Vol. 2 No. 2 April 2010


Finally, the sun is back. What a long cold winter we had. It's so good to get back in the swing of things, back on the farms visiting with ya'll. Things were a bit slow around here from December through February. Only had two emergency calls during that time which is great for the horses. Once again I credit that to you for being so persistent with preventative health. I feel sure that if you are doing those extra things for good health it will be rewarded with a horse that can stand up to illness and live a longer, happier life. Thanks also for such a great job so far in submitting fecal samples for testing, I am getting a lot of valuable information and we are seeing on a lot of farms who are the carriers and shedders of eggs and who need de-worming the most. Out of the last 47 horses I have tested, 23 have shown no eggs at all. That's bascially 50% which says that half the horses we have been de-worming may have not needed it at all. On the other side of that spectrum I have seen a few horses with as much as 1400 eggs per gram. One pound equals 453.6 grams, if you want to find out how many eggs are spread by a horse in a day then collect poop for 24 hours and weigh it. Hint: That converts to roughly two million eggs each time the horse poops in your field or stall. Let's continue to test these horses and encourage all your equine friends to do the same. If I get enough participation I can set up drop points around the area for convenience.


Piedmont Equine Veterinary Topic #6: Eye Problems

Eye problems can happen anytime but more likely in the spring through early fall so I wanted to discuss common issues we deal with and appropriate actions when you horse had that puffy eye.

Many horses have allergies just like people and they can have puffy eyes with rednesss and increased tearing or actual injury to the eye. The secret is to determine which and treat accordingly.

Allergies usually affect both eyes and may start out with just a little excessive tearing in one or both and progress to reddening and swelling as conjunctivitis develops. Secondary infections, viral, bacterial or fungal can also develop along with allergies so sometimes eye medications and flushes are necessary. An antibiotic ointment may be needed along with the addition of a steroid but the eye should be examined by a veterinarian before treating with a steroid at all. Even use of antibiotic without examination could be a little risky because many times there can be an ulcer forming and should be treated as soon as possible. When in doubt, I would consider all eye issues an emergency. Vision is nothing to play idle with. Most of the time a corneal ulcer will present in only one eye and will be just as described above with usually more pain and clinical signs will be exaggerated with possible complete closure of the eyelid due to pain. Most corneal ulcers come from a scratch or abrasion to the surface of the eyeball which allows bacteria to hide just below the surface of the cornea. I use an analogy of a windshield to describe how this works sometimes. The eyelid works like a windshield wiper and sweeps across to remove debris, bacteria or other organisms from the surface. The tears are used like the mister on our windshield to help carry away these particles without scratching the eye. Once the surface has been scratched, punctured or abraded then the bacteria has a hiding place below the level of the eyelids sweep. Much like a chip in your windshild would do. Being allowed to sit in this spot the bacteria begins to replicate the feed off the nutrients of the eye and eventually has a strong hold on the cornea, many times the bacteria will migrate under the layer of healthy tissue in a circular pattern and then form an ulcer much like an abscess. Treatment for these usually involves debridement or removal of that layer of tissue to allow medications to reach the bacteria and destroy it, also aids in the eyelids being able to sweep the bacteria away that formerly was protected by the surface layer. The corneal surface is much like skin only transparent so it will heel back from the outer edges of the wound to finally reconnect in the center. I use bacteria as the example but some ulcers can be viral or fungal as well and are harder to treat as they don't respond to antibiotics very well. Fungal ulcers can be pretty aggressive and within just a couple of days of neglected treatment can devastate the integrity of the eyeball with possible rupture of the globe. To sum up things, always call and discuss eye issues and monitor closely the status in case things go south quickly.

Again, prevention is key. Avoid allowing long grass to seed out in pastures which can scratch the eye when grazing. Fly masks are great for summertime especially when it gets dusty in late summer. Avoid having rough splintering edges of wood around stall doors or windows. Don't clip those long hairs that hang down from the upper eyelid (that's their sunsors). Make sure fans are not directed across the path of a hay manger. Avoid using hay mangers that horses have to reach up to get hay from, and finally if you have an eye with any of these problems call to discuss aggressive rapid treatment.


Green Grass is Coming

Please note that this has been an exceptionally rainy spring thus far and promises to deliver some very rich lush grass. Normal horses need gradual introduction and those predisposed to obesity or already dealing with weight issues, be sure to limit or in some cases complete restriction is advised. Again if you need help controlling your horse's wieght then call for a spring check up and body condition assessment to determine how to manage the season change.


Area Equine Fitness Program

Since we are on the topic of overwieght horses, I thought I would mention an idea and see how it goes with in the Piedmont Equine family. Many of the horses I see and deal with on a regular basis are slightly to grossly overweight. With any living animal there are two key methods of reducing weight: Eat less and exercise more. I thought it might be a good idea for some of you if you just have trouble getting the time your horse needs to get the weight off to start a network of exercisers and sponsors. Who better than some of our youth to get out and spend the time exercising horses? After all they always need money and time spent with a horse is a great investment in our kids' future.

If you are a teenager that would like to work with horses in an exercise program then contact me and if you own a horse that is in need of exercise and you are pressed for time, then I can maybe get you all in contact and see how this works. Obviously experience will be a factor but most any horse and student could learn to longe if nothing else.


Spring Shots

Remember to keep your horses immunity boosted to maintain a high level of protection from disease. You should be receiving reminders in the mail a couple of weeks before the due date based on your last vaccinations. EWT, Flu/Rhino, and West Nile recommended to be given every six months by the American Association of Equine Practitioners for those areas especially in the southeast with a long mosquito season as ours. (March to December). Rabies and Stangles are recommeneded yearly and of course Coggins testing is required annually as well.


Photo Request

I would like to cover the walls in my office with pictures of you with your horse or just pictures of horses, especially if you have some really good photos of them doing what they do for you whether it be showing, jumping, trail riding, competing at any discipline or just hanging out posing for the camera. I am proud of my extended family and will appreciate any extra photos you may have.



For those of you new to the Piedmont Equine Newsletter this section is usually saved for interesting stories that I have encountered during my years as a vet. The title comes from the fact that my life and the next exciting adventure lies just beyond the next phone call. You just never know what's in store when the phone rings. Since I have several new clients and some of my former clients might find it interesting to know more about their vet I thought I would give a little insight to how I came to live and work as an equine veterinarian in North Carolina. There have been a few interesting phone calls along the way to my career as well.

I'll start with the call I received from the personnel manager at the wood flooring factory I worked at in my long time home of Oneida, Tennessee. I was about 30 at the time and had applied for a manager position in a new factory being built by our parent company. I had been working for the company since graduating high school. As supervisor over the night shift for 10 years I felt qualified to take on managing the new factory. My main purpose was not just for an increase in salary but most importantly to get on day shift which would allow me more time to spend with my children as the oldest was just coming school age and I became thrown into what seemed like a weekend fatherhood role. My wife, Judy, worked at the same factory in the office on day shift and the oldest girl was off to school in the morning as well. My shift started at 3 p.m. which was before either arrived home and when I made it home at 2 a.m. they were obviously in bed.

I was being called to the office for some disappointing news, "under qualified" they said. We were looking for someone with a college degree in business and although you have been a great leader as supervisor our policy won't allow us to hire you for the position without a degree. Policy-smolicy, I thought, I had operated every machine in the building and knew the ins and outs of how to make wood flooring from the rough board down to the finished product. As it turns out we rarely get good occupations without the proper preparations and the flooring company was kind enough to offer to pay for my schooling if I wanted to go. Go to school at the age of 30, who does that? The wheels began to turn and I agreed, this is not the way I want to spend the rest of my life, and since they were offereing to pay I figured I might was well. Since I am going to go to school then why don't I just jump in all they way, I always wanted to be a vet and it seems like destiny is pointing that way. The company paid for the basics but once I began taking all those science courses they said they couldn't pay unless I was a business major.

I continued to work at the factory for the first three and a half years of school. I want to describe a little bit about how tough it was, not to boast but to hopefully motivate anyone that has their doubts about their capabilities. I'm really just an average guy with a strong work ethic and desire to not be denied. Call it pride, competitiveness, will power, determination, or just stubborn. Either way I believe if you set your mind to something you can do it no matter how tough.

I lived about one and a half hours from Knoxville which was where I had planned on attending Vet school. Even many of my undergraduate classes were in Knoxville and I would commute to school early in the mornings and then return early afternoon to be at work by 3 p.m. from what was most of the time 10-hour shifts. Even on an 8-hour shift I would have to stay over and enter production reports and set up for the next morning crew. Basically for three and a half years I started out by 6:30 a.m. and returned home at about 2:30 a.m. You might think, well at least there was a break in the summer, yeah that was when I mowed the twelve yards that I picked up to make extra money to help get through school.

Talking about the next call reminds me of one I got from Judy in mid-March. I was on my way home from class and she called to say that we got the letter from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. I knew it was either a letter of acceptance or rejection. My heart raced just as much as the truck did all the way home. Suddenly, when I got the envelope in my hands I wasn't so anxious to open it. I sat down and just held it for a minute. Now I was dreading opening it, what if? I looked at Judy and said, well it's in God's hands, he knows if we need this or not. I opened the letter and read the first word and fell backward on the chase lounge I was sitting on. Congratulations! That's the only word I'd seen as soon as the folded flaps came apart. I knew nothing would stop me now. Over 500 people applied for vet school then and only 67 were accepted. If this sounds tough we are just getting started, Vet school was extreme, I quit the factory the summer before vet school because I knew I was about to become consumed. Vet school basically ran from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Then it was home for the weekends, occasionally I would get to come home on Tuesdays not because I had the extra time but because I made the time. The first two years of Vet school I had two daughters back home (Tara, then eleven and Christa, seven) and then the last two years we had the new addition (Olivia who was born at the end of my second year of vet school). That was tough, I will say now I so appreciate our service men and women especially who have their loved ones back home while they are away for months. I always said, "If absence makes the heart grow fonder I was as fond as I wanted to be."

During the summer breaks in vet school I would take on a job in the anatomy lab helping prepare animal specimens for students to study. Then there was also the externships that I would do each summer to visit different equine practices for a month at a time and learn more about becoming an equine vet. As I said earlier, I was determined and I wanted to be as good an equine vet as possible.

The NEXT CALL was much like the one abut the acceptance letter into vet school but this one was to announce the arrival of my board exam results. Again I held the envelope in my hand wondering. That was an extremely hard test and news was that twelve students in my class had already failed the exam. I passed the exam and here I am loving every minute of my career. So don't ever think it's too late to start or too hard to do. You can do it, I know.

Special thanks to my family for their patience during those tough times.