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.

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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.

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.

 

Ringbone

By: Katie Jones, CVT

­Your riding horse has just been diagnosed with ringbone, a degenerative disorder which affects pastern and coffin joints and has no cure. Before you automatically write him off as a pasture ornament, please consider the related advances in diagnosis, treatment, and shoeing practices. Due to advancements, this condition is no longer an automatic career-ending diagnosis.

What is Ringbone? Ringbone is exostosis (bone growth) which affects the pastern and Ring Bone 1coffin joint in the horse.   Ringbone is considered an osteoarthritic condition; there are two classifications. The first is “high ringbone”. This occurs on the lower end of the larger pastern or the upper portion of the small pastern bone. The second is “low ringbone”. As the name implies, it occurs on the lower part of the small pastern bone or the upper portion of the coffin bone. Ringbone can range from a mild to severe case dependent on how the horse handles pain. Ringbone is most commonly found in the front legs; typically one leg will be worse then the other. In addition, it is most commonly seen in mature horses in intensive work routines.

The cause of ringbone varies. Excessive tension on tendons and ligaments of the pastern area can strain the membrane covering the outer surface of the bone (periosteum) causing stretching or tearing of the soft tissue structures. This then can lead to the joint becoming unstable due to the injury, ultimately causing new bone to be produced to immobilize the joint.   This immobilization relieves inflammation within the joint capsule and leads to the development of osteoarthritis in the joint. If this is occurring, pain continues until the joint is completely immobilized (fussed). Another cause of ringbone can be poor showing and conformation issues. Conformational issues such as long sloping pastern angels, upright pasterns, long toes with high heels, overall unbalanced feet, and conditions such as splayed feet or pigeon toes, can all predispose a horse to ringbone. Due to the angle issues associated with foot conformational issues, uneven stress on the pastern, coffin joint, and soft tissues structures which surround the joint can be seen. The time it takes for this damage to form the build-up of bone will vary based on the severity of the initial trauma.

Ringbone2The process of confirming the presence of ringbone should start with a thorough lameness exam. Based on flexion tests, joint blocks may be performed to confirm the causing pain is originating from either the coffin or pastern joint. Once the lameness exam is complete, the veterinarian will typically recommend radiographs be taken of the area. Radiographs are used to show boney changes in the joint surface, which should otherwise be smooth.

Ringbone is degenerative, but can be managed. Treatment plans are geared, not to cure it, but aimed at slowing down the process of boney growth and alleviating the pain it causes. Some of the treatment options available are: proper shoeing, NSAIDs to relieve pain and inflammation in the joints, joint injections, shockwave therapy, or in more advance cases, joints can be fused. The rate of degeneration and the amount of damage seen when a horse is diagnosed with Ringbone will influence which treatment option a veterinarian recommends for a specific patient.

Though Ringbone can limit or compromise a horse’s ability to do its job, early diagnosis and corrective measures can help prevent it from becoming more advanced. If you have concerns regarding ringbone or if your horse may have it, please contact your local veterinarian to schedule a lameness evaluation.