Equine Regenerative Medicine

?Exciting news! ?

Emiliano is pleased to be able to provide regenerative medicine services – a wide range of biological treatments for horses suffering with lameness or poor performance issues.

Biological Treatments – What we offer

Regenerative medicine encompasses treatments that aim to repair, generate or replace tissues, cells and organs in the horse’s own body, in order to restore normal function. Historically, these treatments often used to require hospital visits and take a long period of time to perform. However, modern advances mean that many procedures can now be done at your yard!

The most vital step is first to obtain a diagnosis, as this allows for a comprehensive plan to be formed. In many cases, any biological treatment will go hand in hand with a rehabilitation programme such as corrective shoeing, physiotherapy and management changes, which could potentially make a huge difference by themselves.

If it is decided that regenerative medicine could be a suitable option, then it is important to discuss with Emiliano which one is best for your horse’s specific situation.

And remember that if you are experiencing problems with your horse, it is always helpful to have a chat with the vet to ensure that there are no other underlying issues that may need investigating beforehand!

Espinar Equine – Regenerative Medicine; Biological Treatments for horses.

What age should I castrate my horse?

We are often asked what is the best age to castrate colts.
Providing both testicles have descended, colts can normally be castrated anywhere from 5 months – 2 years old. Any younger and the testicles may not have descended or be developed enough to remove, and any older than that and the risk of complications from bleeding can be higher (although of course, horses can still be castrated at any age).

In general, castrations can be performed in the field (meaning we can do the procedure at your yard). Both testicles are removed using an instrument called an emasculator. After the horse has recovered from anaesthesia, they are often better being able to move about, which reduces post-surgical swelling. Therefore the best time for doing the procedure is in late autumn or winter, as there will be fewer flies present, enabling the incisions to heal faster. If you want to know more about what is involved in the castration procedure, we have a helpful video here: https://youtu.be/mH0HrHFb590

Rainscald

Rainscald is common during the winter months with persistent rain – did you know it can be caused by the same bacteria as mud fever?

Rain scald causes dermatitis and is usually present along the horse’s topline (especially the loins) with the hair on affected areas resembling little paintbrushes. Scabs cause tufts of hair to become matted together, and when removed, they reveal sore skin underneath. Further secondary infection may result as the skin is weakened.

Affected areas need to be cleaned with Malaseb, diluted hibiscrub or similar and horses should be kept dry and free from mud and application of topical antibacterial will speed recovery. Remember that infection can be spread through contaminated grooming kits, so keep any brushes used for the affected horse separate. In severe cases a course of antibiotics may also be required.

Rainscald can sometimes be confused with ringworm (which is a fungal infection) so it is worth getting a proper diagnosis from your vet to ensure that your horse can be made comfortable, and so that you don’t waste time or money on the wrong treatment.

Tetanus

Tetanus, a bacterial disease that affect horses and also humans, is an often fatal bacterial toxin that affects the nervous system, causing progressively worsening muscle contractions. Usually associated with the spasms of the jaw and neck (hence its common name of “lockjaw”), the horse will be unable to eat or drink. But it is important to remember that all muscles can be affected; including those that control breathing. This is why death can occur due to respiratory failure (leading to cardiac arrest).

The bacteria are present in soil and droppings, therefore tetanus can be easily picked up from puncture wounds, open cuts, or the umbilici of foals. However, it can be easily prevented with a vaccine! This is why it should form part of your horse’s core vaccination schedule. Tetanus can be treated but reports state that 80% of horses die once recumbent, so if your horse is unvaccinated, prompt veterinary attention can mean the difference between life and death.

Strangles

Strangles is endemic in the UK. It is an infectious bacterial disease that affects the upper respiratory tract. It usually causes:

  • high temperature
  • inappetance
  • nasal discharge
  • swollen glands and lymph nodes
  • abscesses, typically under the jaw.

It can be overlooked as ‘a bit of a cold’ but in time, infected horses can develop painful lymph node abscesses that often rupture. This makes it difficult for them to breath and swallow.
Another serious complication known as ‘bastard strangles’ can occur when the bacteria spreads and causes abscesses in other parts of the body (difficult to treat, this can often be fatal). Diagnosis is usually easy; blood tests can detect antibodies to strangles, and are useful for horses moving to a new yard, whereas guttural pouch lavage using an endoscope can be a quicker and more accurate test for most cases. At present, strangles vaccines have had limited success and high rates of vaccine reactions, so the best way to prevent the spread of strangles is good biosecurity measures.

Spring grass – how do we manage intake?

While “Dr Green” can be the best medicine in some cases, for others, it can cause problems.

Grass contains simple sugars (that are produced in daylight hours via photosynthesis) and fructan, (sugar in its storage form). Known as WSC or “water soluble carbohydrates”, high intakes can lead to laminitis, insulin dysregulation, and weight gain. WSC levels can vary depending on temperature, soil fertility and moisture, so it is often hard to determine the best time for turnout.

Also, it may not be the grass itself that is the issue. Sometimes, simply the change of routine (going from being stabled on dry hay or sparse pasture to being turned out on grass) is enough to trigger a bout of colic. Your horse’s digestive system will be unused to the non-structural carbohydrates in grass and this can cause digestive upsets and therefore colic.

Grazing muzzles, strip grazing and timed turnout amongst other options can be used to help control your horse’s intake of grass. However, when managing weight, care must be taken not to restrict fibre intake too much as gastric ulcers may result. If you’d like advice regarding spring grass, associated issues and how best to manage your horse’s weight or diet, do speak to us!

Sweet itch

Its the time of year when we should start to consider sweet itch and helping our horses to deal with insect hypersensitivity.
Although this localised allergic reaction can be very uncomfortable for your horse or pony, there are various things that can be done to lessen the impact:

  • topical shampoos
  • stable horses at dawn and dusk when midges are most active.
  • insecticidal sprays
  • keep horse away from areas of standing water, woods and trees.
  • use special fly rugs/hoods.
  • Use fans in stables (midges are poor fliers!)
  • In some cases small doses of steroids may be appropriate.

If your horse is suffering from sweet itch and you’d like advice on management or other forms of treatment, do give us a call.

Laminitis

Laminitis can be extremely debilitating for horses. The laminae (that hold the pedal bone to the wall of the hoof) become inflamed and this can cause the pedal bone to rotate or drop.

There are conditions that can put a horse at risk of suffering laminitis such as EMS or Cushing’s (PPID) so it is important to consider that there may be underlying issues, rather than just putting it down to an excess of spring grass. If your horse or pony seems to get recurrent bouts of laminitis despite being on an appropriate dietary regime, it may be an idea to get a blood test done to screen for hormonal diseases that could be the culprit. The good news is that many cases can then be managed with medication and supportive shoes or pads when necessary.

Has your horse got a hoof bruise?

At this time of year, hooves can easily bruise on dry, hard ground. As living, flexible tissue, hooves are designed to expand and contract, withstanding concussion. However, too much force from an impact can cause damage. This may be from something as simple as treading on a stone! A hoof bruise may develop and become apparent afterwards. Also, the hard ground can affect the biomechanics of ligaments, joints and tendons, and some horses with certain problems (navicular and arthritis for example), could simply get worse.

So what are hoof bruises?

Bruises are small haemorrhages that occur when blood vessels rupture due to trauma. Similar to humans having a blood-filled blister (haematoma) under the fingernail, larger haematomas can also form between sensitive tissues and the sole of the hoof. The resulting internal pressure can be very painful!

What are the signs of a bruise?

Symptoms can include:

  • increased digital pulse
  • shortened stride or more obvious lameness
  • purple/red marks on the hoof.

How do I locate a bruise?

Even if there are no external marks, hoof testers can be used to test sensitivity of the soft tissue structures within the hoof capsule. This aids in locating the specific area of pain, which will help determine the cause of the problem and the best way to treat it.

How are bruises treated?

Treatment options may range depending on the specific case. It could involve paring the sole to relieve pressure, cold therapy, poulticing, protective bandaging or anti-inflammatories. Deep bruising can also trigger abscesses, so if in doubt, seek veterinary attention.

Emiliano Espinar, veterinary surgeon, checking a horse's hoof with hoof testers.

Why flies can harm the eyes!

Warmer weather unfortunately can mean more pesky flies, and they can often irritate horses’ eyes. You may notice that your horse has swollen eyes or discharge (from one or both eyes). Likewise, the conjunctiva (the membranes or pink tissues surrounding the eye) may be red. Also, the white of the horse’s eye (sclera) may have more small blood vessels showing.

What can I do to help my horse’s eyes?

Using fly masks can prevent flies from irritating the eyes by stopping them from landing. There are many types available (some with ear covers to prevent flies biting the inside of the ears too.) Fly repellant may also be a good idea but take care not to get in the eyes. Further irritation could occur! Remember that if there are showers, it may not remain on the skin long enough to be effective. In some cases we may use antibiotics or steroids (or a combination of the two) to combat symptoms. Steroids can often be used to reduce inflammation and antibiotics deal with any bacterial infection.

It is also important to have the right treatment; human over-the-counter eye drops may not be suitable for treating infections. Also, if you are competing, eye drops containing steroids may not be appropriate!

What else should I look out for?

If your horse is scratching itself, then it could have another condition such as sweet itch. This may need investigating so that an appropriate management plan can be put in place. Flies may also be responsible for transmitting BPV which can cause sarcoids! Corneal ulcers can also develop if the horse rubs or scratches the eyes on either its legs or another surface. Again, this is where prompt veterinary attention is required to assess and treat the problem, thereby reducing the risk of any further issues.

Flies can irritate horses' eyes. A horse's eye with flies near it.