10 Tips for Weight Reduction in the Overweight Horse

By. Megan Slamka, DVM

As a horse owner, you play an important role in controlling your equine companion’s weight. Sound nutrition management, a regular exercise program and veterinary care are key to keeping your horse fit and healthy. Maintaining the ideal weight is not always easy, however.

When implementing a weight loss program for the overweight horse, it’s important to do it gradually and under the supervision of an equine veterinarian. Follow these guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to get you started:

Overweight horse
1. Be patient. Weight reduction should be a slow, steady process so not to stress the horse or create metabolic upsets.

2. Make changes in both the type and amount of feed gradually. Reduce rations by no more than 10% over a 7- to 10-day period.

3. Track your horse’s progress by using a weight tape. When the horse’s weight plateaus, gradually cut back its ration again.

4. Step up the horse’s exercise regimen. Gradually build time and intensity as the horse’s fitness improves.

5. Provide plenty of clean, fresh water so the horse’s digestive and other systems function as efficiently as possible and rid the body of metabolic and other wastes.

6. Select feeds that provide plenty of high quality fiber but are low in total energy. Measure feeds by weight rather than by volume to determine appropriate rations.

7. Select feeds that are lower in fat since fat is an energy-dense nutrient source.

8. Switch or reduce the amount of alfalfa hay feed. Replace with a mature grass or oat hay to reduce caloric intake.

9. Feed separate from other horses so the overweight horse doesn’t have a chance to eat his portion and his neighbor’s too. In extreme cases of obesity, caloric intake may also need to be controlled by limiting pasture intake.

10. Balance the horse’s diet based on age and activity level. Make sure the horse’s vitamin, mineral and protein requirements continue to be met.

Once your horse has reached its ideal body condition, maintaining the proper weight is a gentle balancing act. You will probably need to readjust your horse’s ration to stabilize its weight. Exercise will continue to be a key component in keeping the horse fit. Because obesity can affect a horse’s health, communicate regularly with your veterinarian. Schedule regular check-ups, especially during the weight reduction process.
For more information about caring for the obese horse, ask your equine veterinarian for the “Overweight Horse” brochure, provided by the American Association of Equine Practitioners in partnership with Educational Partners Bayer Animal Health and Purina Mills, Inc., or visit the AAEP’s website at http://www.aaep.org/horseowner.
Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.


Vaccine Reaction Case Study

By: Brittany Aanerud, CVT

Presenting Complaint and History
“Goldie” was referred in by a veterinarian from southern Minnesota very late on the night of May 25th, 2011 night. Goldie was given a vaccine in the left hip (superficial gluteal). Eventually Goldie was reluctant to lift her left rear leg during the forward phase of a stride but she was bearing full weight on it. She appeared to be swollen from the injection site down to the hock and the gluteal muscles were hard on palpation. Her initial heart rate was 60 bpm, respiration was 24 rpm, and temperature was 100.9°F. Goldie’s mucous membranes were bright pink with a capillary refill time of 3-4 seconds. Around 2 p.m. (approximately 12 hrs after being admitted) her temperature had risen to 103.5°F.

Diagnostic Workup
As soon as Goldie was admitted to the clinic, blood was drawn to run a CBC, Chemistry profile, and Electrolytes. She also had her left rear leg ultra sounded to find what was causing her so many issues. The results were unbelievable; Goldie had formed pockets of gas that were increasing in size. Even after the pockets were dealt with, Goldie was regularly ultra sounded in order to catch any newly formed gas pockets.

Diagnosis and Discussion of Disease Condition
A swab was taken in one of Goldie’s gas pockets and it was sent to be identified. The results came back as Clostridial Myositis.

Clostridial Myositis is considered a ‘gangrene’ condition. The bacteria thrive in environments without oxygen; they eat away at tissue and produce gas through their life processes. All of this gas accumulates and forms pockets that get larger and larger. If this condition is not caught right away, the bacteria move throughout the body causing large areas of necrotic tissue and gas pockets from head to toe. Horses generally have approximately a 24% chance of surviving such a bacterial attack.

Dr. Borkoski was the treating veterinarian on this case. She informed me that many horses normally do have some form of Clostridium bacteria in their tissues/body and that they can become overwhelmingly populated due to a small lesion or injection. With horses it is very important to give vaccines/injections in the correct areas. With Goldie’s injection being in the superficial gluteal muscle where there is so much tissue, the bacteria thrived and there was nowhere for us to drain her wounds easily, which caused serious tissue irritation.

Treatment Regime
The initial treatment plan was to supply IV fluids, IV antibiotics, probiotics, topical DMSO, and ultrasound on a regular basis. Here is a more detailed list of what was done. Goldie was started on a long list of medications for all of her physical issues. Here is a list of her course of treatments and why they were done.

  • Antibiotics targeted at both anaerobic (organisms that do not require oxygen) and aerobic (require oxygen) bacterial infection.
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Pain relievers, such as Lidocaine
  • Feet were iced to help with her fever and she was checked with the ultrasound several times to catch any new pockets forming.
  • Elevate (Vitamin E) given as an antioxidant
  • Walked and lounged, keeping her muscles moving to promote healing and push the puss up out of her wounds.

Goldie was slowly weaned off her medications as needed and able. Her last ultrasound was on May 31st and showed no new pockets forming. She was able to go home, 17 days after being admitted, with basic exercise and cleaning instructions.

Prognosis and Outcome
Goldie’s prognosis was initially guarded due to the fact that it was unknown the extent of the gas pockets. However, her prognosis was quickly changed to good as the pockets were only found in the left rear area. In most cases, the gas pockets formed by this type of anaerobic bacteria are not caught soon enough and the pockets are found throughout the body resulting in a terrible death. However, in her case, they were found very early and were dealt with in a speedy manner.

Although, Goldie left before she was completely healed, she is doing great and her owners send pictures to Dr. Borkoski regularly to show her progress of healing. She was a very lucky, special case, and it was amazing to see. Goldie’s case is a great example why vaccinations need to be taken seriously.

Healing Timeline in Pictures
Day 2: May 26th Fresh incisions with Penrose drains inserted and little drainage


Day 7: May 31st Incisions are very sore and there is a lot of drainage

4 5

Day 10: June 3rd Smaller incisions are healing slightly; skin is about to slough


Day 13: June 6th Wounds are being kept open for draining & skin has sloughed

7 8

Day 15: June 8th Drainage is starting to diminish and wounds are closing up

9 10

Day 17: June 10th Large wound is draining; healing is happening inside to out

11 12

Binns, Sarah (DVM), and Jennifer Davis (DVM). “Musculoskeletal: clostridial myositis.” vetstream: definitive veterinary intelligence. Vetstream, Ltd, 2010. Web. 30 Jun 2011. <http://www.vetstream.com/equis/Content/Disease/dis01419&gt;.
Borkoski, Ingrid. Personal Interview by Brittany Aanerud. 22 Jun 2011.

Trail Riding Information

By: Ingrid Borkoski, DVM

photoHORSE PASS – (Minnesota State Land) In the State of Minnesota any person, 16 years and older, must obtain a HORSE PASS if riding or driving on DNR state land.  This includes many of the parks enjoyed throughout Minnesota.  Each person needs to have their own signed pass (not each horse) and it must be available for inspection if approached by DNR personnel while on the trail.  Daily ($6) or annual ($21) are available for purchase.  The annual passes are valid for the calendar year, January 1-December 31.  Trail passes may be purchased from DNR authorized vendors (i.e. those that sell fishing licenses), by phone, online or some parks have self-registration on site.  More information can be found at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

County parks may also require that each individual obtain a horse pass (separate from the Field 2State of Minnesota Horse Pass). Check the county website in which you wish to ride before heading out. Hennipen County/Three Rivers Park District is one example.  Find more information at http://www.threeriversparks.org/activities/passes/horseback-riding-pass.aspx. .

COGGINS TEST – A negative Coggins test (Equine Infectious Anemia) is required to travel across state lines and at many horse shows.  Some states the test must be within 12 months, others within 6 months or within the calendar year (WI).  Check your destination states requirements before traveling.

HEALTH CERTIFICATE – A certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI) is required if you are traveling out of state.  The certificate attests that the horse exhibits no obvious signs of contagious disease on the day of inspection.  In addition some states require permit numbers (no extra cost) on the CVI or additional testing of diseases such as Piroplasmosis.  Each state has different requirements that may change at any time so please check with our office for up to date information.

It is recommended to schedule your health certificate exam no more then two weeks prior to you leaving.  Health Certificates are good for up to 30 days after they are issued.

If you are traveling to Wisconsin from Minnesota a CVI is not required if:

  1. Ownership does not change
  2. The horse remains in the state for no more than 7 days
  3. The animal has a negative EIA (coggins) test from the current calendar year

Spring vaccines to protect your horse

By: Megan Slamka, DVM

Getting ready to vaccinate your herd this spring? Here are some helpful insights on how vaccines work, what diseases we consider “core” vaccines and others which are risk based, as well as when vaccination is recommended based on the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Vaccine technology is always changing and improving. At Anoka Equine, we research the Vaccine Imagebest products to use each year to assure the best protection for your horse, while minimizing the potential for adverse reactions. For example, we currently use the only Rabies vaccine made specifically for horses, greatly minimizing the number of adverse reactions we have seen in previous years.

Vaccines contain parts (antigens) of disease causing agents such as viruses and bacteria that are not strong enough to cause disease, but tell the immune system to make antibodies which protect the horse in the event their immune system is exposed to those antigens in the future. Thus, your horse will be able to develop immunity to a disease without actually having the infection.

Due to the current cases of EHV-1 that are occurring in Minnesota, and how contagious the virus is, it is recommended that your horse receive the Flu/Rhino (Calvenza) vaccine.  Like all vaccines this will not provide 100% prevention of contracting the disease.  This vaccine will not prevent the neurological form of Equine Herpes Virus, but will lower the risk of contracting the virus or decrease the effects of the symptoms, if contracted.  For more information about EHV-1 click here.


The following vaccines are considered to be “core” vaccines. These vaccinations are crucial to preventing diseases commonly found in an area, are highly contagious or cause serious health problems, those that pose a potential public health risk and those that are required by law. These vaccines have proven to be very safe and effective and their benefits are such that all horses should receive them on an annual basis. Hence, the following vaccines should be administered annually. If your horse has not been vaccinated previously, a two dose series should be administered with the second dose being administered 4-6 weeks after the first. Broodmares should be vaccinated annually and 4-6 weeks pre-partum.

          Tetanus is a bacterial infection most commonly caused by contamination of a wound or incision from soil and manure. Despite treatment, there is a very high mortality rate. A booster should be administered at the time of a penetrating injury or prior to surgery if the last dose was greater than 6 months prior.

          Eastern/ Western Encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE) are viral diseases that cause dysfunction in the nervous system. Birds serve as a reservoir and transmission is via mosquitoes. Humans may also be infected by mosquitoes. We recommend vaccinating annually prior to the onset of mosquito season.

          West Nile Virus is also a mosquito borne virus, which causes neurologic disease in horses and humans. West Nile virus has a 30% mortality rate and symptoms often include somnolence, fever, muscle twitching, and depression. We recommend vaccinating your horse in the spring prior to the onset of mosquito season.

          Rabies is an extremely severe and fatal viral disease affecting the central nervous system. It is spread by the bite of infected animals such as skunks, bats, and raccoons. It is a zoonotic disease meaning transmission can occur between horse and human. Broodmares can be vaccinated prior to breeding or 4-6 weeks pre-partum. Otherwise, vaccination can be done annually in the fall to decrease the number of vaccines given in the spring.


Equine Herpes Virus (Rhinopneumonitis) is a viral infection that can cause respiratory disease, abortions in mares, and neurologic dysfunction. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for the neurologic form. Pregnant mares should receive the killed vaccine (Pneumabort) at 5, 7 and 9 months of gestation. Your veterinarian may consider 6 month revaccination in horses less than 5 years of age, horses on breeding farms, horses in contact with pregnant mares, performance horses, and show horses, as they are at higher risk. Unvaccinated horses should receive a three dose series at 4-6 week intervals, then annually.

Equine Influenza Virus is a very common viral respiratory disease. Young horses appear to be more susceptible; however, horses of any age can become infected in scenarios where their immune system may be overwhelmed.  Therefore, horses that go to shows frequently or are housed with horses that attend events where large groups of horses are present should be vaccinated twice a year.

Potomac Horse Fever is a bacterial disease that can cause severe diarrhea, fever, inappetance, colic, and laminitis. Neorickettsia risticii is the causative bacteria, which is carried by cercariae (a type of parasite). Cercariae are transported by aquatic insects which can affect horses when ingested.  Therefore, horses housed near bodies of water or swamps may be at increased risk. The highest number of cases occur in late summer to early fall. We recommend annual vaccination prior to August.

Strangles (Streptococcus equi) is an extremely contagious bacterial upper respiratory infection causing nasal discharge, high fevers and abscessed submandibular lymph nodes.  Caution should be used in vaccination of horses with known exposure or in young foals due to risk of development of purpura hemmorrhagica, a life threatening complication of strangles. Horses that attend shows or other events involving large groups of horses may be at an increased risk of exposure and may be vaccinated annually or bi-annually. We use a modified live intra-nasal vaccine that has been shown to induce a high level of immunity.