Horse Diseases: How Can I Help?

Wild horses must always live in fear of predators and can therefore not afford to show weaknesses, otherwise, they are easy targets for their enemies. It is sometimes difficult for us to recognize diseases at first glance with our domestic horses. Therefore, above all, careful observation is the order of the day. Find out here which most common horse diseases you should be aware of as a horse owner.

Colic: Always an Emergency with Horses

Does your horse hit its stomach with its hooves, is it restless and keeps lying down? Does it tend to wheeze more intensely, sweat a lot, and look around at its stomach more often? Then it is likely that he is suffering from colic. The term “colic” initially describes the symptom of abdominal pain and is not a specific disease with a clear cause.

Possible triggers for abdominal pain are, for example, cramps, constipation, or flatulence. Psychological stress – for example from transports, tournaments, or ranking battles – can also result in colic. Abdominal pain does not always have to indicate diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. The urinary system or the genital organs can also cause problems.

Unfortunately, based on the behavioral changes that occur, it is not possible to reliably assess how big your horse’s problems really are. That can only be clarified through a thorough investigation. So if you suspect your horse may have colic, call a veterinarian immediately. Only he can make the diagnosis and recommend the correct therapy. Until the vet is on-site, guide your horse and cover him with a light blanket if he should sweat.

The Sweet Itch: Itchy Plague

Summer eczema is caused by an allergic reaction. The horses affected by the allergy react primarily to the bites of the female black flies, and sometimes to other insects as well. The bites cause an uncomfortable itch. Horses try to prevent the itching by scrubbing in different places whenever possible. The main damage is the skin and hair in the area of ​​the mane and tail. In addition, the constant pushing makes the itching even worse. Over time, rubbing creates bald, scaly patches which, when scratched, develop into open, weeping wounds. Basically, there is no patent cure for sweet itch. Rather, it is necessary to strictly avoid contact with the allergy triggers, the insects. Eczema blankets for grazing and staying in the stable during twilight, the main flight time of the unloved pests, help here. In addition, mild care lotions can relieve itching and help the skin to regenerate.

Muddy: Dampness and Mites

Mauke, an inflammation of the skin in the fetlock of the horse, is one of the other typical horse diseases. It is caused by a combination of different pathogens (mainly mites, often also fungi and bacteria). The reproduction of these organisms is made possible by a damaged skin barrier, which is mainly caused by moisture, frequent hosing down of the legs, unclean and damp boxes, or muddy drains. Especially horses with long hangings are affected by the Mauke. This is where dirt and moisture are particularly stubborn. So you should watch out for the first signs of malaise, especially in the humid months. It shows up as small pustules, reddened skin, or swellings in the fetlock. This quickly turns into flaky, wrinkled, foul-smelling spots that you shouldn’t underestimate. If left untreated, Mauke can quickly lead to chronic skin changes that require constant treatment. Prevention is good with clean, dry stables and runs and thorough care, especially of horses with a lot of fetlocks.

Lameness: One Symptom, Many Causes

Lame is a symptom rather than a causal “illness”. Depending on the appearance, the veterinarian speaks of “support leg lameness” (the animal does not load the legs evenly). In the case of “hang leg lameness”, the demonstration phase of the leg is noticeably changed. The stride length is then usually shorter than normal. In either case, the horse is extremely painful to step on.

The lame can have very different reasons, e.g.

  • Joint inflammation;
  • Tendon damage;
  • Inflammation of the tendon sheath or bursa;
  • Ruptured muscles;
  • Laminitis;
  • Hoof abscess;
  • Inflammation of the skin of the hoof;
  • Damage to the skeleton.

If you are not quite sure whether your horse is limping or walking differently, then have the animal shown to you first at a walk, if it is not abnormal, at a trot, preferably on hard ground (for example on asphalt). You can often hear whether the horse is running in time. If you still can’t see it, switch to soft ground, for example, the indoor arena floor. You can also ask the person leading the horse to do a small circle. With some lameness, it becomes clearer which leg is affected. The exact diagnosis is one of the tasks of a veterinarian. He can use x-rays and ultrasound or other methods to find out what is causing the lameness.

Laminitis: Fatal Disease with an Unclear Cause

Another common disease in horses is laminitis. This is the term used to describe inflammation of the coffin skin that connects the outer, visible hoof capsule made of horn with the coffin bone. The cause of this inflammatory reaction has not been clarified with certainty, it is suspected that there is an insufficient blood supply to the terminal vessels in the dermis. It can be brought about by various triggers, for example, poisoning, metabolic disorders, incorrect stress, and poor nutrition. Robust breeds and overweight horses are often affected. Laminitis is an extremely painful process and can be life-threatening.

The disease mostly shows itself on the front legs, rather rarely on the hind legs. a sick horse shows a “clammy” and “feeling” gait, pushes its hind legs under the stomach while standing, or lies a lot. It looks as if the horse does not want to step on, the hooves feel warm, the animal moves above all on the hard ground no more than necessary. As soon as you see that your animal is suffering, you should call the veterinarian as soon as possible, because only starting therapy soon offers the chance of a cure for the disease. In the meantime, the horse should be relieved by cooling the hooves. Either you use cold compresses or try to put the affected hooves in a bucket of cold water. A horse that was once sick tends to have more deer attacks. A balanced diet and appropriate exercise are the keys here Keys to Preventing Dangerous Disease.

Cough: A Serious Warning Sign

Like us, horses can catch colds or suffer from allergies. The most common respiratory diseases include infections, parasite infestation, or chronic respiratory diseases such as RAO (Recurrent Airway Obstruction) or COB (chronic obstructive bronchitis), which in the worst case can lead to dullness. Especially when horses spend a lot of time in dusty stalls, chronic respiratory problems such as coughs and dust allergies often arise.

Colds mainly occur if there is not a proper cover in winter or if horses only rarely go out to pasture in winter and have to struggle with the associated “unfamiliar” temperature fluctuations. On the other hand, animals that are kept in open stalls suffer significantly less from respiratory problems, as they are often in the fresh air and have sufficient opportunity to adjust to the temperature changes of the seasons.

By the way: Compared to humans, horses need a much stronger stimulus to cough. This means that every cough from a horse should be a warning sign to the owner.

If your horse has caught a cold, cold medication prescribed by the vet, such as expectorants, can help. In the case of chronic problems, good stable management is crucial: instead of straw, wood shavings should be sprinkled and only wet hay should be fed. Dust exposure, e.g. B. by straw storage near the box is to be avoided. Access to fresh air and exercise outdoors are important. Symptoms of respiratory diseases are a slimy nasal discharge, increased respiratory rate, weakness, possibly fever, or unwillingness to eat.

Always Keep Calm in the Case of Horse Diseases

In order to recognize horse diseases, it is good to know how a healthy horse behaves. So always keep an eye on your animal. Anything that appears “abnormal” about your horse can indicate pain. In addition, horses are also prone to certain diseases. For example, if you know about the predisposition to laminitis or colic, you will recognize the symptoms more quickly yourself. If the animal is not doing well, it is important to keep calm. After all, horses are sensitive creatures. Your panic would only make the animal even more insecure. If you are unsure, let a vet know. Do not try yourself, however, or you could harm your horse more than help him.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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