Let’s face it – if you have horses, you’ll require the services of a veterinarian. It might be for anything from an emergency like colic or an injury, to the need to have blood drawn to determine if your horse is metabolically challenged.
With the shortage of large animal vets, it’s not always easy to get a good veterinarian out when you need him. Building a sound relationship goes a long way to providing peace of mind, and often, a quick response from the vet. Your job is to show you are a responsible, educated horse guardian, and that you respect the vet’s expertise and time.
Here are six ways to be a savvy client:
1. Know a true emergency from an urgent or minor issue. If you cry “wolf” too many times, your veterinarian will not trust your judgment. Remember, he is prioritizing his day’s work on the needs of his clients.
2. Ensure you instill proper manners in your horse, using natural horsemanship. Having a conflict during an examination or procedure is counterproductive, puts the veterinarian at risk, and creates stress for your horse. When our own horse Riley had a colic issue, our own vet was able to conduct a rectal examination on him without sedation – very beneficial, because in some instances sedation can be detrimental.
3. Be prepared with relevant information when you call the veterinarian. What questions your vet asks you will depend on the situation. For instance, if it’s a colic, he will probably ask you how long it has been going on. Have there been any bowel movements and if so, what do they look like? Is the horse lying down or rolling? If it’s an injury, is there blood squirting out, or is there a foreign object imbedded in the wound?
You should also know what the vital signs are, such as pulse, respiration, capillary refill and temperature (see sidebar at left). Be sure you know how to take these readings before a crisis arises.
4. Understand that veterinarians are not all-seeing. They count on you to give them essential information about your horse. They know the species, but only you know “Buck’s” normal actions, behavior and personality.
5. Put together a first aid kit and know where to find it. It should include:
• Bandage materials, including gauze and roll cotton, pressure wraps such as Ace bandage material, white and duct tape and quilt-type wraps.
• Equipment such as a stethoscope, thermometer, scissors and forceps.
• Saline solution for wound cleansing. Diluted herbal calendula solution works well too.
• Disposable diapers to be used for hoof wraps.
• Electrolyte paste.
• Complementary therapies such as Bach Rescue Remedy and basic homeopathic remedies like Aconite, Arnica, Nux vomica and Phosphorus.
Also have on hand:
• Numerous bags of frozen peas when cold therapy is needed.
• Flymasks in case of an eye injury, to protect from light and insects.
6. Follow a holistic approach but don’t discount conventional methods during an emergency. Sometimes a fast-acting pain killer or tubing with mineral oil is called for. You can always support your horse’s treatment with alternative therapies after the crisis is over, or even before the vet arrives.
We all hope we’ll never need the services of a veterinarian for a crisis, but the odds are we will. Take the time to become informed and develop a good relationship with the vet. Your horse’s life may depend on it.