from the Vet Corner Archives

Part of Horse Previews Magazine website. Posted on 10/02/98; 2:00:00PM.


Veterinary Corner 10/98: Veterinary Care for Miniature Horses

by Frosty Franklin, DVM
Edgecliff Equine Hospital
S. 1322 Park Road, Spokane, WA 99212 * 509/924-6069


Providing veterinary care for miniature horses is an exciting and challenging addition to equine medicine. Two health issues that are of great importance to miniature horse owners are dental care and reproductive care. Dental pathology is very common in miniature horses as are reproductive problems. In order to lessen any confusion about these topics and give mini horse owners easy to follow guidelines, we have adapted an excerpt from Dr. Katherine Burnett's Miniature Horse Care- A Veterinary Guide. Keep in mind that these are only guidelines. If you are experiencing a situation that is not clearly defined in the following article, please do not hesitate to call your veterinarian for further assistance.

DENTISTRY

At birth: The veterinarian should check the incisors for proper bite alignment, noting any over- or underbites.

0-12 Months: The farm manager should check the bite (incisor alignment) monthly. Any overbite or underbite that is off by more than 1/4 tooth should be examined by a veterinarian if it does not resolve on its own within two months. If the bite is persistently abnormal, then the veterinarian may need to gently file off any uneven surfaces on the incisors and molars. This procedure is most effective if performed by ten months of age. Smoothing the teeth allows the jaws to slide more freely and will often allow the bite to correct.

2-3.5 Years: At this age, deciduous (baby) incisors and molars are erupting and shedding from the mouth as the permanent teeth erupt and push them out. Deciduous molars are called "caps" when their roots dissolve and they are about to shed. Sometimes they are retained, that is, they remain adhered to the permanent tooth after the permanent tooth has started to erupt through the gum. Facial swelling below the eyes, as well as localized sinus infections and blocked tear ducts (runny eyes) can result. Removing caps is a simple procedure that helps relieve symptoms and restores the face to its normal shape. NOTE: A persistent single bump below the eye should be examined. It may be a deformed tooth or tooth root.

Adults: Any mini that is dropping grain, spitting out balls of hay, retaining feed in its cheeks, eating slowly, or not maintaining its weight should have a thorough dental examination. Equine dentistry has progressed tremendously in recent years, and many dental problems that were once incurable can now be corrected. All miniatures, even those without apparent problems, should have an annual dental examination. Neglected dental problems can lead to tooth decay, tooth loss, chronic weight loss and severe discomfort for the animal.

REPRODUCTION

Miniature mares have a much higher rate of pregnancy loss than other breeds. For this reason, it is imperative that pregnant mares receive excellent care for the duration of their pregnancies.

4-6 weeks after last day of breeding: Your veterinarian should palpate* or ultrasound the mare to confirm pregnancy. If pregnancy is confirmed, start the mare on 1/2lb. of a grain mix formulated specifically for pregnancy. Continue your routine deworming program using pyrantel and/or ivermectin. Avoid moxidectin (Quest).

5 months: It is necessary to have your veterinarian palpate* or ultrasound your mare again to confirm pregnancy because early pregnancy loss is so common in miniature horses. Vaccinate for rhinopneumonitis.

7 months: Vaccinate for rhinopneumonitis.

9-1/2 months: Vaccinate for rhinopneumonitis, influenza, tetanus, encephalomyelitis, and rabies. Ask your veterinarian to give you a list of supplies you will need for the foaling. Start stalling the mare at night and when unattended for long periods during the day.

*There is no evidence that palpation or ultrasound causes abortion in the miniature mare. The examination in conducted in the rectum; the uterus and cervix are not manipulated during the procedure. The procedure does not invade the vagina, cervix, or uterus; the veterinarian gently feels the surface of the uterine wall through the rectal wall. It is natural to assume that if an abortion takes place within days or weeks after a palpation that the palpation is to blame. With pregnancy loss rates as high as 31%, this is bound to happen fairly often as a coincidence.

Some equine veterinarians will have trouble palpating miniature mares because the minis are so small and the veterinarian's hands are too big. In order to eliminate this problem, we have been using an ultrasound technique developed by a doctor in Virginia. Using a modified balling gun, the ultrasound probe is inserted into the rectum allowing the veterinarian to scan the uterus for pregnancy. We have found this technique to be very accurate and comfortable for the mini mares. We have confirmed numerous pregnancies using this ultrasound technique, a few as early as 18-23 days post breeding.

Miniature horses are quickly becoming very popular in our country. As their popularity continues to grow, so will advances in miniature equine veterinary medicine. As with any horse, please consult your veterinarian if you are experiencing problems, or if you just need questions answered.

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