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Equine Vets

Equine services

Equine Vet Monmouthshire

Usk Veterinary Centre has all the facilities required to care for your horse.  Horse owners are also welcome to bring their horse to our surgery by appointment or to Caerleon Veterinary Centre for routine vaccination.

In House Laboratory

The laboratory at the Usk Surgery allows us to process blood samples, run analyses on urine and carry out worm egg counts on faecal sample to help advise you on the correct worming programme.

Hospitalization

The Usk surgery has hospitalisation facilities. These consist of heated stabling with rubber matting, a turn out area if weather permits, intravenous fluid provision if needed and full supportive care.

The Usk surgery has two 12'x12' heated stables with rubber mats for inpatients, in addition to a third (larger) stable with a hoist which we use for operating. There is a turnout area for ambulatory patients when the conditions are appropriate. We recommend that horses undergoing sarcoid treatment be brought here.

At the Usk surgery we have facilities to quickly analyse blood, worm egg counts on faecal samples and urine samples and perform many other diagnostic tests that your pet may need. We also work closely with expert external labs where we submit samples for ancillary tests, and frequently receive results by fax and email the next day.

Once your horses results are received we will contact you as soon as possible.

If you would like to contact one of our Veterinary Nurses please telephone (Usk) 01291 672637 (Caerleon) 01633 430053.
 

Surgical Procedures

We regularly perform routine surgical procedures such as castration and cryptorchid operations, hernia reduction and wound repair. They are mainly carried out at the Usk surgery or if conditions permit, where the horse/pony is kept.

Out of hours service

Usk Vets provide a 24hr emergency service for all registered clients. Our own vets run the service. We think this provides better patient care and continuity for our clients. Therefore please bear this in mind when using the service and only use it for true emergencies (the vets providing this cover will be working the following morning). For non-urgent enquiries please ring in normal office hours.

This is how the service works if you have an out of hours emergency:

  • Ring the day-time number for either Usk 01291 672637 or Caerleon 01633 430053
  • You'll be transferred to a call centre (at no extra cost) where your details will be taken
  • The duty vet will be alerted and call you back to discuss the problem
  • If the vet feels that an examination of your animal is required:
  1. The vet will arrange a suitable time to meet you at the designated location
  2. Small animals are examined and treated at the Usk practice
  3. Farm animal and horses are seen onsite, or at the surgery if felt more appropriate

Visits and attendance to the practice out of hours are subject to an additional fee. This fee is dependent on what time the call out is made i.e. the more unsociable the hour, the more expensive.

If you are not a registered client you should try and contact your own veterinary surgeon. Nevertheless, in the case of a genuine emergency we will examine and treat your animal and endeavour to acquire your pets clinical records from your own vet. However, you must be prepared to pay for our service on the night in question.

Any hospitalised patient out of hours receives monitoring and medication as deemed necessary by the vet on call on a case-by-case basis.

Vet Visits

We cover most of Monmouthshire and even slip into England for some equine calls, but are equally pleased to examine horses at our Usk surgery. Most of our diagnostic equipment resides at Usk, and that is where we would prefer to see the more complicated cases.

When doing preplanned visits such as vaccinations we endeavour to combine them with other horses on the same yard, so that the visit fee may be shared. Our visit charges are banded into four zones reflecting travel time and distance. All requests for equine examinations should be made through our Usk surgery.

Those who wish to clear their monthly bill by direct debit benefit from significant discounts, since this reduces our clerical burden. Please telephone accounts on 01291 672637 to make appropriate arrangements.
 

Equine Vaccinations

The two most routinely administered vaccinations are for influenza and tetanus.

Equine Influenza

This is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by several different strains of the influenza virus. A horse usually contracts the virus from other infected horses, which may not demonstrate obvious infection. The incubation period can be several days before signs of disease are seen, although the virus can be spread during and after this time. Signs of influenza in horses are similar to those seen in humans, although it is not the same virus!

  • High temperature for 1-3 days.
  • Lethargy.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Clear nasal discharge progressing to thick, green-yellow colour.
  • A harsh, dry cough that can persists for 2-3 weeks or more.

The disease leaves the horse susceptible to secondary infections and can develop into a much more serious illness such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

Outbreaks of influenza are most common when large numbers of young horses are brought together in stressful conditions, i.e. sales or shows.  Therefore, many equestrian organisations insist that horses hold current vaccination cards showing continuous cover and vaccination against influenza. This is now mandatory for all horses using racecourse premises. 

Tetanus ('LOCKJAW')

Tetanus is caused by a bacterium found in soil, Clostridium tetani. The bacteria enter the horse's bloodstream via an open wound. Even small wounds can allow contamination and because the incubation period is 1-3 weeks, the wound has usually healed by the time the signs of disease are apparent. The initial signs of disease are vague stiffness and reluctance to move. As the disease progresses, the more classic indicative signs develop: muscle spasms of the head and neck resulting in difficulty chewing, nostril flaring and a wide-eyed expression. The affected horse then develops generalised trembling, leading to violent, whole body spasms in response to sudden movements or noise. 

Approximately 90% of unvaccinated horses that develop tetanus die. In the small number of horses that do recover, intensive veterinary treatment and nursing care is required for a period of about 6 weeks. Due to the poor prognosis for any horse that contracts this disease we recommend that all horses are vaccinated against tetanus, as prevention is the only sensible option.

Tetanus vaccination course:

  • Vaccinations can start from 3 months of age.
  • Initially 2 injections should be given 4-6 weeks apart.
  • The first tetanus booster should be given a year later.
  • Thereafter boosters are only required every 2 years.
     

Pregnant Mares

Mares should be given a tetanus booster in the last 4-6 weeks before foaling, to ensure the foal is protected in the first 6-12 weeks of life. If the mare hasn’t been vaccinated the foal may be covered with an ‘antitoxin’ (an 'antidote' to the tetanus infection) in the first 24hrs of life. 

Flu Vaccination Course

Approved vaccination schedules for the influenza vaccine are published by the British Horseracing Authority, International Equestrian Federation (FEI) and various show societies and these form part of the entry requirements for horses competing or racing at their events.

Unfortunately, these schedules differ between organisations and it is confusing for the owner to determine which they should follow. To complicate matters further, the manufacturers of each vaccine recommend a different schedule again, based on the efficiency of their vaccines determined by clinical trials.  However, if you follow manufacturers recommendations they will meet with the approval of the BHA and most show organisers regulations, which are: 

  • Vaccinations can start from 4 months of age.
  • The 1st and second injections are given 4-6 weeks apart.
  • A 3rd is given 5-7 months after.
  • Thereafter annual boosters giving Flu or Flu & Tetanus in alternate years.
  • ANNUAL BOOSTERS SHOULD BE NO MORE THAN 365 DAYS APART.

Commonly the flu vaccination schedule is combined with the tetanus vaccination course to provide cover for both diseases in one injection.
 

Vaccination compliance - Flu vaccinations for horses and ponies

The British Horseracing Authority (formerly The Jockey Club) has laid down exact rules that must be followed for horses entering BHA premises (i.e. racecourses) or competitions. Certain societies require the same compliance, examples of which are:

  • British Horse Trials Association.
  • British Endurance Riding Association.
  • British Horse Driving Trials Association.
  • British Riding Club.
  • British Show Jumping Association (when competing internationally).

This list is not exhaustive. The BHA rules regarding ‘flu vaccinations are:

  • The second dose of a course of ‘flu vaccine must be given between 21 and 92 days after the first.
  • The third dose must be given between 150 and 215 days after the second.
  • Subsequent doses must be given within 12 months of the previous one. It is acceptable (but not recommended) to boost on the same date as previously.
  • The horse may not compete until the 8th day after the last vaccination. 
  • When competing under Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) rules, the horse must be vaccinated every 6 months, rather than annually.
     

Vaccination guidelines

In order to minimize any adverse reactions to any vaccination given, we recommend that you follow these guidelines:

  • Your horse's coat should be clean and dry before vaccination.
  • The horse should have done no heavy exercise in the last 2 hours prior to vaccination.
  • The vaccinated horse should then not be given heavy exercise for 24-48hrs.
     

Adverse reactions

If your horse or pony ‘reacts adversely’ to a vaccination, or indeed to any medication, you should inform us as quickly as possible, telephone 01291 672637.

The reaction may simply be a swelling at the site of injection, which can be relieved using warm compresses, or there may be stiffness, which makes movement difficult (e.g grazing, if the injection was in the neck). More serious reactions include sweating or mild colic. Some horses tolerate certain vaccines perfectly well, but react to those made by another manufacturer.

If you are aware of a previous reaction, this should be made clear to our staff at the time of booking your appointment.

To book your horse's vaccination appointment , the telephone number is 01291 672637.

We can arrange a call out visit, it may be possible to share this call out with other horseowners on your yard. Alternatively you are welcome to arrange to bring your horse to either our Usk or Caerleon surgeries.  

Please discuss your requirements with our receptionist when you telephone to make your appointment.
 

Pre-Purchase exam

Just as a surveyor inspects a house before it is bought, we recommend that a horse be thoroughly examined before purchase. A full 5 stage examination is necessary to declare a horse 'sound' and insurers expect to see such a certificate if they are covering for veterinary fees or if the value of the horse is high. 
Some purchasers ask only for the shorter 2 stage examination which is thorough but limited in scope, and it is not possible to assess adequately the heart, wind and limbs. We will however perform whichever examination the purchaser requests.

Please refer to the PPE description below to learn more about the two and five stage examinations. 

If you are considering purchasing a new horse/pony we strongly recommend that you get a PPE before buying. The PPE or ‘vetting’ is a thorough examination carried out on your behalf as the potential purchaser. The examination has been developed as the best means of detecting signs of disease and injury and often they are only a fraction of the final sale value of the horse/pony; investing in a 'vetting' may well save you money, time, effort and heartache in the long run.

Every PPE is carried out by a Veterinary Surgeon of your choice in accordance with the standardised guidelines laid down by the RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) and BEVA (British Equine Veterinary Association). The examination is conducted in 5 stages:

Stage 1 – Preliminary examination

This is a methodical examination of the animal’s body to assess general appearance and condition. It includes examination of the teeth, the resting heart, the eyes by ophthalmoscope, the skin, the limbs and feet, and flexion of the limb joints to reveal pain or limitation of movement.

Stage 2 – Trotting up

Flexion tests are conducted on each of the four limbs. The animal is walked and trotted on hard, level ground in order to detect gross abnormalities of gait and action.

Stage 3 – Strenuous exercise

The animal is given sufficient strenuous exercise:

  • To make it breathe deeply and rapidly so that any unusual breathing sounds may be heard.
  • To increase the action of the heart so that abnormalities may be more easily detected.
  • To tire the animal so that strains or injuries may be revealed by stiffness or lameness after a period of rest.

Stage 4 – Period of rest

The horse is allowed to stand quietly for a period. During this time the breathing and heart are checked as they return to their resting levels.

Stage 5 – The second trot and foot examination

The horse is walked and trotted again, turned sharply and backed, in order to reveal abnormalities exacerbated by the strenuous exercise stage.

In order to complete all five stages it can take a couple of hours and someone will need to be available to ride the horse.

Following the examination the vet will discuss any remarkable issues that have been demonstrated, together with the suitability of the horse for purchase with regard to the type of work it will undertake. If the vet deems the horse to be appropriate for your requirements a certificate will be issued, which may be a requirement of insurers prior to taking out insurance cover.

During every examination a blood sample is taken. This sample is stored for 6 months and if the horse subsequently becomes lame, the blood can be tested to screen for any substances that could have artificially masked the problem on the day of examination. 

To discuss your requirements or to book a pre-purchase examination please telephone 01291 672637.
 

JMB and Pony Measuring

In order to ensure that competition is fair, horses are measured by a certified veterinary surgeon, under the direction of the Joint Measurement Board (JMB). Measurements must be conducted on Certified ‘pads’ using equipment that has been calibrated by the Inspector of Weights and Measures.

Our measuring pad is at the main surgery in Usk.  Alastair Mitchell was included on the JMB panel of measurers in 2000 and is the only vet in Monmouthshire who is approved.

Horses and ponies should be presented at Usk with shoes removed and in a relaxed state to ensure that the lowest height is recorded. Trailers and lorries may be parked at the stable block where measurements are made. It would be sensible to arrive in good time in order for the horse to be allowed to get used to the surroundings. Please remember to bring the passport.

As of January 2009 new regulations require that all horses and ponies applying for a Joint Measurement Board (JMB) height certificate must be microchipped - unchipped animals will be microchipped at the time of measurement. Annual height certificates run from 1st January – 31st December and are issued to horses and ponies under the age of 7 years. Those aged 7 or older may have Life Height Certificates, but only if they have previously had an annual one. The vet who recorded the last annual measurement may not issue the Life Height Certificate.

For more information visit the JMB website www.thejmbonline.co.uk

To discuss your requirements or to book an appointment please telephone 01291 672637
 

Equine Microchip / Passport

Since February 2005 EU legislation has required that all owners obtain passports for each horse, pony, donkey and other equidae they own. The object of the legislation is to ensure that horses which have been treated with veterinary medicines not authorised for use in food-producing animals cannot be slaughtered for human consumption. If the UK did not comply, we would run the risk of losing 70% of horse medicines.

Without a valid Equine Passport accompanying the animal, it is illegal to sell or move your horse to a new keeper, to export your horse, to transport or use it in competition or for breeding. Passports must be available at all times, or be able to be produced without delay, should they be requested under certain conditions and there is a hefty fine for non compliance, up to £5,000.

Passports can be obtained from one of over 50 DEFRA authorised Passport Issuing Organisations (PIOs) in the UK. Once you have received the paper work from the particular PIO you need to fill out the owner details and get a ‘mark up’ or silhouette completed.

If your horse is NOT microchipped this has to be done by a veterinary surgeon or an appointed person from the particular PIO; if your horse is microchipped then the mark up can be completed by the owner.

Since 2009, all foals must be microchipped within six months of life, and all horses which require new passports must also be microchipped beforehand. Microchips must be inserted by a veterinary surgeon.

Inserting Microchips

A tiny microchip (about the size of a grain of rice) is implanted in the nuchal ligament on the left side of the horse's neck via a needle. The chip contains a unique individual identification number which is then stored along with your contact details on a national database. Usually the process is very quick and simple; however it does involve using a large needle for insertion, so needle shy animals may need to be sedated beforehand.

For more information about microchipping or passports please contact one of our Veterinary Nurses or veterinary receptionists on 01291 672637 who will be pleased to help you.
 

Equine Insurance

Owning a horse should be a pleasurable experience.  However, most horse owners should know that should the unthinkable happen and their equine friend becomes ill or injured then bills can quickly mount up.
When calling us to treat your horse you should inform us immediately if the treatment is covered by insurance so that we can establish your insurance company's policy regarding treatment and can proceed with a claim for you as soon as possible.

With that in mind at Usk Veterinary Centre, we recommend insurance for your horse.  When researching a policy, you need to bear in mind the age of the horse, the current state of health, the affordability of the premiums and the type of insurance cover you require.  You will need to decide on the level of cover you require, and the policy excess.  Often the type of policy you need will depend on the activities your horse will undertake.

Insurance should ideally cover:

  • Loss by theft or straying
  • Death
  • Veterinary Fees
  • Disposal
  • Permanent Loss of Use
  • Third Party Liability

Some insurance companies also offer:

  • Legal Advice Helpline
  • Personal Accident
  • Saddlery and Tack
  • Trailers, vehicles and carts

Your insurance company may require a pre-purchase examination before you acquire a new horse to ensure that the horse complies with the insurance company's health requirements.

You should always inform your insurer of pre-existing conditions when asking for a policy quotation.

If you wish to discuss your insurance requirements with a member of staff please telephone 01291 672637.
 

Lameness Assessment

Acute lamenesses are frequently diagnosed and treated where the horse normally resides, but chronic unresolved lameness cases may be better assessed at the Usk surgery where there is a greater range of facilities.

In such instances a full standing examination is performed prior to gait assessment at walk and trot on a level, hard surface, with flexion tests, if appropriate.

More detailed information may be obtained using regional anaesthesia (nerve blocks), x-rays and ultrasound scans. This enables us to pinpoint the source of lameness prior to instigating specific therapy.

This workup usually takes between one and three hours, and the owner is welcome to stay or is free to leave their horse with us for the day.

For more information about lameness assessments please telephone 01291 672637.
 

Laminitis

Laminitis is a type of lameness, which can affect equids at any time of the year, although we see it most frequently from May to September, when their natural food source (grass) has changed from low calorie to very high, with vastly increased sugar content.  Changes in the feet, caused by ingesting high concentrate feed result in moderate to severe lameness and may become permanent, and allows laminitis to develop more easily in subsequent years.  

Why does this happen?  Long ago, in a different era, horses and ponies inhabited a land where available nutritious food was sparse and they spent most of the time with their heads down eating what they could in order to survive and reproduce.  Food availability in the UK has changed since these times but the equine instinct to eat all the time hasn't, so we as keepers and guardians of the species, must protect them from themselves.

Laminitis more commonly affects the front feet but can be found in the back feet too. Horses suffering laminitis will be trying to keep the weight off their toes, they will be leaning back with front feet stretched forward and sometimes with their hindfeet tucked under their body. Severely affected horses and ponies will lie down or constantly shift the weight from foot to foot. Equine Metabolic Syndrome and Cushings Disease will predispose ponies and horses to laminitis. 

If your horse is prone to putting on weight you need to take measures to prevent laminitis.  Either try to fence off a bare area of ground with very little grass available for your horse to eat or keep it stabled for part of the day on hay. By bagging the hay within two or three haynets you can keep your horse amused and feeding but it will have to work hard to get at the food and thereby lose weight.  Regular exercise will help too.

If you suspect your horse is suffering laminitis then call your vet out straight away and try not to move the patient. If you are near a stable put the affected horse in with a very deep litter of shavings to take the pressure off the feet until the vet attends.

Telephone our receptionists on 01291 672637 to arrange an immediate call out.
 

Equine Dentistry

Why should you look after your horse's teeth?

Your horse's teeth matter, as dental disease can have a significant impact on his health and well-being and can also reduce his performance. For example, if there is pain on the left side of the mouth the horse will tend to compensate by chewing food on the right side thus leading to abnormal wear of the dental tables. This in turn leads to secondary issues. Horses have long crowned short-rooted teeth (hypsodont) and therefore much of the crown lies below gum level so it is important that we look after them.

What to look out for?

Early intervention is vital. Your horse may become headshy or resent the bit in the mouth when being ridden. The mucosa of the tongue and cheek can become painful and ulcerated by sharp, uneven teeth, and the horse may start quidding (dropping food instead of swallowing it), or swallowing food without chewing it properly, resulting in choke. Food not chewed properly is effectively wasted, and the horse's nutritional requirements are not met.
Your horse may develop swelling around the affected jaw, have smelly breath and may even develop a nasal discharge.

What can we do?

We offer routine dental health examinations, dental x-rays can be performed if necessary.  A treatment plan can then be discussed to suit your horse's needs, such as wolf teeth removal, rasping with or without extractions. 
The assessment of dental health is also incorporated into pre-purchase examinations as this governs the long-term longevity of your horse.

For further information on the care of your horse's teeth or to book an appointment for a full dental check then please telephone 01291 672637.
 

Worming

General principles to control internal parasites in your horse.

The most important worms to be aware of are:

  • Small Redworms (Cyathostomins).
  • Large Stongyles.
  • Tapeworms.

Of lesser importance:

  • Bots.
  • Pinworms.

The main wormers available:

  • Benzimidazoles (BZs) e.g. Fenbendazole.
  • Macrocylic lactones include: Ivermectin; Moxidectin.
  • Tetrahydropyrimidines such as Pyrantel.
  • Pyrazino-isoquinolines e.g. Praziquantel.

Resistance to wormers (anthelmintics) has been a problem since the 1970s and it is vital that horses are wormed appropriately. Small redworms are the most important as they are the most common and can ‘hide’ in the intestinal wall thus making treatment difficult. No resistance in bots or tapeworms have yet been reported. Large strongyles are relatively rare in well-maintained animals. Pinworms are common but easily managed when treating strongyles. Here are some guidelines to slow the development of resistance:

Faecal Worm Egg Counts and Testing for Resistance

  • A small handful of fresh faeces from each horse should be brought to the surgery (yesterday's droppings are too old!) We will examine and offer recommendations (it may not be necessary to treat). Treated horses can be re-sampled 14 days later to check the effectiveness of the wormer. If resistance has developed, another type of treatment should be used.
  • Initial microscopic examination should be carried out. Horses should only be treated when faecal egg counts exceed 200 eggs per gram. Our in-house faecal egg count costs £8.50 plus VAT for the first horse, then £7.20 plus VAT for additional animals and for future tests in the same season.
  • Yards should try to establish whether they have resistance on their premises by doing an egg count immediately before treatment and then again 14 days later. We would recommend testing a group of 5 or 6 horses on the same date.

Benefits of Testing for Resistance:

  • Fewer wormers are used hopefully delaying the development of resistance. 
  • Initial set up costs may be higher than the traditional system but there should eventually be a cost saving on the purchase of wormers.
  • Fewer drugs are administered making this a greener system of managing your horse.
  • Monitoring faecal egg counts confirms the worm control strategy is working well.

Anthelmintic dosing:

  • Ensure correct dose by weighing or using girth tapes. Under dosing contributes to resistance, while overdosing can cause colic.
  • Some horses do not need to be wormed as frequently as others, and it is important to encourage natural immunity where possible.
  • Despite the foregoing, it is important to clear the tapeworm burden at least annually (sometimes twice a year depending on circumstance).
  • Generally, young horses and foals require worming more frequently than mature ponies and horses.

Pasture Management:

  • Avoid high stocking density and over grazing.
  • Pick up equine faeces from the field twice weekly in the summer and once weekly in the winter.
  • Rotate the pastures grazed, particularly by the foals.
  • Mixed grazing with sheep and cattle is beneficial as they can ‘hoover up’ the eggs without harming themselves.
  • Ideally, avoid mixed age groups of horses in the same field where possible.

Foals:

The most important parasites in foals are small redworms, P equorum and Strongyloides westeri. Most studs tend to administer anthelmintics monthly to foals from 6 weeks of age until 6 months of age and then 6 weekly until the foal is a yearling. This is because foals have no immunity to gastro-intestinal parasites. So check the worm status closely until 3 years of age.

In practice the need for routine treatment of foals will depend upon management, the treatment of the mare and any previous parasite problems on the yard. It is a good idea to treat the mare just before foaling to lower her faecal worm egg count, reducing spread to the foal and shedding of Strongyloides larvae in the mare’s milk. Additionally, try to avoid breeding from wormy horses.

There are no new wormers currently being developed for use in horses and therefore we need to use the drugs responsibly.

If you would like further information please do not hesitate to contact us on 01291 672637.
 

Practice information

Usk Vets

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    8:00am - 7:00pm
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Porth-y-Carne Street Usk Monmouthshire NP15 1RZ
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Caerleon

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    8:30am - 6:00pm
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Taverner Estate Ponthir Road Caerleon Newport NP18 1BU
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Pontypool

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    2:30pm - 3:30pm
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Pontypool Veterinary Surgery 48 George Street Pontypool Torfaen NP4 6BY
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