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Equine And Large Animal

Owning large animals, such as horses, cattle, sheep or other herd animals, can be a rewarding experience. However, they aren’t just like ‘big dogs’. They require a bit of knowledge, a lot more space, proper handling, appropriate feeding and different medical care.
It is important to ensure that your animals are checked daily for signs of poor or declining health, and to ensure they are eating and drinking.
Ensure your tack and equipment are kept clean.
Ensure that you have a quality worming and vaccination protocol for all animals.
For animals that are confined to yards or stables, manure and soiled bedding will need to be removed twice daily, and water refreshed.
Control vermin and insects that may spread disease.
If you are allowing other people to ageist their animals on your property, it is very important that you ensure they too are following the same procedures diligently.
If you are bringing new large animals onto your property, there are a few basic rules that should be adhered to, to ensure the continued health of your current stock;
The new animal(s) should be isolated for a minimum of two weeks, even if they are showing no signs of disease/illness.
Handle your other animals, prior to handling your isolated animals.
Wash hands and arms thoroughly, and change clothes following contact with isolated animals.
Use separate equipment for your isolated animals.
Check isolated animals twice daily for feed/water intake and any signs of illness.
If you are allowing visitors onto your property, please ensure that they adhere to the same hygiene practices as yourself, especially if they have large animals of their own.
If your horse is sick:
Immediately isolate it from other animals.
Wash and disinfect any equipment or tack that has come into contact with the isolated animal.
Wash hands and arms thoroughly, and change clothes following contact.
Contact your veterinarian.
There are certain diseases that are reportable to Biosecurity Queensland and can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website: www.daf.qld.gov.au

Hendra Virus Policy:

* HERVEY BAY IS A HENDRA POSITIVE AREA * Policy on horses and Hendra Virus vaccination Hendra virus (HeV) is a fatal disease in horses and in humans. Mortality (death) rate in horses known to have contracted Hendra virus is 100%. The mortality rate in humans is 60%. Veterinarians and their staff are the most at risk of contracting Hendra virus and they account for all but one of the human cases. Hervey Bay Veterinary Surgery has an obligation to its clients and staff to protect and advise them on the best way of preventing disease in horses and people. Worksafe Queensland, Queensland Health and Biosecurity Queensland have developed extensive guidelines for all parties involved with the handling horses and potential HeV cases. The information is freely available on their web sites. There is a large range of clinical signs possible in horses that have contracted HeV. Horses with HeV have been variously diagnosed with colic, snake-bite, “choke”, or have been vaguely unwell. Infected horses have had a normal, high or low temperature. In other words any horse that is acutely unwell, that may have an elevated temperature or heart rate, colic, neurological signs, respiratory secretions or disease, inappetence, or any debilitating condition could be a Hendra virus case. In recent cases there has been no known activity of flying foxes. There are many important consequences related to HeV that need to be considered by all people involved in handling horses:

  1. There is a known and serious risk of injury or deathbecause of this virus. Although infection is not common, the consequences are very serious including death of horses and people. HeV is categorised as a “BSL-4” virus (Bio-safety Level 4 - the same as Ebola Virus)
  2. Any horse that is unwell must also be considered at risk of having HeV. Therefore an unvaccinated horse cannot be admitted to hospital, or have invasive diagnostic procedures or treatments performed until a negative exclusion test has been received. It is not possible to diagnose nor rule out HeV on a sick horse without an exclusion test from Biosecurity Queensland. This requires sending samples to Brisbane with results taking between two and up to five days if over a weekend. This time delay dangerously limits treatment options for seriously unwell horses and exposes people and other horses to significant risks. The ‘Hendra Interagency Technical Working Group’ has deemed that ‘if HeV cannot be ruled out as a diagnosis, risk controls should be implemented before anyone contacts a sick horse, not after initial examination.’

Vaccination is the best way of preventing Hendra virus infection in horses and people.  HeV vaccination is considered to be safe and effective. Over 250, 000 doses have now been administered and the rate of complications is very low (0.28%). The most common complication is a swelling at the injection site, or a raised temperature or malaise (off food) for 24 hours. There have been no reported repercussions in breeding horses. We STRONGLY recommend that vaccination be carried out on all unvaccinated horses for the safety of the horse, the client and their families, and our staff. From the 1st September 2015 Hervey Bay Veterinary Surgery will be adhering to the following guidelines in relation to sick horses that are NOT vaccinated for HeV:

  1. Sick, unvaccinated equids (horses & donkeys) will not be seen by Hervey Bay Veterinary Surgery. This will include foals < 4 months old from unvaccinated mothers.
  2. High risk procedures such as those using an endoscope and dental equipment will only be carried out on clinically well horses that are vaccinated.
  3. We will not attend any Horse events unless they are a compulsory HeV vaccination event.
  4. Any unvaccinated horses that are down and require immediate veterinary attention will only be attended to when the welfare of the animal is severely compromised. These animals will most likely need to be euthanased. An exclusion test will be performed and the attending veterinarian will be required to wear Personal Protective Equipment which entails additional cost.

Information for horse owners: https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industries/farms-fishing-forestry/agriculture/livestock/horses/hendra-virus Hendra Virus Infection in Humans http://conditions.health.qld.gov.au/HealthCondition/condition/14/217/363/Hendra-Virus-Infection

With safety requirements tightening for veterinarians and the human danger that the Hendra virus poses, vaccination is more important than ever. If you are getting ready to purchase a horse, or just want the know the Hendra vaccination status of your own horses, please follow this link to the Hendra Vaccination Register and enter the microchip number of the horse in question. Details provided will be the horses’ name and the protection status only. No personal information is provided. https://www.health4horses.com.au/About/Hendra-Vaccination-Lookup/

Vaccination For Horses

Vaccinating your horse is one of the most essential actions you can take to protect the health of your horse. The easiest way to make sure your horse is up-to-date with their vaccinations, is to contact your vet for advice. There are many diseases that can be prevented by simply using a vaccine - Tetanus, Strangles, Salmonella, Herpes, and Hendra Virus. Our friendly equine team will talk you through the common diseases found in the Warwick area and develop a vaccination plan that covers all your horse’s needs.

Oral Health for Your Horse

Horses have 36-40 teeth which are constantly erupting. The top jaw is wider than the bottom jaw, and the cheek teeth in the back of the mouth are used in a circular motion to grind feed. Together this can result in sharp points on the outside of the upper teeth and the inside of the lower teeth, which cause pain to the horse and ultimately problems with performance and digesting of feed.

Worming Your Horse

Unfortunately no horse is worm free. Even if you pick up your horse droppings from the field, some will still make it into your pasture and a grazing horse may ingest worm eggs and larvae as a result. The only way to manage worms is to have an effective worming regime. The good news is that it is easy to plan a whole year’s worth of worming for your horse. Wormer’s come in either paste or in a syringe. Alternatively, we can stomach tube your horse to ensure that the medicine is not dropped out of the mouth with a bolus of grass. The dose of the syringe is measured out for you, they are easy to read and are calculated on your horse’s weight. Powder forms need to be mixed into their feed. Whatever type of wormer you choose it is vital to remember to worm for the correct time of year and always keep a written record and get a regular check-up with your vet.

Common signs of dental disease:

Head shaking

Rearing or bucking

Resistance to turning in one direction

Dropping feed


Regular dental evaluation and treatment is crucial for all horses from top level performance horses to paddock ponies. The veterinarians at the Warwick Vet Clinic will sedate your horse to examine your horse’s mouth thoroughly using a Powerfloat (high speed dental drill) to correct your horses’ mouth.

Tips for checking if your horse needs its teeth floated

  1. With the horse’s mouth closed, lift the lips and examine its bite
  2. Line up the gap between the first pair of top teeth with the gap between the first pair of bottom teeth
  3. Holding the top jaw still, slide the lower jaw as far to the left as the horse will allow, without having the opposing teeth separate from each other
  4. Now slide the lower jaw as far to the right as the horse will allow, without having the opposing teeth separate from each other
  5. The gap between the first pair of teeth on the lower jaw, should be able to move the distance of one tooth away from its starting point
  6. If you cannot slide the jaw a distance of one tooth left and right (whilst the teeth are still touching each other), then your horse most probably has sharp enamel points and needs a dental with the Powerfloat

Horse Nutrition

Maintaining an appropriate balanced diet is important for the health of your horse. Horses require clean, high-quality feed, provided at regular intervals, and may become ill if subjected to abrupt changes in their diets.
Like all animals, horses require five main classes of nutrients to survive: water, energy (primarily in the form of fats and carbohydrates) proteins, vitamins and minerals.


It is critically important for horses to have access to a fresh, clean, and adequate supply of water. Horses can only live a few days without water, becoming dangerously dehydrated if they lose 8 – 10% of their natural body water. Water plays an important part in digestion. The forages and grains horses eat are mixed with saliva in the mouth to make a moist bolus that can be easily swallowed.

Vitamins and Minerals

Horses should be given a diet of fresh, green, leafy forages and high-quality grains and oats to ensure they are receiving all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Horses that are subjected to hard work, receiving low-quality hay, under stress or not eating well may benefit from commercially prepared vitamin and mineral supplements in their diet. Horses are also sensitive to moulds and toxins. For this reason, they must never be fed contaminated fermentable materials such as lawn clippings.

Energy and Proteins

Nutritional sources of energy are fat and carbohydrates. Horses that are heavily exercised, growing, pregnant or lactating need increased energy and protein in their diet. Carbohydrates, the main energy and are usually fed in the form of hay, grass and grain. Soluble carbohydrates such as starches and sugars are readily broken down to glucose in the small intestine and absorbed. Fat exists in low levels in plants and can be added to increase the energy density of the diet. Protein is used in all parts of the body, especially muscle, blood, hormones, hooves and hair cells. The main building blocks of protein are amino acids. Most adult horses only require 8 – 10% protein in their diet; however, higher protein is important for lactating mares and young growing foals.


Many people like to feed horses special treats such as carrots and compressed hay pellets, sugar cubes, peppermint candies, or specially manufactured horse “cookies”. Be aware that horses do not need treats, and some horses may develop behavioural issues if given too many treats. Horses are also sensitive to moulds and toxins. For this reason, they must never be fed contaminated fermentable materials such as lawn clippings.



There are a number of vaccines for cattle on the market. You will need to develop a vaccine plan that incorporates what you need for your herd. There are three types of vaccine, which are used differently. Live vaccines give long immunity with one dose, while inactivated vaccines need a booster dose to maintain immunity. Anti-toxins give immediate short-term immunity. Commonly used vaccines for cattle

Tick fever

Tick fever is one of the most common causes of loss in Queensland. There are three types of tick fever and vaccines are produced to protect cattle against all three. Tick fever vaccination should be used routinely with weaners, introduced stock or in non-affected cattle when an outbreak has occurred.

Clostridial diseases

This includes blackleg, malignant oedema, black disease, tetanus and enterotoxaemia. These are usually fatal diseases in unvaccinated stock. A `5 in 1′ vaccine is commonly used but monovalent and bivalent vaccines are also available.


A clostridial disease mostly associated with chewing bones and carrion in phosphate-deficient country, responsible for significant losses. For full protection, annual booster doses are required.


Causes abortions, stillborn or weak calves, death in young calves and mastitis in dairy cows. Occurs in wetter areas with feral pig populations.

Campylobacteriosis (Vibriosis)

Causes infertility and abortions. Vaccination may leave persistent lumps at site.

Ephemeral Fever

A viral disease transmitted by flying insects. It occurs in epidemics in the warmer months of the year.


A viral disease which can cause early embryonic death, calf losses, diarrhea and abortion.


A vaccine against the bacterium which causes blight in cattle of any age.


Research has shown that de-worming the herd prior to, or shortly after turn out, can increase weaning weights. Consult your veterinarian for the best vaccination and de-worming protocol for your herd.

Cattle are commonly infected with Roundworms. Peak risk periods for worm infection occur during the warm and wet conditions from spring through to autumn, which provide the right environment for larvae to survive in the pasture and infect stock. The life-cycle of most worm species slows over the cooler, drier winter period, but rainfall at any time can boost worm numbers.

Roundworm species include:
• Small intestinal worm (Cooperia spp)
• Barber’s Pole Worm (Haemonchus placei)
• Small brown stomach worm (Ostertagia ostertagia)


Pyrolizidine Alkaloids

Pyrolizidine alkaloids, found in blue heliotrops, are a common plant toxin found in the Warwick area and cattle may be forced to feed on these toxic plants in drought condition. They exert their toxic effect in cells of the liver (lung and kidney) by inhibiting cell division. Large nonfunctioning cells develop in the liver (megalocytes) which can then inhibit the organs ability to function properly.

Mild diarrhea, abdominal straining followed by anorexia, depression, weakness and ataxia can develop after eating plants containing this compound. Jaundice and bottle jaw may develop at the end stages of this disease with mortalities likely to develop after a few weeks of exposure.

There is no known effective cure for this disease and generally the condition of the cattle continually deteriorates. Preventing access to known poisonous plants (Crotalaria spp.) is encouraged.


Nitrates in the diet of livestock (oats, corn, sorghum, barley, wheat) can be converted in the rumen to nitrite and then ammonia. Nitrite can rapidly oxidize oxyhaemoglobin (carries oxygen in the blood stream) to methaemoglobin (unable transport oxygen), and when the levels reach above 20% in the bloodstream, tissue anoxia results leading to cell death and clinical signs.

Cattle will become short of breath, they develop a dull colour in their mucous membranes and their blood will appear quite brown (chocolate coloured). They may have muscle tremors, weakness and lie down. At high methaemoglobin levels (80%) cattle usually die.

Treatment if given early can be successful. The methaemoglobin can be reversed with methylene blue given into the vein of affected cattle. A long with holding period on the milk and meat usually is required following treatment.

Cyanogenic Glycoside

Prussic acid or cyanide poisoning (HCN) can develop in cattle when feeding grain sorghum. Seen mainly during summer, HCN can be released in the rumen from the plant to inhibit the cellular processes which allow tissues to use oxygen properly. Tissues are starved of oxygen and die.

Acute cyanide poisoning is characterised by rapid, deep breathing, irregular weak heart rate, salivation, muscle spasms and death. The clinical signs seen early usually include the appearance of bright red coloured blood due to the high levels of oxyhaemoglobin in the circulation. The amount of cyanide found in plants can vary if the improved pasture is stressed with inclement weather.

Treatment if given early can be successful. Therapy usually requires the use of sodium nitrite to convert blood to methaemoglobin which acts as a sink for the cyanide. Cyanomethaemoglobin can then be broken down by simultaneously treating the animal with sodium thiosulphate (Hypo) orally.


Botulism is a disease caused by the botulinum toxin. It is commonly seen in the phosphorus deficient areas of northern Australia; however, reports of botulism have become more frequent in parts of Queensland. Most of these outbreaks have been in intensively fed beef and dairy cattle.

Botulinum toxin is often reported as being one of the most potent toxins known to mankind, as only a small quantity is required to produce disease. The toxin binds strongly to nerve endings, preventing nerve impulses proceeding to muscles. This leads to the type of paralysis typically seen with botulism where animals go floppy or flaccid because they cannot move their muscles.

Botulism symptoms include:
• Sudden deaths (animals collapse and die in a couple of hours)
• A slowly progressive paralysis where animals may take days to die
• A wobbly gait (staggers)
• Aggressive behaviour
• Difficulty breathing
• Tongue paralysis

Toxins in the water

Cattle can tolerate poor water quality better than humans, but if concentrations of specific compounds found in water are high enough, cattle can be affected. Most factors affecting water quality are not fatal to cattle.

Cattle may not show clinical signs of illness, but growth, lactation and reproduction may be affected, causing an economic loss to the producer.

Most common water quality problems associated with surface water are:
• Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria)
• Bacteria, viruses and parasites
• Sulphates
• Dissolved solids (TDS)

Toxins in feed

The usual sources of toxin in intensively fed cattle are feedstuffs contaminated with rotting animal or vegetable material.

Sources of rotting material in stored feed have included:
• Dead snakes and possums in grain augers.
• Snakes and other animals in hay and silage.
• Mice when mouse plagues result in large numbers of mice dying in stored feedstuffs and in grain augers, especially at the end of a plague.
• Water may also be a source of toxin if animals that die in dams, tanks or troughs are left to decompose.


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