Thursday, May 22, 2008

Eastern Encephalitis reported in St Johns County

There is a report on of a horse with Eastern Equine Encephalitis in St Johns county. EEE also called sleeping sickness ,like the other encephalitis viruses (Western,Venezuelan and West Nile) are transmitted by mosquitoes . The reservoir for the virus are birds. Once bitten by mosquitoes the virus is then transmitted to any animal that the mosquito chooses to feed on next. Horses are acutely susceptible to the encephalitis viruses and are at increased risk since they are outside (without the benefit of clothes) most of the day. Humans in the nudist colony would be equally susceptible. Since there is now a positive case we know that the virus is in the local bird population
and horses are at risk. The vaccine is very effective at preventing infection but the peak immunity is only up to 4 months. This means that all horses should have a booster vaccine this summer, 4 months after their previous vaccine. This should protect them until their fall vaccinations. The WNV vaccine has been shown to be protective for 1 year and shouldn't require a booster.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Horse Slaughter: instead they are turning them loose in the Ocala National Forest

I just heard a disturbing comment from a friend in Ocala. Since the national uproar over horse slaughter caused the closure of the last plants in Texas ,there has been a problem with unwanted horses. It now appears that those horse are being released into the Ocala National Forest. With rising feed cost ( the idiotic plan of using corn for fuel production) some owners must be unable to feed some of these horses and opt to turn them loose. I haven't been able to confirm this report but they were adamant. I will check with other sources and see if this is true, if so it can't be good for the horses ( thoroughbreds) ....they aren't mustangs.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Purina feed recall announced-Aflatoxin confirmed

There have been several horse show signs of acute liver dysfunction recently while eating Purina feeds. The company seems to have jumped on this quickly and found an aflatoxin (mold toxin) contamination from one of their suppliers. It only affects 3 of their plants and the North eastern United States.The following states are under the recall, Connecticut; Delaware; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New York; North Carolina; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; More info on Aflatoxins can be found HERE.
" Aflatoxins are potent toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, immunosuppressive agents, produced as secondary metabolites by the fungus Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus on variety of food products. Among 18 different types of aflatoxins identified, major members are aflatoxin B1, B2, G1 and G2. Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) is normally predominant in amount in cultures as well as in food products. Pure AFB1 is pale-white to yellow crystalline, odorless solid. Aflatoxins are soluble in methanol, chloroform, actone, acetonitrile. A. flavus typically produces AFB1 and AFB2, where as A. parasiticus produce AFG1 and AFG2 as well as AFB1 and AFB2. Four other aflatoxins M1, M2, B2A, G2A which may be produced in minor amounts were subsequently isolated from cultures of A. flavus and A. parasiticus. A number of closely related compounds namely aflatoxin GM1, parasiticol and aflatoxicol are also produced by A. flavus. Aflatoxin M1and M2 are major metabolites of aflatoxin B1 and B2 respectively, found in milk of animals that have consumed feed contaminated with aflatoxins. "

The following is a letter from Purina describing what steps have been taken and who is effected.

Land O’Lakes Purina Feed

Eastern U.S. Voluntary Feed Product Retrieval

Our recent aflatoxin-related voluntary feed product retrieval has resulted in a number of questions from animal owners and veterinary professionals.

Updated information on this situation is provided below.

§ In mid-February our own incoming ingredient testing and routine state regulatory testing simultaneously indicated aflatoxin above FDA action levels in certain feeds manufactured at our Statesville, North Carolina feed plant.

o We immediately implemented an internal investigation and testing regimen to

determine which products might be affected and, as a precautionary measure,

initiated a voluntary retrieval of affected products (February 14, 2008) even prior to

receiving all testing results.

§ Our investigation indicated a single ingredient from a single supplier, serving three eastern plants (Statesville, N.C.; Harrisburg, Penn.; Guilderland, N.Y.), as the aflatoxin source.

Note: No other plants are involved in the product retrieval.

o We suspended purchases from this supplier and, as additional testing was

conducted, appropriately expanded the voluntary product retrieval to include specific

products, produced during specific time frames at these plants.

o Only products distributed in the following eastern states are included in the retrieval: Connecticut; Delaware; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New York; North Carolina; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina;

Vermont; Virginia; West Virginia; eastern Tennessee; northern Georgia.

§ Products manufactured at these plants after the following dates are NOT included in the voluntary retrieval: February 8, 2008, Harrisburg and Statesville; March 10, 2008, Guilderland.

§ The decision was made to implement the product retrieval through local dealers, whose firsthand relationships and knowledge of customer purchasing patterns offered the best opportunity to get information regarding specific products and lot numbers to potentially affected customers as quickly and clearly as possible. Dealers have been responsive and helpful throughout the process.

§ As of the date of this posting, we have no confirmed cases of aflatoxin-related animal health issues. We continue to urge customers with concerns about their animals to contact local veterinarians.

§ We deeply regret the concern this situation may be causing for our customers and for their veterinary professionals. We are continually evaluating measures to further strengthen our quality programs. Animal health and welfare, along with customer trust and confidence, remain our utmost priorities.

· If you have further questions, contact our veterinary website

· For a list of products included in the voluntary retrieval, see our website at

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Eight Bells-Where do we go from here?

The AAEP list serve ( American Association of Equine Practitioners) has been having a vigorous debate about the tragic death of Eight Bells and where we need to pursue changes to help prevent these catastrophic injuries. While the statistics show only a 0.2% occurrence rate , it is still awful when it happens. Unfortunately many pundits are stating opinion and not science and filling the 24 hour news cycle with talk about what is wrong with the racing industry. I'm sure there are those that don't like horse racing or people doing anything with a horse for that matter (ie.PETA). Thats OK, it's there opinion....I don't like soccer, so we're even. The public needs to be made aware of all the oversight that occurs during a horse race, from drug testing to physical exams . Video of each race is reviewed by the stewards to look for any action that is deemed to be abusive or dangerous, which can lead to fines or suspensions. I'm not sure why Veterinarians are perceived as somehow responsible for these catastrophic injuries. Perhaps it's associated with older books and movies that present Veterinarians as doing anything to get the horse to the track, similar to the team doctor in sports movies that push the needle to get the player onto the playing field. This could not be further from the truth. We as Veterinarians must do everything within our power to resist the pressure from our clients to "get the horse back as quick as possible". In a way we are like the bartender that serves the last drink, if we medicate an injury and let the horse compete when it is still weakened then we have done a disservice. At higher level performance sports I'm sure the existence of some level of injury/discomfort is always present, from muscular pain to joint and foot pain, just as in the NFL. The difference is the horse can't say what might be there in the background. We must find better diagnostics that can be used as screening procedures . While I admit that I don't think these will ever stop such injuries from happening they may find some occult problem and be able to stop them from becoming career ending.
The Veterinary community is working constantly to find ways to prevent injuries to performance animals with many changes already implemented. The following is a list of current suggestions on the AAEP list serve posted by Dr Gary Norwood that will hopefully yield results in the future.

-AAEP started the "On Call" program to better explain these injuries to the public

-the RMTC is working on medication issues that will lead to better regulations and uniformity

- track surfaces are being studied...hoping that a safer surface will eventually be discovered

-encourage more turf racing at longer distances

-we have increased the thoroughness of and the number of tracks doing pre-race exams

-post mortem programs like those done in California could and should be expanded

-the injury reporting system recently initiated is way overdue and all tracks should be required to participate

-prevention of catastrophic injuries by use of better imaging equipment, ie: digital, scintigraphy, ultrasound, MRI, etc.

-directing more monies toward research on cause, prevention and treatment of these injuries

-better analysis of bloodlines and breeding that lead to higher incidences of injuries

-should the Triple Crown schedule be changed?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Eight Bells -Tragedy strikes again 1 year later

Like everyone else I was amazed at the performance of Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby and terribly saddened at the tragic loss of eight bells. Here we are almost a year after Barbaro was injured and the racing industry suffers another setback and the fans must witness another heartache.
Sadly another thing to come from this is the media whirlwind that has spun up creating an endless stream of stories about the dangers of horse racing and all that is wrong. PETA has even taken the opportunity to grab some headlines at the fillies expense by saying the jockey should be suspended , implying "he must have known something was wrong" and that the winnings for 2nd place should be withheld. They complained about the use of the crop saying " the merciless whipping of the horse". First you must realize that the average jockey is not much bigger than most 8th graders (no offense) , is perched atop a 12oo lb animal going faster than 30mph while reaching behind them to "whip" a horse. The crop is a signal to go....since yelling GO just doesn't work that well. You don't see them whipping them at the start....only when they need to make a move. The jockey finds a gap or has to move past another horse and needs the horse to accelerate and signals them to do so. If the horse has nothing left, then they just have nothing left and no amount of whipping is going to make them go faster....and all jockeys know this. In the case of Eight bells you can see that the horse is moving well ,has her ears up and is not falling behind or getting passed. She moves freely through the finish and is near the 1/4 pole when she goes down. She fractured one fetlock exposing the bone and also a sesamoid bone on the other . Unfortunately there is nothing that can be done with these cases. There is literally no leg to stand on. When the fetlock joint breaks down there is a tremendous amount of soft tissue damage as well. The flexor tendons are frequently torn as are the palmar digital nerves and arteries. So on top of the fractured bone you also have a compromised blood supply and poor innervation. Since the horse puts 60% of their body weight on the front legs you have 600-700 lbs of weight on damaged limbs....not a good combination. As with Barbaro, it would be great if you could do surgery and then confine them to bed rest as if it were you or I, but the horse has to stand and has to do so right after surgery. The horses musculature and chest size won't allow them to remain recumbent for long. While these types of injuries have been around for along time and happen even in the paddock ( we lost a clients horse to a fetlock fracture this weekend) the claim that "well, this just happens" won't cut it. Every meeting I go to have sessions on just this subject, trying to find answers. I'm not sure what is needed but mindless reporters and those with political agenda's sure are not the answer. Perhaps shortening the distance (although Barbaro was within the 1st half mile) or changing the surface may be considered. We may need to limit the racing by 2 year olds . All TB's are considered 2 years old on January 1st. Perhaps if we use the actual birthday you could be racing horses that are 2 1/2 coming 3 in prep races and 3 1/2 coming 4 on derby day.This may not even have any effect as suggested in some studies. Whatever is done I hope it is dictated by science and not panic or pressure( especially from the likes of PETA) since you never make good decisions under those circumstances and you could be ruining the careers of jockeys and trainers everywhere.