Saskatchewan Sundog

Two days ago, I awoke to find the most beautiful sundog looming in the horizon of our mare pasture. Sundogs are formed by plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals during very cold weather, by ice crystals called “diamond dust” drifting in the air at low levels. These crystals act as prisms, bending the light rays passing through them by 22°.

Of course, around here sundogs can also indicate a change of weather pattern. As such, this was the scene a day after the sundog was visible:

Looking out the window on that second day, I could tell something was up. Horses were running around and there was a general sense of excitement outside. Turns out, it was nothing  major – just another frozen waterer. And since it wasn’t going to be a quick fix, the guys decided to move the mares to another pasture where water was flowing freely.

Say Cheese!

For some reason, horses get all excited when you move them to new pastures.

Next, Clay appeared in his big green tractor with a giant windblock on the front of it.

He simply tucks the tractor bucket underneath some metal piping on the back of the windbreaks and moves them around like they are pieces of cardboard…

Determined not to let another frozen waterer stand in his way, Clay’s plan was to surround the waterer on 3 sides in the new pasture. This ensures wind cannot get to it and cause the same kind of freezing problems here.

And I’m happy to report, his system is working well! Plus, with a shelter and a windblock system, the mares seem quite comfortable in their new home.

Hay Day

Yesterday we had a Hay Day here at J. Drummond Farms. Literally. Now that the hay shed is pretty much done, the first of several truckloads arrived, packed with hundreds of square bales that will get us through the winter months.

Wahoo! The hay shed is pretty much done now, so we are already putting it to use.

We love our square hay bale supplier for many reasons. The first of which is the fact that he provides great quality hay. The second of which is the fact that he always shows up with his tractor-picker-upper-thing:

I’m sure it has a real name, but I’m just thankful we no longer have to unload trucks like this by hand.

Because we have had to do so before! When you’ve got 40 horses to feed, basically you have to do what needs to be done – even if that means hand-balming and stacking hundreds of bales. I’m sure many of you can relate. Moving and stacking hay totally rewrites your schedule and ensures your chiropractor will have another week’s worth of business…

Thankfully, those days are long gone behind us now.

Layer by layer, our hay supplier unloads his truck and carefully stacks our winter supply into the shed.

To me, it’s a beautiful sight.

If you’d like some tips for evaluating hay quality, here’s a few considerations we always take into account when the hay truck comes.

Characteristics of Good Quality Hay:

1.  It should be free of mold, dust, weeds and other foreign materials.

2. It is leafy with fine stems. We look for approximately 80% leaves and only want 20% worth of stems.

3. Hay must be soft and pliable to the touch (bends easily).

4. It should also have a pleasant, fragrant aroma.

5. Hay should have a good green color, rather than a brown tinge to it. Hays that have been slightly sun-bleached will still make high-quality feed.

Careful roughage selection is an important and critical aspect of horse keeping. By taking the time to carefully select great quality roughage and continually monitor horses’ consumption patterns, owners can be sure their horses are receiving the best possible diets.

Tips for the Big Thaw – Pt II

Earlier this week, our horses went to half day turnouts and we had to take all of our turnout water buckets down as they were nothing but solid blocks each morning.

Unbelievably, it’s +2 degrees Celsius in Regina, SK, today! And to think that we were dealing with frozen waterers in the earlier part of this week… Even our barn horses had to go onto a half-day turn out schedule because we had no way of watering them properly outside throughout the day – the week’s early windchills and sub-zero temperatures were constantly freezing the turnout water buckets.

Even still, as promised My Stable Life returns today with advice for worst-case frozen waterer scenarios. (If you’d like to check out the week’s previous installments, see Tips for the Big Thaw – Pt I and Frozen Waterers).

Currently, I don’t have any pictures of a really frozen auto-waterer – which is a good thing, because we haven’t really experienced them yet this winter. However, I do anticipate that I will probably have a great one for you by the time winter is through with us next spring… Let’s just chalk it up to say that a frozen auto-waterer usually looks like a fountain of ice draping over one side, or a thick block of frozen water inside the water bowl. Or sometimes it may even look like a dry, empty water bowl because the waterline has frozen underneath the unit. Either way, they all spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

Here are a few tips for dealing with frozen waterers for the upcoming cold weather:

1. Always check your auto-waterers every day to ensure they are working properly. Don’t ever assume that because they are automatic, they will never experience any problems. And never, ever allow anyone to tell you that horses or cattle can survive on snow alone! Water is an essential basic necessity for every animal and is required on even the coldest of days.

2. Make sure that all necessary fuses or circuit breakers are working. Sometimes the fix is as easy as flipping a breaker switch.

3. If your waterer is freezing up partially or completely, check to see that there are no holes at the base of the unit. Air gaps allow for wind penetration. Make sure the fountain is sealed from wind between the concrete platform and bottom of casing or unit. Seal all holes or gaps with an an all weather sealant. Sometimes, placing a windbreak around the waterer may also help to keep the water bowl from freezing. For this reason, the water bowl should really only fill up to approximately half its capacity. Ensure the float or buoy has an isolation device over it to protect it from windchills and curious horses alike.

4. If you can verify that the hydrant is what is freezing, sometimes heat tape wrapped around it can prevent freezing that occurs as a result of a thin layer of ice building up inside the pipe. Just remember that any additional “plug-ins” inside the base of the unit – for example, heat tape, small heaters or light bulbs – can put too much pressure on the electrical capacity of the unit and cause the breaker to blow.

5. Check for missing or damaged insulation inside the base of the waterer. Make repairs as necessary. Mice underneath can wreak havoc for your water systems.

6. Check all heating elements to ensure they are working and are wired properly. Make sure the unit’s thermostat hasn’t failed by contacts burning closed.

7. If you think the water may be freezing in the valve or supply line, this is one of the hardest, most time-consuming situations to deal with. If you find yourself in this dire circumstance, it may be necessary to turn the shut-off valve to off and see if you can force 1 cup of animal safe salt or hot steam down the water line. Of course, doing so means you will temporarily have to disconnect the line from the water bowl.

These 2 strategies are tricks we have used several times with our waterers in the past and have found much success with them. However it is important to note that it may take several hours or even overnight for the salt to finally work, and steam applied must be done so manually – which means you’re likely about to spend several hours outside yourself. If you use the salt, you can check to see if it’s breaking up the ice inside the line by turning the shut-off valve to on again and seeing if any any water trickles out of the top of the line.

In the meantime, set troughs or buckets of water out for your animals until the water problem is resolved and constantly monitor them for ice build up.

Tips for the Big Thaw – Pt I

If you happened to catch My Stable Life yesterday, you’ll know that we are already starting to battle frozen waterers out here in Saskatchewan. So between today and tomorrow, I thought I’d bring you some of the best tips we’ve come across for keeping auto-waterers in tact during the coldest months. And by all means, if you have other suggestions for keeping the H20 flow going in winter, please let me know!

Sadly, most maintenance problems of auto-waterers can be traced back to poor installation. And let’s just say that some auto-waterer models work better in specific climates than others do. But of course, sub-zero temperatures and bone-freezing windchills do nothing to help the situation either. So let’s start with an ideal installation. The following tips are, in a nutshell, some great suggestions for waterer installs.

Please note, I am aware that there are many different types of waterers out there available for purchase, however my friends at Ritchie have a great installation diagram that I borrowed to help you better visualize the intricate maze underground:

1. Many companies recommend that a trench of at least 8 feet is dug where you want your auto-waterer to be. The horizontal water line should be at least 1 foot below the normal frost line depth in the earth.

2. The water shut off valve should always be installed close to the waterer for easy access.

3. The water line should be protected by thermal tubes or pipes that come right up to the earth’s surface  and allow for an air pocket around the water line to protect and insulate it from frost. Insulation should not be added inside the tubes as this also provides a path for frost. Ensure the tubes / pipes also reach at least 1 foot below the normal frost line. The tubes should be free of mud or water that may freeze and nothing should be touching the waterline inside the pipe. Ensure the water line is centered directly in the middle of the protective tube or pipe, because anything touching the waterline can cause your waterline to freeze.

A cement pad, as seen here will prevent the earth directly around the waterer from eroding under the pressure of horse's hooves.

4. A concrete platform that provides a thick step around the perimeter of the unit is wise. This is because animals stand directly on top of the earth immediately surrounding the waterer and a cement pad will prevent that earth from eroding over time.

5. Electrical installation should be completed and maintained by a certified electrician, according the codes in your local area.

6. If you live in a cold winter climate, like we do, electrical tape can be wrapped around the water pipe to help warm things up as Mother Nature threatens to cool it all down. Keep in mind, this is much easier to do in the summer months.

Tomorrow, My Stable Life will return for advice in worst-case frozen waterer scenarios. Stay tuned!

Frozen Waterers

No bueno...

In the winter, a noise I have learned to dread is that of a horse’s hoof thudding away against the side of an automatic waterer. And thud, thud, thud, went the bay mare’s hooves yesterday afternoon.

Upon inspection, I could see a crowd of horses gathering around a specific watering area. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who saw it – David our barn manager saw it first and quickly ran for reinforcements.

I ran for my camera. Did I ever mention how nice it is to be pregnant some days?? I’m not allowed to life heavy objects or overexert myself in any way. So this is the scene as it all unfolded.

David quickly ran for a bucket and easy-to-carry water jugs (that is, easy-to-carry for him, not me). Then he set the bucket down for our weanlings inside the pasture with the problematic waterer and began filling it up with water from the jugs.

Hey, Culligan Man...!

As you can see, the weanlings were pretty thirsty. We check our auto-waterers every morning and every night and therefore, we knew the problem waterer had been working earlier the same day. However, some time between the morning and afternoon, it quit. It just goes to show you how much water horses actually consume in the winter. A lot.

After 6 jugs of water, David went over to help Clay with the problem machine. I stayed on the other side of the fence to visit with the weanlings.

They took it apart:

They fiddled with the float:

And quickly Clay and David realized the problem was simply a breaker that blew. We were lucky this time – the problem involved a quick-fix solution. But as the temperature gets cooler and cooler through the winter months and windchills threaten -40 and -50 temps, we anticipate that the fixing of frozen waterers will be a daily occurrence. Therefore, tomorrow I’ll be back with some great tips for preventing frozen auto-waterers.

Meanwhile, this was the scene that played out for me from the other side of the fence.

Once the babies had gotten their fill of water, they decided that playing with their bucket was a pretty fun game.

And it was kind of funny until I realized they had become hellbent on removing a piece of twine that had been previously tied to one of the bucket handles. Before I knew it, one filly actually got the twine free and was chewing on it like a piece of hay!

Panic set in and I dropped my camera on top of a snow bank so I could get into the pasture and remove it from her mouth. However, I forgot that my ever-growing belly would make it difficult to climb through the fence like I usually do! Climbing over top was difficult, but somehow I made it and gracefully dropped to the ground on the other side. Then at first, the filly wouldn’t let me approach her – perhaps my excitable energy told her something was up, or maybe she just wanted the twine all to herself. Either way, time was running out. She was close to ingesting the orange string. And as any horse man or woman knows, this is a colic recipe for disaster.

I took a deep breath and tried to calm my energy and at that point, I was finally able to approach the filly and remove the twine from her mouth. I’m sure you can imagine, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it was all over with.

After that, it was back to the house for some warmth and a hot chocolate. With 2 babies on board, I tire pretty easily these days and that was quite enough adventure for me for one afternoon…

Foal Vaccinations

Ensure to protect your foals with the added benefit of a vaccination protocol.

Immunity is the ability of an organism to be able to resist and destroy micro-organisms. Just as humans do, horses have 2 forms of immunity: natural and acquired immunity. As you might suspect, natural immunity is the horse’s inborn ability to resist disease and infection. Acquired immunity comes from natural exposure to disease carriers, recovery from an infectious disease, antibodies obtained via the placenta or ingested through colostrum at birth, or vaccinations given to the horse to product antibodies against a specific disease.

Despite the fact that the snow may already be flying where you live, if you haven’t yet vaccinated your foals this year, there’s still time. The important thing is to get it done! When incorporated into a program that includes regular deworming, a good nutrition program and a safe environment, your foals will be aimed towards to a healthy future.

So when it comes time to book your veterinarian appointment, what vaccines should you ask for, for your foals? Well, there are several specific immunizations needed but many depend upon your foal’s age, exposure risk, value, general management and geographic location. Your best bet is to discuss a protocol with your vet. However, here are a few basic considerations:

1. TETANUS – Tetanus is caused by toxin-producing bacteria present in the intestinal tract of many animals and found in the soil where horses live. Spores enter the horse’s body through wounds or the umbilical cord of newborn foals. Tetanus is a constant threat to horses and humans and as such, horses should be vaccinated against it annually. Foals can receive their first tetanus vaccine as early as 6 months of age if the mare was vaccinated within 30 days of foaling, or 3 months of age if the mare was not vaccinated. Talk to your vet.

2. ENCEPHALOMYELITIS – This disease is often referred to as “sleeping sickness” and caused by Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (WEE) or Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE). These two strains of the disease have been seen throughout North America. A third version, Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis (VEE) has recently been seen in Mexico. These diseases are usually transmitted via mosquitoes and the symptoms vary a great deal, however they are result in the degeneration of the brain. Foals can be vaccinated at at 6 months of age if the mare was vaccinated within 30 days of foaling, or 3 months of age if the mare was not vaccinated. Talk to your vet and specifically ask if your foals need a encephalomyelitis booster.

3. INFLUENZA – This is one of the most common respiratory diseases in horses and the virus is highly contagious. Horses that travel or are exposed to high horse traffic should be vaccinated regularly against it. Flu viruses can result in nasal discharge, fever, coughing and loss of appetite. The disease can be expensive to treat and it usually very uncomfortable for your horse to endure. Foals can be vaccinated at 6 months of age if the mare was non-vaccinated. Often, this vaccine is given in combination with the rhinopneumonitis vaccine. Which brings me to my next bullet point…

4. RHINOPNEUMONITIS – It’s important to know that there are 2 very different disease viruses: equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) and equine herpesvirus type 4 (EHV-4), that cause 2 different diseases, which are both known as rhinopneumonitis. Both cause respiratory tract problems, however EHV-1 can also cause abortion in pregnant mares, foal death and paralysis. As mentioned above, foals can be vaccinated at 6 months of age if the mare was non-vaccinated. Speak to your vet about Flu / rhino boosters.

5. STRANGLES – No matter where you live, Strangles is a highly contagious disease you should hope your foals never have to deal with. That’s we vaccinate our entire foal crop, every year within the first year of its life. Now if your foal does contract this disease, consult with your veterinarian for a treatment protocol. If your foal has contracted Strangles in the first year of its life, ask your veterinarian about vaccinating this animal specifically – some vets think the horse may receive enough immunity from being exposed to the disease in the first place.

There are some side-effects associated with the vaccine, which is a modified live virus – meaning the virus cannot cause serious disease in the horse – allowing it to provide longer lasting protection. However, as such this class of vaccine is often not recommended for pregnant mares. The efficiency of this vaccine has been questioned by many vets because outbreaks can occur even in vaccinated herds. However, we have always remained under this steadfast rule with our own horses: “Even if our horses do contract the disease after immunization, the outbreaks of the disease will be less severe than if we didn’t vaccinate then.”

This vaccine is given intra-nasally and can be given to foals starting at 6-9 months. This vaccine requires a booster administered 3-4 weeks after the initial intra-nasal shot has been given.

6. RABIES – Rabies is a scary disease that always results in death. Luckily, it is more prevalent in some areas than others – concern areas include southern Saskatchewan and Arizona, therefore our entire herd receives an shot against Rabies every year. If you also choose to vaccinate your foals against rabies, your veterinarian may not want to administer it on the same day as other vaccines as some serious health threats can occur. Foals can vaccinated against rabies at 6, 7 and 12 months of age if the mare was vaccinated.

In summary, it is my personal belief that there’s really a lot to gain, and everything to lose when it comes to vaccinating your foals.

Administering Penicillin

Yes, I am a trainer’s wife but there are a couple of things down at the barn that I loathe. One of the them is hooking up a trailer. And the second is giving a penicillin shot. Penicillin is a potent, antibiotic often used in horses against a variety of pathogenic organisms. I figure my reason for hating these sometimes necessary tasks is because any mistake I make in doing either, would likely result in the death of an animal. A trailer that comes unhooked on the highway is dangerous to me, other drivers and the precious cargo I have in the back. A penicillin shot gone wrong can be potentially and immediately fatal for my horse. For that reason, I decided to research some little known facts about the drug and helpful tips for administering penicillin:

• I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that you must always ensure you give penicillin shot with a sterile needle and syringe, (never reuse a needle because a contaminated needle can easily introduce an infection into a horse.) But it may be helpful to know that the size of the needle depends on the medication being injected. A large-diameter needle (18 gauge) works best with thick solutions such as penicillin, while a smaller-diameter needle (20 to 21 gauge) is good for thin, watery solutions.

• Most IM shots are given to adult horses with a 1-1/2-inch needle so that the medication is injected deep into the muscle mass. Foals are usually given IM injections with a 1-inch needle.

• Penicillin is very commonly administered to horses in a formulation known as penicillin procain G. The procaine is a local anesthetic which is related to lidocaine, novacaine and believe it or not, cocaine.

• When administered properly, penicillin usually does not result in a problem. But care must be to ensure procaine penicillin is always injected intramuscularly. If it is administered into IV or into a vein, it can be dangerous and potentially fatal for your horse. If the drug is accidentally injected into the horse’s bloodstream, the procaine goes directly to the horse’s brain and causes the animal to tremble violently and throw itself over backwards. There is no antidote for this reaction and it is not only dangerous to the horse, it is extremely dangerous for bystanders. For that reason, after you have inserted the needle into a designated injection site, you must pull back on the syringe plunger a bit to make sure there is no blood in the syringe. (Or if you prefer to put the needle in first and secondly, attach the syringe filled with medicine, watch the hub of the needle to see if it fills with blood. If blood is present, remove the needle and start over. Never follow through with the injection if you see blood! When you can pull back on the plunger and no blood appears, it’s safe to inject the penicillin into your horse.

• Penicillin also has the ability to trigger allergic or anaphylactic reactions in certain animals that can occur unpredictably with varying intensity. Should this happen, discontinue use of the penicillin and call a veterinarian immediately. Allergic reactions typically require previous exposure to the drug and then the problem is manefested by hives and head swelling. Occasionally, it can also result in massive constriction of the airwaves and sudden death.

Long acting penicillin. Around here, we only use this if our cattle require it.

As there are many great antibiotics are available to your veterinarian these days, it’s possible penicillin may not be prescribed in unfortunate circumstances that affect your horse’s well being. But if it is, just remember that procaine penicillin G is a very beneficial drug to use in the war against wound infections, secondary bacterial infections in respiratory diseases, and various other injuries or diseases. Always consult with your veterinarian before administering a penicillin regime so you clearly understand this drug’s proper dosages, frequency of administration and withdrawal times.

Winter Prep Time

As the Canadian show season comes to a close this month, many horse owners will choose to turn their regularly stabled horses out for a pasture vacation at this time. For many horses, this means they will be turned out from November through February, and will return again to riding work in the spring. And they will need to adapt to sub zero temperatures and inclement weather conditions early on in the process – a big change from the heated barn and cozy stall they may have been used to.

Will you be kicking your horses out for a pasture break this winter? If so, there are several considerations you should take into account to help ensure your mount gets the most out of his time off and stays healthy while out on the Back 40. Here are some basic recommendations for your horse’s needs this winter:

1. A Winter Coat

If time can afford you as the owner, to allow your horse a chance to grow somewhat of a winter coat before turning him onto the pasture, you are already one step ahead of the game. A good coat will offer your horse some waterproofing protection and obviously, warmth. Some horses adapt better to winter than others. Thoroughbreds, for example, have thinner skin than some Quarter Horse, Paint or Appaloosa-types and therefore can lose their body condition more readily. Body fat plays a large role in heat conservation of pasture horses for the winter. And the benefits of a thick, full tail are also important, since it protects the horse’s hindquarters during windy days.

2. Good Body Condition

You will have to monitor your horse’s body condition closely in his time off, to help you gauge whether or not your equine companion needs additional nutritional needs, or a blanket to help compensate for the cold. If horses are forced to dig through thick ice and deep snow to get to grass, they may not be able to consume enough feed. At this point, a responsible owner must provide extra hay or roughage, etc., to help the horse stay warm. Pasture horses also require a proper mineral supplement.
All horses, and especially broodmares, should have some source of essential trace minerals and salt throughout the winter.

3. Water

If anyone ever tells you, “Horses don’t need water in the winter – they can just eat snow…” they are absolutely wrong. Water is a major nutrient concern for pasture horses, so it’s important to provide your animals with good sources throughout the season. An adequate water source is a vessel that is continually full with fresh, clean water and does not freeze on a regular basis. If you don’t have the luxury of an automatic water system, installing water heaters in your outside troughs may prevent you from having to break ice each morning. Some heaters even have the capability to warm the water slightly, making drinking that much more desirable for your horses. This practice can prevent dehydration of your animals in the winter and the potential for colic caused by impaction.

* AN IMPORTANT NOTE: Automatic waterers must be regularly and properly maintained throughout the winter as unfortunately, they do have the ability to freeze from time to time. Or a short in the wiring could electrocute / shock a horse each time he goes for a drink – if so, you may not know how long he has gone without water and you must fix the problem immediately. Once faulty wiring is repaired it could take your horse time to regain his confidence enough to return to the waterer.

4. Shelter

Shelter is the final necessity required for winter pastured horses. If you can’t provide your animals something with a roof on it, a wind break may suffice. Trees and shrubs, gulleys, cliffs and valleys are considered “natural wind-breaks” and can provide protection from the wind and elements to some extent. However, a sided and overhead shelter that is free from hazards like protruding nails or jutting edges is the ideal shelter for pasture horses. Moisture or humidity, added to a strong wind means your horse is subject to the worst kind of bone-chilling weather. For this reason, wind and moisture are a pasture horses’ two main adversaries. Shivering is one of the horse’s defenses against the cold because it creates movement within his muscles. But excessive shivering means the horse cannot warm its body enough to reach a comfortable body temperature again.

Winter is a beautiful time, but it’s often a six-month (or longer) span in Canada that also comes with many perils. Keep your horses safe and healthy with the above 4 basic considerations for our coldest season of the year.

You Oughta’ Know About: Bute

Just lately, I decided to educate myself on the subject of bute. You know what I’m referring to – that handy tube of paste, or container of powder, or liquid form which we frequently reach for when a horse in our care indicates it is in some form of pain, soreness or distress.

Phenylbutazone (Bute) is a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) given for multiple reasons including swelling, soreness, musculosketetal pain and lameness including laminitis. If you have owned horses for even a short period of time, it is more than likely that you have either had to give a dose yourself, or known a horse who was prescribed bute. As common as this drug may be, it is easily misunderstood, and there are more than a few misconceptions surrounding it’s administration, effectiveness and general use.

As it turns out, I learned we as horse owners, need to be careful in the administration of bute. That it is not, in fact, the equine equivalent to Advil, which is a common misconception. So, without further ado, here are 11 points of information we all oughta’ know – about bute.

1) The three forms of bute: paste, granulars (powder), and injections.

Paste: This form of bute has been marketed as one of the easiest methods of administering the medication to your horse. Some studies note that paste is absorbed in horses faster than with powder formulas, however, other studies suggested that both methods led to approximately the same absorption. It is generally accepted that bute in paste form will reach minimum therapeutic levels (meaning the minimum amount to start decreasing inflammation) in about an hour.

What you may not realize is that the paste may not reach the maximum concentration – meaning the entire dosage absorbed in the body – for up to 18 hours. And, a factor which may delay the absorption of the med is the the feeding of hay.

The effects of bute in paste generally seem to last around 8-12 hours.

Granular: The powdered forms of bute were decidedly similar to those of paste in terms of absorption and effect, with some research suggesting granulars had a slightly slower absorption rate.

Injection: Bute injected intravenously is the sure-fire method of reaching maximum concentration in the fastest time – sometime between 1-3 hours, and will last as long as paste – between 8-12 hours. Remember, injections should be left to veterinarians or trained animal health technologists.

Bute in all its forms, provides the identical duration of pain relief – 8 to 12 hours.

2) Bute and ulcers – a high risk.

The risk of ulcers when medicating your horse with bute is very real, and dangerously common. While NSAIDs as a group are known to cause gastric and colonic ulcers, bute is more likely to cause ulcers than any other. This is because the drug inhibits prostaglandins, to reduce swelling and inflamation, but also a prostaglandin that plays a vital role in protecting the gut lining. Horses on vet-recommended doses of bute have been shown to develop ulcers in as little as five days. When given orally, bute can also cause ulcers in the mouth and esophagus.

Bottom line: if you are administering bute for any prolonged period of time, be sure you are aware of the symptoms of ulcers in horses, and have the direction of a veterinarian to counsel you. Often with extended treatment, bloodwork is recommended and giving the horse a break off bute for short periods of time is suggested.

3) A word about side effects.

Dr. Jordan Cook of Moore & Co. Vet Clinic has this to say about common dosing with bute.

“Using bute ‘here and there’ is all too common and comes with greater risks than people often realize. Overdosing occurs frequently, more is not better in this case and can have detrimental effects. Unfortunately the rate of occurrence of side effects (ulcers, colic, kidney problems) varies horse to horse. Some horses can tolerate (anecdotally) accidental administration of very high doses whereas others begin to show bloodwork changes and clinical signs after a few days on average doses.”

4) There is no bute on the market with an added ulcer preventative.

There are however, ulcer remedies, both herbal and pharmaceutical, which can be taken in conjunction with bute.

5) There are shipping regulations regarding horses and bute.

Bute is a banned substance for any equine intended for human consumption, therefore horses intended for slaughter, with a record of bute administration will be stopped at the Canadian/U.S. border.

6) Bute is not the horse equivalent of Advil (ibuprofen).

Technically both medications are NSAIDS, used for treating inflammation and pain caused by such swelling and inflammation. However, the side effects for bute are far more serious than for any Advil or Tylenol we would take ourselves. In one study, even 50% more than the maximum dose, when given to a horse, caused death within a week. The dosage window for bute is, in fact, very small. So while we might be of the mind frame that bute is equal to one or two Advils, we owners should really be under the advice of a veterinarian before administering it.

7) Humans should never ingest bute themselves, not even in an emergency.

You’re on a trail ride deep in the mountains. An accident occurs. And, it’s you, not your horse who needs the pain relief. Unfortunately, your emergency kit contains only bute. Can you consume the bute? NO, NO and NO. Listen up. Every resource consulted stated that humans must never ingest bute, as the side effects can be crazy-serious for us humanoids. It is know to be toxic to humans, cause bone marrow loss and anemia. Bute is also a known carcinogen, and so must be treated as such. Therefore, your inflammatory emergency is just going to have to wait until you can get back to your own medicine cabinet.

Photo by Kvetina-Marie

8) Bute and babies not a desirable combination.

Bute can pass through the placental lining and also into the milk of a mare, therefore some of your dosage is getting to the foal. Because their systems are not fully developed, foals will exhibit ulcers and kidney problems far more rapidly than full grown horses, and it is extremely easy for them to accumulate toxic amounts in their systems. Bute is also potentially toxic to developing embryos, so use caution with mares that have recently been bred, or are confirmed in foal.

9) Always consult your veterinarian before deciding to give your horse a left-over dosage of bute.

Everyone who has had a horse prescribed bute knows that there is usually a couple doses left over. It is tempting to just give an extra dose when one horse comes up lame, or exhibits swelling. However, resist the temptation to owner-medicate your horse, and call your vet before giving any horse even one dose of bute. Your vet can help you decide if indeed the horse could be helped by the medication, and also the dosage size.

10) Bute is not for every horse, or every situation.

Remember, that with any anti-inflammatory such as bute, you are treating the symptom and not the problem. Although signs of lameness and swelling may be reduced by bute, it does not mean that the root of the problem has been fixed. It is dangerous to give bute to horses that have suspected fractures, as they may further injure themselves once on pain relief. It is also not intended for treating infections. Lastly, the effects of bute can be especially problematic for horses with pre-existing conditions such as ulcers, kidney problems or bleeding conditions. If your horse is on other medications, bute may limit or displace the intended actions.

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And finally, one more tidbit.

11) You cannot bake bute into horse treats.

Just in case you were thinking of it. . . heat will inactivate the medicinal ingredients of bute.

~ Thanks to Western Horse Review editorial intern Amie Peck for the research conducted for this post, and Dr. Jordan Cook of Moore & Co Large Animal Clinic, for the “vet-check.”