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Treating Equine Summer Sores

Healthcare Reminder: Treating Equine Summer Sores

Healthcare Reminder

Summer heat is in full force across the states, and with high temperatures and humid conditions comes an elevated risk for equine summer sores. Flies thrive in these conditions which can create many nagging problems for horses. One of the most serious problems are equine summer sores, which are medically known as habronemiasis, granular dermatitis, and jack sores.

Summer sores are an unfortunate yet common occurrence in areas with warmer climates, and a problem that Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian Dr. Meredith Hustler treats often. According to Dr. Hustler, prevention is key, but proper and prompt treatment is paramount if a summer sore does emerge.

Understanding Summer Sores

Summer sores are lesions on the skin caused by the larvae of equine stomach worms Habronema. These worms in the horse’s stomach produce eggs that pass through the digestive tract and are shed in the horse’s feces. Barn flies typically gather around manure and ultimately collect the parasite’s larvae on their extremities. Summer sores will occur when flies carrying the larvae deposit their eggs onto an open wound or the mucous membranes of a horse. This typically includes areas such as the prepuce, lower abdomen, corners of the eyes, and margins of the lips. The larvae cause an inflammatory reaction, often with discharge and the production of granulation tissue infected with larvae.

Signs that a horse may be suffering from summer sores:

  • Non-healing skin lesions
  • Intense itching
  • Formation of exuberant granulation tissue (proud flesh)
  • Calcified necrosis (dead tissue)

“The proud flesh that can appear as a summer sore is a product of the irritation and hypersensitive reaction from the larvae,” said Dr. Hustler. “Once a summer sore is properly diagnosed, the end goal of treatment is to kill both the adult larvae and the flies themselves.”

Detection & Prevention

“Firstly, it is incredibly important that the owner does not assume a lesion is a summer sore because of its appearance or their experience with summer sores,” said Dr. Hustler. “Granulation tissue can look like a summer sore but actually be the result of a different infection or skin issue. So, it is crucial to contact a veterinarian at the first sign of a potential summer sore before any treatment is administered.”

Commonly, a summer sore is the visible granulation of tissue containing small yellow, rice-like larvae within the skin and a mucopurulent (mucus or pus-like) discharge associated with the wound. Prevention is the most effective way of controlling summer sore outbreaks. The best way to protect horses is to implement effective methods for:

  1. Fly control with automatic fly control systems, fly masks, sheets, boots, and a sheath protector.
  2. Proper manure removal of two to three times per day.
  3. Appropriate wound care using topicals such as a silver nitrate stick (when not bleeding) and bandages to keep wounds protected from flies.
  4. Implementing an effective de-worming program (Quest+, Power Pack Ivermectin, or Dectomax treatment).

A diligent de-worming program is the most important element of prevention because effective de-wormer disrupts the parasite’s life cycle internally. The key is to kill both adult worms in the stomach and the larvae that form in the skin tissue.

Many owners also chose to plan ahead by supplementing their horse’s diet with immune boosting natural supplements. “Sometimes with patients that have stagnant, non-healing summer sores, they can really benefit from being prescribed herbal medicines. I’ve seen many horse’s do well on the Chinese Herb Wei Qi Booster in particular,” Dr. Hustler remarked.

Treating Summer Sores

For treatment of the summer sore itself, corticosteroids are administered to reduce the inflammatory hypersensitivity reaction. Antimicrobials are administered to treat any secondary infection that may develop as the result of the open wound. If not treated quickly and appropriately by a veterinarian, summer sores can persist for months and possibly require a costly surgical procedure to remove the granulated tissue and larvae.

“The standard summer sore treatment is debridement of the wound and an injection of Ivermectin (Noromectin),” continued Dr. Hustler. “However, more medicine is not more effective with summer sores. The larvae and flies can develop a resistance to the treatment. So, it is always best to consult with your veterinarian for dosage information. Also, this particular treatment does not include preservatives. Therefore, it is imperative that an unopened bottle is always used to prevent contamination that could lead to an abscess in the injection site.”

Additionally, there are local injections that can be administered directly around or into the lesion itself to promote healing. Dr. Hustler also relies on oral treatments, such as Prednisolone and Dexamethasone tablets, depending on the patient’s case.

At the first sign of a summer sore, contact your veterinarian at Palm Beach Equine Clinic. Call 561-793-1599 to discuss treatment and develop an effective fly-management program for your barn.

Electrolytes Explained

Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler Discusses the Role of Electrolytes in Performance

Intense training and hot climates can seriously impact any athlete’s hydration and electrolyte levels. Replenishing our equine athlete’s electrolyte levels can support them through training and recovery. A balanced electrolyte supplement may be one of your most valuable and understated tools to keep in your competition arsenal.

It’s Electric!

Electrolytes are chemicals that when dissolved in a polar solvent, such as water, form electrically charged particles called ions. The body of an average 1,000-pound horse consists of 65 percent water, making it the perfect environment for the electrolyte to perform its physiologic duties. Some of the physiologic functions electrolytes play a part in include but are not limited to:

  • temperature control and fluid transport across cell membranes
  • muscle and heart contraction
  • respiration and digestion
  • ion transport and signal transduction
  • renal and neurological function
  • thought and memory processes
  • energy production and glucose metabolism
  • gathering information from all the senses and transporting those messages to the brain and muscles, enabling everyday function and the innate fight or flight responses of the horse
Intense training and hot climates can seriously impact any athlete’s hydration and electrolyte levels. Photo by Jump Media

Why are Electrolytes Important?

The horse’s body is a complex and carefully balanced system comprised of different types of cells, tissues and fluids that continuously direct an array of electrical impulses. The fuel for this fundamental life process lies within the electrolyte. When you think of a happy, healthy horse, he is one who is eating, drinking and passing manure appropriately. Electrolytes are essential to achieve and maintain this. The main electrolytes found in the horse’s body are sodium (Na), chloride (Cl), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), hydrogen phosphate (HPO42) and hydrogen carbonate (HCO3).

One of the main functions of electrolytes is to regulate nerve and muscle function by transmitting electrical impulses. Optimal muscle health and appropriate neuron communication increase the performance potential of all horses.

Replenishing our equine athlete’s electrolyte levels can support them through training and recovery.
Photo by Jump Media

With all the details of an electrolyte in mind, the key to maintaining a horse’s health and performance is achieving a balance. When there are imbalances, you run into trouble. Electrolytes are naturally excreted through sweating, feces and urine. However, if horses consistently excrete a high amount of electrolytes, there may be impacts on their health and performance.

Signs that a horse may be deficient in electrolytes include:

  • poor performance and depression
  • dull coat and sunken eyes
  • eating dirt or other horses’ feces
  • tying up
  • weight loss or ulcers

Common causes of an electrolyte imbalance include:

  • dehydration
  • diarrhea
  • excessive sweating and strenuous exercise
  • insufficient consumption of bio-available minerals

With a proper, high-quality nutrition program, the majority of horses are able to replenish their routine electrolyte losses. However, this does not always hold true for the performance horse that has a more strenuous training schedule. Electrolytes are not easily replaced by diet alone and made readily accessible for the body to utilize as the performance horse’s training schedule demands. This is where electrolyte supplementation plays an imperative role.

Dr. Hustler’s recommended electrolyte supplement, Summer Games Electrolyte by Kentucky Performance Products, is available through the Palm Beach Equine Clinic Pharmacy.
Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Equine Clinic

Supplementing Electrolytes

Horses are creatures of habit and thrive on consistency. Ideally, when supplementing electrolytes, you should give the same amount of powder or paste orally on a daily basis. This enables the horse to utilize what it needs to maintain homeostasis, and what is not needed will naturally be excreted. Electrolytes should never be “loaded,” as you may create an excessive imbalance and will inadvertently create an osmotic pull of water in the body to “go the wrong way,” causing dehydration. This principle of the osmotic pulling of fluids is why it is imperative to always give electrolytes with water and provide your horse with free-choice water.

Electrolyte supplements are an easy and cost-effective way to provide balance within the body. When choosing a supplement, select one that contains the essential electrolytes, and has low sugar content. Additionally, providing a free-choice salt block allows horses to instinctively re-balance their sodium and chloride levels.

The veterinarians of Palm Beach Equine Clinic recommend the Summer Games Electrolytes by Kentucky Performance Products, which can be purchased directly from the Palm Beach Equine Clinic pharmacy in Wellington, FL. The value and impact electrolytes have on your horse’s health and potential for peak performance are huge – and often overlooked – details that horse owners can’t afford to miss.

Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler.
Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Equine Clinic

About Dr. Hustler

Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler, of Ocean Grove, NJ, has grown up in the hunter/jumper community with a lifelong love for horses and equestrian sport. Dr. Hustler completed her undergraduate degree in Equine Science at Centenary University in Hackettstown, NJ. She then pursued her dream of becoming a veterinarian and graduated from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. During her clinical years Colorado State University, she became acupuncture certified in small animal, exotics and large animals. Her main interests in veterinary medicine are sports medicine, lameness, rehabilitation, acupuncture and alternative therapies. Outside of Palm Beach Equine Clinic she enjoys spending time with her husband, family, friends, and her three dogs.

Meet Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler

Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian
Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler

Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler is one of the newest additions to Palm Beach Equine Clinic, having joined the team in June of 2017. Originally hailing from New Jersey, Hustler completed her undergraduate degree in Equine Science at Centenary College while simultaneously riding as a member of their Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) team. Hustler then graduated from the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2016.

What is your background with horses?

Both of my parents are ministers, so I come from a non-horse family, but I begged my mom for riding lessons as a kid. From there, I got involved in the showjumping community in the Ocean Grove, NJ, area where I was growing up. I stayed in the showjumping world up until I became a veterinarian. I worked as a rider and an FEI groom for various professionals, including about seven years with Gabriella Salick, a showjumper from the West Coast. With Gabby, I had the opportunity to take care of her horses at World Cup Finals, the Olympic trials, Spruce Meadows, and top horse shows all over the country. She really taught me how to be a good horseman too, which I think has been really invaluable to me now as a veterinarian.

How did you then decide to pursue veterinary medicine?

I’ve always been quite interested in science, as well as the horse. I’ve always loved animals, and I wanted to be able to help horses, as well as the professionals and owners, involved in the industry. You do that as a groom and rider to some extent, but it’s different being a veterinarian. I’ve always felt like it was my mission in life to help horses and the people involved with them, especially in this capacity.

What led you to Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

I knew Dr. Richard Wheeler and Dr. Bryan Dubynsky and knew of Palm Beach Equine from my involvement in showjumping, so when it came time to do an externship when I was in vet school, I did it at Palm Beach Equine. Then, while I was extern-ing, I applied for the clinic’s internship position, and I got the internship position. Then, during my internship, they offered me an associate position. I got the externship, and I was able to make my way up from there. During the externship, I remember thinking, ‘I really want to intern here,’ and then when I was interning, I was thinking ‘I don’t really want to leave.’ I love the practice. I like the demographics of the horses that we get to work on, the people that are involved, and the sense of community. You’re surrounded by colleagues that you can work with; you can always ‘phone a friend.’ It’s a really inviting and helpful atmosphere to learn and work in.

What is your favorite part of the job?

I mentioned the demographics of the horses that we’re working on – the caliber of them is really just incredible, and getting to work on the horses that we do is such a privilege. Outside of that, I focus a lot on lameness, alternative therapies, internal medicine, and I’m acupuncture certified, which I really enjoy. I’m a big advocate of acupuncture as a non-invasive way for the horse’s body to heal itself, as well as a nice addition to other kinds of treatments to promote overall well-being and health.

Outside of work, what do you enjoy?

I’m married to a great guy named Samuel, and we spend a lot of time outdoors and with our three dogs. We’re big beach people, and we love the ocean, paddle-boarding, yoga, hiking, biking – just getting out and enjoying being outside.

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