Equine health issues | TSLN.com

Equine health issues

Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns

That ol’ Equinox storm hit a lot of Tri-State Country like a high-powered train! Hope you’re able to dig out… that your losses were few… and that those brave, indefatigable power and light workers have been able to restore the blessing of electricity to you all. The positive in this is spring moisture; which of course isn’t so welcome in the Red River country and her drainages. At least when Nature throws a fit it relieves our minds of political tensions for a while…

Equine health issues are uppermost at breeding season as the specter of CEM continues to hover. According to the latest update from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), the Georgia Department of Agriculture commissioner reported on March 12 that laboratory tests confirmed a Georgia Paint horse stallion was infected with contagious equine metritis (CEM), a highly contagious, but treatable, venereal disease of horses. This is the first CEM positive horse in Georgia and the 13th stallion in the nation since the announcement of the first positive case on Dec. 15, 2008. The Georgia stallion has been under quarantine since Jan. 16 and will continue to be treated and tested for several weeks.

The AAEP reports that the Central Kentucky farm where the first case of CEM was discovered in the recent outbreak (which set off the investigation that now includes 680 horses nationwide) has declared the all-clear. The four formerly positive stallions at DeGraff Stables/Liberty Farm Equine Reproduction Center LLC in Midway, KY have all completed treatment. No stallions remain under quarantine at the facility. Overall, the stallion testing and treatment protocol at the farm was completed in three months in which the final two stallions were released from quarantine on March 10. Kentucky State Veterinary officials’ epidemiologic investigation concluded the disease-causing organism was introduced to the farm by a Paint stallion that had stood the preceding seasons in Wisconsin.

We’ve recently highlighted Wyoming CEM recommendations here. Each state has alerts and protocol… please contact your State Vet and take every precaution for testing and double testing before exposing any of your breeding animals to out-of-state, out-of-area animals or semen.

Unfortunately a lot of our recent news here has been wrapped around the suffering of abandoned and neglected equines. I know it’s a subject we’d all love to get beyond… and we’re all thankful some solutions may be looming on the horizon. Meanwhile, you can help get the truth out and promote “pro-choice” options for horse owners who love and respect their animals.

The site http://www.amillionhorses.com has been established to document the neglect and abandonment of America’s horses. The second chief goal of the site is to educate the public about the current crisis, and all that is involved with horse ownership. This effort is aimed at “horse owners, prospective horse owners, those without horses, law makers, law enforcement, city dwellers, rural folks…” The position of the site is that “horse owners in America should have the option to send a horse to slaughter if they so wish.”

Recommended Stories For You

The webmaster there is seeking “first-hand experiences in respect to abuse, abandonment, rescue.” These need to be true reports that are verifiable. Guidelines can be found at http://www.amillionhorses.com/sendphotos.htm. Stories and photos can be submitted to sendphotos@amillionhorses.com.

The web master says, “These can be from television or newspapers. See http://www.amillionhorses.com/in%20the%20news.htm. This news tab is especially important because animal rights activists contend there is no horse abandonment problem, that rates of such have gone down since the plant closures. This report, and others, continue to circulate online: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2008/06/prweb999214.htm”

Information is also sought on “experiences folks are having in selling horses, or trying to sell horses. What is the cost of commission in comparison to what sale price was realized? How many free horses have they turned down? Have they been the recipient of ‘free’ horses being left in their unlocked trailer, barn or corral?” Both positive and negative stories are welcomed. A recent post of the latter from within Tri-State Country can be found at http://www.amillionhorses.com/statepages/colorado.htm.

Those who’ve experienced the agony of having a good horse hit with sarcoid tumors will be encouraged by recent horse health news from Texas. Through EQUUS we learn, “A Texas veterinarian is taking a novel approach to sarcoid treatment – removing portions of the tumors, freezing the tissue in liquid nitrogen and implanting it in the same horse’s body. ‘This is basically a very archaic viral vaccination attempt,’ says Benjamin Espy, DVM, DACT, a private practitioner who says the technique has been successful in 12 of 15 documented cases so far.

“We are trying to get the body to recognize the sarcoid as foreign and mount its own response. This is an autologous vaccine, meaning it’s made from the same animal you give it to – a very common technique in other livestock species,” Espy explains.

Sarcoids, the most common skin tumor of horses, are believed to be caused by the bovine papilloma virus. They can be treated with chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin, or removed surgically or with lasers. However, Espy says, if any trace of a growth remains, the sarcoids will return. “If you take off a huge sarcoid and leave behind even a tiny portion by accident, there might be five, six or 10 billion virus particles in it and the sarcoid will come back, possibly even worse because once they’ve been significantly disturbed, sarcoids can become very ‘angry.'” An injectable sarcoid vaccine is under development, he says, but studies on its efficacy have been controversial.

For his technique, Espy takes several pencil-eraser-sized samples off the surface of tumor and freezes them by immersing them in liquid nitrogen to kill the virus. Once the sections have thawed, Espy implants them along the crest of the neck. “I choose the crest because the skin is thin and the area relatively immobile so it heals quickly and, if there is a scar or white hair accumulation, the mane will cover it.”

So far, says Espy, the technique has been as or more successful than conventional sarcoid treatments he has tried. The tumors typically regress between 90 and 120 days after treatment, but some have taken as long as 180 days to subside. None of the horses has had a recurrence, Espy says. The horse he has followed the longest is still sarcoid-free five years later.

Espy says after presenting a paper on the technique at the 2008 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, he was approached by several veterinarians who recalled a similar discussion at the 1975 convention in Nevada. “It’s logical, so I’m sure I’m not the first person who thought of it,” he says, adding that his main goal was sharing information about an effective treatment. “I’m a repro guy, I’ll leave it up to the dermatologists and pathologists to figure out and write the paper on exactly why this works, but I’ve seen that it does.”

It’s good to have such encouraging words to tie this end of our ol’ lariat rope to…

© 2009 rhonda stearns

Go back to article