Equine Insurance: Who needs it

 By: Katie Jones, CVT

We receive frequent calls regarding information on equine insurance. We do not represent or work for insurance companies. We also do not refer or suggest one over another. It is up to the individual horse owner to research and choose a company to best determine the type of coverage that fits their needs.

TurboI, myself, own a horse (Turbo) who is more of a weekend warrior out on the trail or at the occasional weekend show.   I went through most of my younger years dreaming and wishing for my own horse; however, I knew they were an investment difficult to have during college. The year I graduated from college I finally bought my horse and the investment into what I love began. Last year when I was faced with the question of, “would I take Turbo to colic surgery, if Banamine didn’t resolve his pain”, I didn’t know how to answer. Luckily for me he resolved his colic episode with a little amount of Banamine and time. As an Equine Technician, I see many situations not as simply resolved and surgical decisions become real. Sometimes the only thing separating a horse from euthanasia and a life-saving surgery is economics. A colic surgery base price starts around $3,500; however, overall medical care pre- and post-surgery can quickly reach $10,000. Would you be ready to front this cost in an emergency situation? If you have never had to answer this question, here are a few options to consider to help prepare you if the question ever arises.

Insurance

InsuranceWhen faced with a major medical expense, insurance is used to help soften the financial blow; so why couldn’t this work for your horse? Just like with human insurance, equine insurance has different types and levels of coverage. The two most frequently chosen insurance types are major medical and surgical. Major medical covers veterinary treatment, medications, and surgery due to an accident, injury, or illness on horses valued at a minimum of $7500. Surgical insurance only covers emergency or necessary surgeries performed under general anesthesia in a veterinary clinic, for any value horse.   To acquire either type of coverage, additional yearly mortality insurance is also required. Mortality insurance covers the horse’s value due to death from an accident, illness, or disease, and will typically cover loss due to theft. In the chance of an unexpected death, a mortality claim would require a necropsy report to determine the exact cause of death. (There are additional coverage options for individuals with equine businesses, such as loss of use or breeding coverages.)

The cost of equine insurance is based on the age, value, and use of the horse. Here is an example of what a quote would look like for an average trail horse (my horse, Turbo) from Blue Bridle Insurance.

sick horse

Great American Ins. Co.: (Turbo is categorized as a 7 yr. old Pleasure/Show Horse)
Plan 1: Only mortality: $2,000 (Value of Turbo) @ 3.6% = $200 Minimum/yr.
Plan 2: Surgical (ONLY surgical expenses included): $10,000 = $150/yr.

Total Annual Premium for Surgical Coverage: $350.00

+ An additional $10,000 limit can be added to the Surgical Coverage Plan to cover colic medical and/or surgical expenses for an additional $150/yr.

 

When considering purchasing equine insurance make sure to do plenty of research. It can become overwhelming when first looking into insurance due to the number of providing companies and the levels of coverage available. A company that specializes in equine insurance, or at least livestock, is highly recommended. By doing this, their overall understanding of the possible claims will heighten the ease of filling a claim. This will in turn result in less run around and a quicker response from a company with more equine claim experience compared to a typical Home-owners Insurance Company.

Finally, insurance coverage does have limitations. Limitations will be specific to the insuring company and are details to look into when considering equine insurance. Most insurance companies have an age limit on coverage, as well as restrictions regarding horses with preexisting conditions, specific to their policies. Make sure to compare coverage limitations, exclusions, and deductibles when considering different policies.

ColiCare – SmartPak

colic_care-379x121ColiCare is a wellness program supported by SmartPak. This program allows a small peace of mind by providing up to $7500 towards colic surgery (reimbursement will only cover the cost of the surgery not any medical treatment of the colic). To qualify for this wellness program, administration of an eligible ColiCare product daily to your horse is required. These supplements are designed to provide comprehensive hindgut support to lower the risk of digestive upset that can lead to colicky episodes with ingredients like prebiotics, yeast, and enzymes. An annual wellness exam with a veterinarian is also required. The veterinarian will verify vaccination history, perform a dental exam with recommendations, and perform a fecal test to set-up a deworming schedule. ColiCare is a wonderful compliment to any insurance policy. ColiCare will reimburse independently; therefore, additional financial coverage will be seen in addition to any initial insurance reimbursement.

Program Requirements

Annual Wellness Requirements, which include:

  • Physical exam performed by your veterinarian
  • Dental exam performed by your veterinarian
  • Vaccinations administered by a veterinarian
  • Deworming program developed with your veterinarian that includes at least one fecal test and two deworming administrations per year

For more information on the products or to get signed up for the ColiCare program, please visit the SmartPak website: https://www.smartpakequine.com/colicare. Anoka Equine Veterinary serves does currently have clients that are on this program.

 

EQCO Coverage – Platinum Performance

eqco-program-slidePlatinum Performance has its own wellness program similar to the one offered by SmartPak. The coverage that Platinum Performance offers is up to $8,000-$10,000 towards colic surgery. To qualify for this coverage you have to administer eligible supplements to your horse on a daily bases, as well as complete an annual wellness exam with your local veterinarian. Platinum Performance supplements are formulated to provide omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and trace minerals to support total body heath.

For more information and for a detailed list of available supplements, please visit Platinum Performance’s website http://www.platinumperformance.com/EQCO/.

**Please note: any previous colic/abdominal surgery, history of chronic colic, or an incidence of colic in the past twelve months will mark the horse unqualified for the both programs.

Who needs equine insurance? No one. Is this for everyone? No. Ultimately these questions come down to anyone who can not easily afford the unexpected cost of extensive treatments or surgery can benefit from having it. However, there is still an expense associated with either the ColiCare Program or insurance and it is a cost to be economically comfortable with. If this annual expense is something you may be willing to invest into, then these two program options provide a peace of mind if an emergency situation were to occur and life-saving-options will be more easily funded.

Equine Pastern Dermatitis

By: Chelsea Farnsworth, D.V.M.

Equine pastern dermatitis (EPD) is one of the very frustrating syndromes that plagues many horses and their owners. Going by many names such as scratches, mud fever, dew poisoning, greasy heel or canker, equine Scratches1pastern dermatitis often affects the back of white pasterns on hind feet, but can be found on front pasterns as well. While often called a disease, EPD is truly a syndrome with many causes, predisposing factors, and just as many treatment options.

Seen in any season and on any breed, an affected pastern can have a range of signs including redness, matted hair, thick crusts, scales, thickened skin, and discharge. Pain is variable. Mild cases are often limited to redness and some scales with little to none discharge, but severe cases can lead to lameness, swelling of the hind feet, scaring, and proliferation of granulation tissue.

Causes of EPD are varied and are often linked to environmental issues. Horses kept in wet or muddy environments, Draft horses or breeds with feathers, and horses frequently bathed are predisposed. Contact irritation, (ie. from a chemical or new bedding), a weak immune system, or infection from parasites or fungus can start the disease process. Secondary bacterial infection and environmental exposure then perpetuate the problem and makes a definite diagnosis difficult.

Diagnosis of EPD is largely based on the clinical appearance of the affected pasterns. Definitive diagnosis of the primary factor separate from the secondary causes can be difficult. Skin scrapings, which sample the top layer of skin; fungal testing, cytologies, and even a skin biopsy, may be necessary to determine the cause.

While there are many anecdotal and alternative therapies for EPD, the most important part Scratchesof treating is removing the crusts and scabs. To get these off, washing with a mild soap such as Ivory may be necessary, as well as, clipping feathers or thicker hair. This step is often painful but necessary in order to get to the underlying skin.

Once the scabs are washed off, which may take several washings, various topical medications can be applied to combat the primary cause. Removing the scabs can be painful to the horse and a sweat wrap applied after application of a topical ointment may help in softening the crusts, making them easier to remove. Various antifungals, antimicrobials, and anti-inflammatories many be prescribed by your veterinarian and applied topically. Systemic medications, such as antibiotics, may be used if the EPD is severe.

Long term management relies heavily on environmental management; including: keeping the horse in a clean, dry stall during very wet weather, managing mud during the spring, and keeping feathers clipped short on draft-type breeds.

EPD, while frustrating, can be managed and working closely with your veterinarian will help in resolving this irritating syndrome.

Hay Soaking: All Washed Up or Good Management?

This article is courtesy of Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota.
Posted on Nutrena’s Blog

Soaking hay in water is a common strategy used to manage the nutrition of some diseased horses.  Current hay soaking recommendations include soaking hay for 30 minutes in warm or 60 minutes in cold water for removal of carbohydrates (Watts, 2003).  Soaking hay is commonly done to manage horse diagnosed with laminitis, Polysaccaride Storage Myopathy (PSSM), hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

  • Researchers have suggested that diets contain less than 12 and 10% nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) for horses affected with laminitis (Frank, 2009) and PSSM (Borgia et al., 2009), respectively.
  • Reynolds et al. (1997) determined that a diet less than 1% K is necessary for horses diagnosed with HYPP.
  • Moore-Colyer (1996) determined that soaking hay for 30 minutes reduced respiratory problems for horses diagnosed with COPD or heaves.

However, how efficient is hay soaking, and are additional essential nutrients lost during the soaking process?  Researchers at the University of Minnesota set out to determine the impact of water temperature and soaking duration on removal of NSC, crude protein (CP), minerals, and dry matter (DM) from alfalfa and orchardgrass hays.

Four hay types were soaked, including bud and flowering alfalfa, and vegetative and flowering orchardgrass.  Individual flakes were submerged for 15, 30 and 60 minutes in 25 liters of cold (72°F) and warm (102°F) water, and for 12 hours in cold water.  A control (non-soaked) sample was also evaluated.  Water temperatures were determined by using the cold or warm only faucets, similar to practices implemented by horse owners and managers.  Subsamples of entire flakes were submitted for nutrient analysis at a commercial laboratory.

  • Prior to soaking, both alfalfa hays were below the 10 and 12% NSC threshold for horses diagnosed with PSSM and laminitis, respectively, and would not have required soaking. The orchardgrass hays were above these thresholds, however, after soaking for 15 to 30 minutes were at or below 10 to 12% NSC.
    • Although soaking hay for longer durations did further reduce NSC content, it is not recommended.  All horses, even diseased ones, require carbohydrates in their diet.
    • The severely limited NSC content in hay soaked for greater than 1 hour, combined with increased fiber amounts (fiber components are not water soluble, thus they are concentrated in soaked hay), brings into question the palatability and availability of nutrients in hay soaked for longer periods of time.
  • Crude protein leaching was variable in soaked hays, something other researchers have also observed (Moore-Colyer, 1996).  More importantly, previous research looked at the nutrient availability and quality of rained-on hay fed to steers and suggested the nitrogen remaining in rained-on hay is more stable, water-insoluble (Rotz and Muck, 1994), and possibly less digestible by ruminants (Licitra et al, 1996).  Additional research is needed to evaluate this concept when feeding soaked hay to horses.
  • Calcium (Ca) is not as prone to leaching during soaking compared to other minerals, and appears to be dependent on hay maturity.  As soaking duration increased, leaching of Ca increased in alfalfa bud and vegetative orchardgrass hays (immature hays).  However, soaking had no effect on Ca leaching in the more mature hays.
    • Conversely, magnesium (Mg) Mg and phosphorus (P) levels were reduced in all hay types as a result of soaking, with longer soaking durations leading to greater reductions.  Because Ca is not as water soluble as P, high Ca:P ratios were observed in hays soaked for  longer durations, specifically after 12 hours.
    • Ideally, Ca:P ratios should range from 1:1 to 3:1 (up to 6:1) in horse diets (NRC, 2007).  The high Ca:P ratios observed after longer soaking durations were exaggerated in alfalfa hays which had higher Ca:P ratios prior to soaking.
    • After 12 hours of soaking, a deficiency in P was observed and ranged from a shortage of 1 to 8 grams for a 500 kg horse in light work (NRC, 2007), and Krook and Maylin [32] suggested that osteochondrosis may be associated with excess dietary Ca.
  • Soaking both alfalfa and orchardgrass hay for 12 hours was necessary to sufficiently reduce K concentration to recommend levels prior to feeding horses diagnosed with HYPP (Reynolds et al, 1997).  Although K levels can be reduced by soaking, neither alfalfa nor orchardgrass hay is an appropriate option for horses diagnosed with HYPP due to the naturally high levels of K.

Owners should rely on forage analysis as the primary method of determining the appropriate hay for horses, especially when feeding horses diagnosed with laminitis, PSSM, HYPP or COPD.   Hay soaking for short durations (15 to 30 minutes in duration) is an acceptable management method, but should only be used if ideal hay is not available.  Hay should not soak hay for greater than 1 hour.  Soaking hay for long durations resulted in severely reduced NSC content, high Ca:P ratios, shortage of P in the diet and significant losses in DM.

Laminitis

By: Katie Jones, CVT

LaminitisLaminitis can be career ending or even life-threatening, causing deep seated fears in many horse owners. With continued research and the development of new treatment techniques, many cases have been resolved before life altering decisions had to be made. What is this condition? What can be done as horse owners to prevent the development of a laminitic episode?

Laminitis is inflammation of the laminae. The bones in the hoof are suspended within the hoof capsule by modified skin cells known as laminae (lamellae). The relationship between the laminae, bone, and hoof capsule is very similar to Velcro when fastened together. One end of the laminae is attached to the bone while the other is attached to the hoof wall. When working correctly, this relationship forms a shock absorber during a horse’s movements. When inflammation occurs in this delicate support system, it damages the integrity of this crucial bond. This leads to bone and soft tissue damage within the hoof and cuts off the laminae blood supply. Laminitis most commonly occurs in the front feet, but can also affect the hinds.

Laminitis can be triggered by numerous causes ranging from environmental factors to Laminitis1metabolic or systemic diseases. The predominant causes of laminitis are: metabolic or systemic in origin from excessive intake of lush green grass, Cushing’s disease, insulin resistance, secondary to infection, or excessive administration of specific drugs (corticosteroids); environmental factors such as grain engorgement; or mechanical factors such as excessive weight bearing on one limb due to a severe injury on the opposite leg. Lush pastures trigger laminitic episodes when the amount of sugar builds up in the blades on warm days with cool nights during optimal growing conditions. The sugar then triggers a metabolic event, stressing body and may result in laminitis.

There are vast inconsistencies in the progression and outcomes between horses in laminitic cases. Some will progress from barely lame to the hoof bone (coffin bone) rotating through the hoof sole rather quickly. Part of the variation lies in the individual animal as well as eating habits and metabolic issues. It is difficult to know which horses, when looking at them clinically, will progress to be more severely affected.

If your horse is exhibiting signs of laminitis, it needs to be treated as an emergency. Early intervention is critical and can dramatically reduce the likelihood of the laminitis progressing. A veterinarian will create a specific treatment plan for each individual case and it will be dictated by the progression of the disease. Treatment options may include: applying cushioned frog support, changing their diet, pain management practices, anti-inflammatories of various mechanisms, and limiting their exercise to stall rest.

If a joint effort between a veterinarian and a farrier is established with early treatment, laminitis will not always be a devastating disease. With early detection and good management practices laminitic episodes can resolve, returning the horse to normal daily functions.