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More about dry weather...
More about dry weather...

THE LINGERING EFFECTS OF DUST

As I had hoped, writing an article on the affects of dust would bring rain, and has it ever!  Already we are hearing reports of improvement of the conditions which we will be describing in this article.  These conditions include the effect of dust on the eyes, skin, and feet.

The eyes are a natural harbor for dust.  Not only are they moist and attract dust like a magnet, but they are always open and are close to the source.  When the horse puts its head down to eat grass or hay, every breath brings up a cloud of dust.  The particles attach to the eye ball.  They are immediately washed away by the tears.  Their presence irritates the eye, leading to more tears.  The pooling of tears and dust under the lids of the eye lead to infection.  This infection is seen as a reddening of the normally white area under the lids.  With this comes a discharge from the corner of the eye.  This may be clear but usually is thick and cloudy.  It will wet the area below the eye, alerting us to a problem in this area.

Untreated, a chronic infection can develop, leading to damage of the eye.  Treatment consists of using an antibiotic creme to remove the bacteria.  With it is a steroid to take the inflammation out of the conjunctiva (the area around the eyeball) and reduce tearing.  The drugs are in a cream base that provides lubrication to the lids over the eye.  Treatment should continue for two days after tearing stops.  If the environmental conditions do not improve, the eye can flare up again.  As well as airborne dust, dusty hay or stalls and heavy pollen from plants can cause the same situation.

During a long dry period, the haircoat will start looking dull and dry.  This is especially true with the horse fed only pasture.  The dryness of the environment will remove oils from the surface of the skin.  Every time the horse lays down to roll, they pick up dust in the hair which further dries the skin.  The grass they are eating will also be dry and there will be a minimum of new growth.  In the older stands of grass the vitamin levels will be dropping.  Without vitamins A, C, D, and E the health of the skin suffers.  It becomes more brittle and lacks the elasticity normal skin enjoys.

These conditions can be corrected with a vitamin supplement.  My favorite for the haircoat is  Clovite.  It is the most economical and does an excellent job with the skin, hair, eyes, and feet.  It is fed in a small amount of feed with almost no problems of acceptance.  If needed for the skin, additional oil such as corn or vegetable oil can be added to the grain.  Up to four ounces can be fed.  Please keep in mind, adding oils in the diet would not be appropriate for those confined to the diet pen, as the oil is all fat!

The same dryness affecting the skin affects the feet.  The dryness will cause the walls to crack and split.  The treatment is the same plus a supplement of biotin and lysine which stimulate more rapid growth of the hoof wall.  Treatments applied directly to the surface of the hoof do little good and may actually form a barrier to absorption of water.

The frustrating situation about hooves is that, once a crack develops, it is there for a very long time.  If the crack is stopped with mechanical aids, or just because it found healthier hoof at the top, it will take months to grow out.  The hoof grows at the rate of 1/4 to ½ inch per month, and all the growth takes place from the top down.  The best sign we can hope for after a crack is present is that new hoof forms at the top and continues to grow down without being split by the crack.  Continued trimming will eventually remove the crack. .

Seasons greetings to all the horse owners and may the new year bring the best of health to you and your horses.

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