I went out to a farm last week to treat a colicky horse. Colic is a general term that means abdominal pain, and there are dozens of reasons for a horse to colic. I found the horse rolling around kicking up dust; he would whinny and thrash, get up kicking at his side, then throw himself down. He was in a lot of pain. I opened my drug box and started drawing up meds for pain control and sedation. I then found out that this horse had not been de-wormed in a long while, and there were new foals in a neighboring pasture. I saw these young horses over the fence, coughing. We got the horse on a halter; I gave him a skin twitch to distract him, and then gave him the drugs in his jugular vein. After about an hour and a few hundred dollars in treatment, the horse felt much better. A fecal test revealed a massive amount of roundworm eggs.
A few days later, a different client came in very upset because her kitten vomited up a small thin hair-like thing that was moving. Turns out it was also a roundworm. Roundworms are parasites that infest our gastrointestinal tracts. These parasites migrate from the intestines through the liver and into the lungs, so you might see coughing in a young horse, or even a worm coughed up by a kitten. Roundworms can be passed from the dam to puppies, and cats can pick them up by eating insects. The old thinking was that we would give medications to kill the parasites every year, or sooner, and that would prevent the animal from having the issue. Unfortunately, the veterinary and parasitology community are finding that intestinal parasites are becoming resistant to these medications. We now recommend that animals have fecal examinations every year to see if de-worming needs to be done. In horses, that means annual fecal egg counts and strategic de-worming. In cats and dogs, that means annual fecal flotation to look for parasites.
We have excellent drugs out now that make treating diseases so much easier than in past decades. The problem is that bugs are amazingly adaptable at evolving to resist the drugs we throw at them. Given enough time and sheer numbers, some of these parasites will survive and not be affected by our drugs. To slow down that process, get with a good veterinarian to determine a responsible, effective parasite plan for your animals.
Dr. Carlton served four years in the United States Army as a Veterinary Corps Officer. He honed his clinical skill set working on these unique animal populations, and brings that special knowledge to the community at Jarrell Animal Hospital. Dr. Carlton is a member of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, American Association of Equine Practitioners, Texas Veterinary Medical Association, and he continues to serve in the United States Army Reserve.
Jarrell Animal Hospital
191 Town Center Blvd. Jarrell
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Dr. Carlton will share news and views for your pets and animal friends as a regular writer for City Insider. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org