Last year, the VioVet blog covered some of the most popular discussions in the world of horses. Everything from worming, Mud Fever and winter turnout, to tack theft, equine diarrhoea and the issue of fly-grazing.

While our topical discussions were popular with our regular readers and subscribers, it was the articles that discussed serious equine health problems that you found the most interesting. Our blogs about lesser-known diseases like Equine Grass Sickness were widely read and circulated, with many people being unaware of the dangers.

Because it’s hard to know what every horse owner wants to read about, we are always trying to cover a broad range of topics, while continuing to focus on matters of health and life quality for the benefit of horses everywhere. We hope you found last year’s articles helpful and informative and that this year we continue to deliver!

If you have any ideas/suggestions for future blog posts, or, if there is anything particular you need advice on, please get in touch! Feel free to email me directly with your ideas: [email protected].

1# Cushing’s disease (1,486 views)

Equine Cushing's Disease is a hormonal imbalance that is quite common in older ponies (7 years+). That said, older horses are not immune to ECD and most incidences occur in horses over 15 years of age. It is similar to a condition occurring in people and dogs, though theoretically it can affect any mammal. The correct name for the condition is 'hyperadrenocorticism,' which is enough reason for most people to just name it after the first doctor who described it - Dr Cushing.

Cushing's DiseaseCushing's Disease is caused by enlargement of the pituitary gland in the brain (usually due to a benign tumour), which causes the production of too much hormone. In turn, this results in over-stimulation of the adrenal glands, which then produce excessive amounts of steroids. In older horses, the most common underlying cause is a simple age-related failure of the normal control mechanisms in the brain, although tumours are not uncommon...(Read on)

2# Equine Atypical Myopathy (1,385 views)

Equine Atypical Myopathy (EAM) is a severe condition affecting the muscles of horses and donkeys. EAM has been reported in various parts of the world since the 20th century and has a high mortality rate of 70-80%. The problem presents sporadically, although it is most common in autumn grazing horses when pastures are bare, close to a river or stream and where sycamore trees (Acer pseudoplatanus) are present. Outbreaks also tend to occur following a bout of wet or windy weather.

Unlike other myopathies that purely target the locomotory muscles, Atypical Myopathy also affects postural, cardiac and respiratory muscles, thus making the condition much more likely to result in death.

EAM is unrelated to exercise or the overuse of muscles, as was once believed. It can present in any horse, irrespective of breed, sex or age, although it is more common in young horses of 3-4 years. Only if the condition is diagnosed in its earliest stages can it be treated, yet even with intensive care, there are no guarantees the horse will make a full recovery...(Read on)

3# Hoof abscesses (1,209 views)

Many horses are affected by hoof abscesses but what exactly are they? Put simply, a hoof abscess is a localised bacterial infection confined to the delicate structures of the hoof. Facing infection, the body produces purulent fluid (pus) to try to isolate and control the infection. Pus consists of dead white blood cells that have been assembled by the immune system to ward of the bacteria.

Abscesses of the hoof are particularly painful because of their location; since the hoof cannot expand, the presence of an abscess causes extreme pressure and discomfort. Hoof abscesses are usually found in the sole of the hoof but can occur elsewhere. They are the most common cause of acute lameness in horses and ponies and should be treated with haste...(Read on)

4# Equine Grass Sickness (998 views)

Otherwise known as ‘equine dysautonomia,’ equine grass sickness (EGS) is a rare but predominantly fatal condition in horses, with a mortality rate of roughly 95%. The illness was first seen in Angus, Scotland in 1907 and remains much of a mystery to horse owners, despite a wealth of research being undertaken to try and discover a definitive cause.

Since its discovery over 100 years ago, Great Britain has had the largest number of cases in the world; evidently, whilst it is a rare disease, your horse is more likely to encounter it here than just about anywhere else on the planet.

One thing that is for certain is that grass sickness can affect any horse, irrespective of age, breed and sex, but is more prevalent in horses between 2-7 years old. Older horses seem to have an acquired resistance to the illness; just as very young foals are rarely affected by it. That said, no horse (pony or donkey) is immune from this devastating condition, which is why it is important to be aware of its clinical signs and, in particular, their resemblance to signs of colic. In fact, many examples of acute and subacute grass sickness are misdiagnosed as colic, leading to delay in appropriate action being taken...(Read on)

5# Equine Colic (890 views)

The term ‘colic’ refers to many forms of abdominal pain experienced in horses, whether gastrointestinal or otherwise. By definition it is a clinical sign rather than a diagnosis and encompasses a number of gut conditions ranging from mild to severe. For such a large, seemingly well structured animal, the anatomy of the equine abdomen is poorly configured for its digestive needs. Because of this, horses are highly predisposed to bouts of colic and most will experience some degree of gastrointestinal discomfort at some point in their lives.

There are many different types of colic and it is important to know which you are dealing with from the onset. Because of the difficulty of diagnosis sometimes and the severity of some forms of colic, it is worth assuming all symptoms are a call for emergency. When it comes to colic, survival rates depend in most part on how quickly veterinary help is found. Time is really of the essence as horses with severe colic can deteriorate rapidly and are prone to rolling which can fatally twist the bowel...(Read on)

Equine Colic

Written by: Hannah