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Clinic Hours:
Mon-Fri 8 to 5:30
Sat. by appointment only

Location:
31310 Woodhaven Trail
Cannon Falls, MN 55009

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Phone Numbers:
651-258-4050 office
651-258-4051 fax
651-222-0885 Twin Cities

Email:
info@cannonvet.com

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Equine Emergencies

You must be able to assess the situation and determine if you have an emergency, or if the situation can wait for a scheduled visit. To determine if the situation is truly an emergency, you must first know what is normal for your horse. The following table lists the normal vital signs for an adult horse.

Normal Equine Vitals
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Temperature

99 to 101 degrees 

Pulse

30-40 beats per minute 

Respiratory Rate

12-24 breaths per minute 

Gum Color

Key indicator of health.

Moist pink gums are normal.

Pale gums indicate compromised circulation, which may mean shock.

Deep red gums indicate possible toxicity in their system.

Purple to blue gums indicate low oxygen levels or serious internal toxins.

Yellow gums may indicate liver problems.

CRT (Capillary Refill Time)

 If you press on the gum tissue (mucous membrane should be pink and moist) - it should take less than 2 seconds for the color to return.

GI Motility

By using a stethoscope, or placing your ear to the horseís flank, you should be able to hear 3 to 4 gut sounds per minute.

 

WHAT IS AN EQUINE EMERGENCY?

Allergic Reactions
Choke
Colic
Cuts, Scrapes or Profuse Bleeding
Eye Problems
Leg Fractures
Mareís Foaling
Seizures
Sickness or Off Feed
Sudden Lameness
Tying Up

Allergic Reactions:
The horseís immune system is critical for protection against infection. Sometimes it works too well and their body develops a hypersensitivity to certain substances such as: insect bites, bee stings or toxic plants ingested. In some cases, a reaction can originate as a result of a drug injection of penicillin, non-steroidal medications, anti inflammatories, or the adjuvant in a simple vaccination. Many times it is due to an incorrect route of administration such as injecting a drug into a blood vessel, when it should have been given in the muscle. Clinical signs include: difficulty breathing, sweating, swelling of the skin or hives and extreme itching. Colic symptoms or sudden lameness may occur as well. In severe cases, horses may experience anaphylactic shock and possibly death.

 

Choke:
Choke is defined as an obstruction in the esophagus. It is caused by a horse that eats too quickly, does not chew properly, or that is in need of proper dental care. The signs associated with choke are: stretching their head and neck downward, swelling on the left side of the neck, coughing, retching, increased salivation and drooling, foul odor and food material expelled from the mouth or nostrils, depression and lack of appetite. If your horse is choking, remove all food and water. During an esophageal obstruction, your horse cannot swallow effectively. Everything that goes into their mouth has a risk of going down the trachea, which may lead to aspiration pneumonia. Donít panic! Focus on keeping your horse quiet until Dr. Winter arrives. Click here for more information about Choke.

 

Colic:
Colic is one of the most dangerous medical problems associated with horses and it is important to take it seriously. In a very short period of time it can escalate from mild to life threatening. After a thorough exam, Dr. Winter will determine the appropriate treatment plan. Click here for more information about colic.

 

Cuts, Scrapes or Profuse Bleeding:
Horses are fight or flight animals that are notorious for injuring themselves. There are many types of wounds ó from abrasions and bruises to puncture wounds and lacerations. Proper care after the wound occurs will make a difference in how quickly it heals, and whether it may become career-ending or life-threatening. Lower leg injuries are more serious than they appear because there is no muscle to buffer the tendons and ligaments. Soft tissue injuries can affect the future soundness and use of your horse. If unsure about the severity of any cut or injury, we advise you to call to have Dr. Winter examine your horse. Before Dr. Winter arrives: Stop the bleeding, by applying direct pressure (for 5 minutes) with clean hands and cloth. For leg cuts: firmly wrap a quilt or apply a pressure wrap. For older wounds: Clean with fresh water
Do not apply wound treatment until Dr. Winter arrives!!! Click here for more information on cuts, scrapes, and wound care.

Depending on the breed, 6 to 10% of a horseís weight is blood. A 1,000 pound horse has approx. 100 pounds, 100 pints or 50 quarts of blood. A healthy horse may lose approx. 30% or 15 quarts of blood before any major circulatory damage is done.

It is important to provide Dr. Winter with the pertinent details such as: wound location, depth of cut and the amount of blood loss.

 

Eye Problems:
If trauma to your horseís eye has occurred, lead your horse into a shaded location, free of sunlight, and immediately call Dr. Winter. DO NOT apply any medication in the injured eye before consulting with the doctor. This could result in further damage. Signs of eye trauma are: cloudiness, closed eyelid, squinting, excessive tearing, and inflammation. Opthalmic injuries in a horse are generally believed to be emergencies because the loss of a horseís eye could preclude its use as an athlete or competitor. Many diseases of the equine eye are volatile, and the difference between treating the injury today or waiting to treat it until tomorrow, may result in loss of the eye.

 

Leg Fractures:
If you suspect your horse has a fractured limb, itís important to call Dr. Winter immediately. Often times these horses go into shock due to the pain. Immediate action is critical for the life of your horse! Attempt to keep your horse calm and do not administer any medication, unless recommended by Dr. Winter. Certain tranquilizers can lower their blood pressure and cause them to go into circulatory distress. The injured limb should be stabilized to prevent further injury. Itís important to pad the injury well before the doctor arrives. If your horse needs to be transported, it is important to protect them during hauling. If the injury is located on the front limb, itís best to haul them backwards. If a sudden stop is made, your horse will put more pressure on the hind limbs, rather than the injured limb. Also itís important to wrap the uninjured legs to provide extra support. Bone injuries are very serious in horses, especially in the legs. When one leg is compromised the other legs must compensate, which may cause damage to the good legs.

 

Mareís Foaling:

Mares have 1 hour from the onset of hard labor to produce a live foal. If you detect a problem, call Dr. Winter immediately!!! He will provide instructions for you, until he arrives. Mares in labor become:

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Restless

Uncomfortable

Develop a lack of appetite

Sweat profusely

Feel the need to strain or push

Lay down Signs of labor are similar to that of colic (frequent lying down and quickly getting back up, pawing at the ground, and looking at their belly)

A FOALING KIT SHOULD INCLUDE:
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  • Cell phone (with Dr. Winterís phone number)
  • Headlamp
  • Watch
  • Tail wrap for mare
  • Gloves
  • Lubricant
  • Towels (to provide grip if you have to grasp foalís legs and pull).
  • Stethoscope
  • Bulb syringe (for aspirating fluids from foal, if necessary).
  • Serrated knife (for cutting the sack, if needed).
  • Trash bag (to save placenta for Dr. Winter to evaluate).
  • Disinfectant (Nolvasan or iodine), for dipping naval stump
  • Enema (Discuss with Dr. Winter first)
    * After your foal has arrived, call CVS to schedule an appointment for Dr. Winter to perform a
    neonatal exam.

 

Seizures:
Although uncommon, horses can suffer from epileptic seizures. Without treatment, your horse may be a danger to themselves, others, and things around them. Signs of seizures are: unconsciousness, collapsing, trembling, shaking, and thrashing. Their ears or tail may tremble, while their eyes will glaze over, giving a distant or vacant appearance. After a seizure, your horse may become extremely tired and disoriented. The cause for epilepsy in horses is unknown. However, it is believed that certain brain conditions such as tumors or infections may cause epileptic seizures. Damage from parasitic infections have also been linked to the possible cause. Although there is no cure for seizures, they can be managed with medication. If you believe your horse is experiencing a seizure, call Dr. Winter immediately.

 

Sickness or off Feed:
First take your horseís vital signs, which are: temperature, pulse, respiration rate, gum color, CRT, and GI motility. Anytime your horse is off feed, this indicates a problem. Providing Dr. Winter with the vital signs will help him determine whether it is an emergency or not. Once the vitals have been taken, you may want to considerÖ is your horse current on their vaccinations? Have you changed their grain ration or hay? Have you de-wormed your horse recently? These are all things that could be linked to your horseís sudden abnormal behavior.

 

Sudden Lameness:
Lameness is a complicated condition with many possible causes. It may develop in numerous areas of the equine body such as: the hoof, legs, shoulders, back, etc. The tendons, joints, back and hoof areas are the most common locations for trauma or injury that causes symptoms. For more information refer to Equine Services, ďLameness evaluationsĒ.

 

Tying Up (Azoturia):
A horse that is experiencing extreme muscle cramping and pain is most likely tying up. If this occurs, call Dr. Winter immediately!!! This is a condition known as exercise related muscle degeneration. It is directly linked to sporadic or irregular exercise, lack of proper conditioning, hormonal disturbances, stress, electrolyte imbalances (sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium), excessive carbohydrates, abnormal fat metabolism, and vitamin E or selenium deficiencies. The symptoms of tying up are: muscle stiffness over the back and down the hind quarters, muscle trembling, hesitation to move, excessive sweating, rapid pulse, and brown colored urine. Your horse should not be moved and remain standing. Wash its legs with cool water to prevent them from overheating. Keep your horse as quiet as possible. If the urine remains dark in color after 48 hours, kidney damage may occur. Dr. Winter should be scheduled for a follow up exam.

 

Equine First Aid Kit:
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CVS recommends being prepared for an emergency.
The following items should be included in your first aid kit:

Oral Medications and Wound Treatment

Bandaging Material

Instruments

Banamine Paste *

Vet Wrap

Digital Thermometer

Bute powder or paste *

Gauze

Stethoscope

Electrolyte powder or paste

Telfa Pads

Hoof Pick

Antibiotics (Tucoprim) *

Stretch Gauze

Flashlight

Wound Ointment

Polo Wraps

Latex Gloves

Antibiotic Spray

Leg Quilts

Scissors

Aluspray (Liquid Bandage)

 

 

Betadine Scrub

 

 

* Previously prescribed by Dr. Winter

Some medications mask symptoms and can interfere with a diagnosis. It is important to discuss the situation with Dr. Winter prior to administering any medication
 

 

 
 

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