable surfaces for weeks. Young horses are more susceptible to strangles than mature horses over five years of age, although horses can contract strangles at any age, especially if their immune system is already weakened.
Because the bacteria are so easily transmissible, one horse can quickly infect a whole stable, or one horse at a horse show can spread the illness more widely.
Strangles can be easily diagnosed by testing the nasal mucous. If caught in its very early stages, penicillin can be administered with good results. However, as the illness progresses, antibiotics are less effective and may even cause complications. With or without antibiotics, good care that includes scrupulous hygiene is essential. Any burst lymph nodes should be allowed to drain and cleaned with the antiseptic recommended by your veterinarian.
If a horse suspected to have strangles quarantine is necessary and any new horse to a stable should be kept separate to make sure it has no diseases to pass along. Anything that comes in contact with the horse, equipment including feed and water buckets, brushes, blankets, human hands should be well cleaned. Vaccinations are available, but so far, their life span is very short. If a stable is infected with strangles it should be closed to new horses and people should be advised to take precautions. Horses should not travel anywhere they might spread the disease, even if they appear to be recovered.
(Views expressed and information provided are personal; Send your questions to

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