VET’S DIARY: Horses for courses at home and work for vet

We are very fortunate in this part of the country to have great local shows.

I have been to Powburn and Ingram shows this year with a keen interest as my children were competing in the pony sports and show jumping (well poles about six inches high).

It is always rewarding to see horses we have treated looking well and performing at their best.

This is also helping the fitness levels as I have to run alongside with the ponies on a lead rein.

These are a fantastic introduction to competition for the children who thoroughly enjoy it and love winning the all-important rosettes. A special thank you to Susan and Phillipa Shell for all their efforts and ensuring it is fun for the children.

Our pony Narmy, now 32 years old, also loves these shows, having been to most of them for many years with various local families. She certainly doesn’t appear to be slowing down in her old age and is looking younger since she started on a tablet to treat Cushings disease last year.

Cushings disease is a condition in which the body over-produces steroid, causing a number of effects, including increasing the risk of the pony developing laminitis (a painful foot condition), developing infections elsewhere in the body and, in more advanced stages, hisuitism (a long shaggy coat), sweating excessively, as well as drinking more water and urinating more.

Cushings disease can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.

I recently took a routine blood sample to ensure Narmy was on the correct dosage of medication to find her steroid levels had increased and she was no longer well controlled. Looking back over the last few weeks she had starting urinating more frequently, easy to see with hindsight.

Steroid levels peak in the autumn so it should not be surprising that the medication needs adjusting at this time of the year.

The diagnostic blood sample for Cushings disease is subsidised until the end of October. These samples can be taken on one of our free zone visits.

It was great to be on duty at Kelso Racecourse last week for the start of the new season. It was a beautiful evening with some very close races. Some of the top jockeys were riding, including Richard Johnson, leading National Hunt Jockey, who will be chasing every winner to try to be champion jockey this season after 18 years in second place.

The course was in immaculate condition and there were very few injuries, a good start. It is always rewarding to see horses we have treated looking well and performing at their best.

There was one horse I did not recognise at first, with his gleaming coat, great condition and a certain spring in his step. Previously he had lacked that sparkle, his coat was dull, and despite eating well, he struggled to keep weight on. The trainer was sure that something was limiting the horse’s performance, but it was not clear what.

The usual investigations were carried out including, checking for lameness, oral examination and tooth rasp. A blood sample was taken to look for any abnormalities with respect to internal organ function, muscle damage or blood cells, but all these were found to be normal.

We suggested that we should perform gastroscopy. This involves passing an endoscope up the horse’s nose and down into its stomach to search for evidence of gastric ulcers. The trainer was sceptical at first, especially as the horse appeared relaxed in the stable yard (not stressed), but our advice was followed.

Sure enough there were gastric ulcers in the stomach.

I have certainly seen more severe cases, but we opted to treat the ulcers. The owners and trainer are all certain the ulcers were causing the horse’s problems as he has thrived since starting anti-ulcer medication.