The internet is a good resource for learning about horse care—but when your horse’s health is at stake, call the veterinarian first and surf the web later. Equine practitioners are used to getting telephone calls like this and are equipped to respond quickly:

“Please help! My 10-year-old Quarter Horse has been down in the pasture for two days and won’t get up. What should I do?”


“A week ago I saw my horse bitten by a skunk in broad daylight. I dressed the wounds, but after searching the Internet, I’m concerned about rabies. Should I vaccinate him?”

In these cases, the downed horse scenario was emailed to the editor of a national horse magazine; the skunk bite incident was emailed to an extension veterinarian in a state 500 miles away from the horse and owner.

The advice was the same in both cases: “Call your veterinarian immediately!”

We are in an information-rich technological society where people can find virtually anything (fact and fiction) on the internet. Too often, people check out their animals’ symptoms in chat rooms and at horse health sites, trying to make a diagnosis. In the cases above, “experts” for a free email consultation are also found online. With the advent of some internet sites selling prescription veterinary drugs without a legal veterinary prescription, individuals can try “cheaper” ways of treating animals without paying for the veterinarian’s farm call and expertise.

Inherent dangers loom in shaving corners this tightly.

In the above cases, a horse that is down for two days is in serious trouble, and a veterinarian should have been called as soon it was determined the horse was recumbent and unable to rise. After 48 hours, veterinary treatment for such a case will have a significant cost, even if the horse can be saved.

Any domesticated animal bitten by a wild animal needs to be evaluated by a veterinarian. Skunks are nocturnal animals, and movement during the day is abnormal behavior, warranting suspicion of rabies, especially in endemic states. All animal mouths teem with bacteria, and serious bacterial infections can result from bites as well.

A working relationship with a veterinarian can save money in the long run. With an initial visit, a comprehensive, individualized vaccination and deworming program can be designed, eliminating guesswork by the owner and the using of products that might not be needed in his or her locale. According to the latest research, there is no one-size-fits-all for vaccination and deworming programs. In cases of horse death or abortion, veterinarians can submit samples to diagnostic laboratories for a proper diagnosis in an effort to prevent further cases. With complex, unusual cases, the farm veterinarian can access expertise from veterinary specialists at universities or specialty practices with a phone call, an option generally unavailable to a horse owner.

Establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship with your local practitioner is the most cost-effective way to ensure the health and welfare of horses.

Reprinted from Equine Disease Quarterly.