Risky Do-It-Yourself Care

Not that long ago deworming was only done by veterinarians. Older dewormers had narrower safety margins and passing a stomach tube wasn’t — and still isn’t — something for owners or trainers to tackle. Now just about anyone can safely and efficiently administer a paste dewormer, so vets are largely out of the picture.

But what about other aspects of care that don’t seem that difficult ??? like giving vaccines, reading fecal tests, even trimming’ Should you do it yourself’

Many people want to save money by eliminating professional fees. That’s understandable, but you’ve got to act responsibly. Look beyond something that appears simple to do. Yes, anyone can learn how to use a rasp and a hoof knife. However, it takes years of experience — not to mention a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology of the foot — to understand what different horses need and how much change can safely be made at any given time. You can’t learn this in a crash course.

Even with routine health matters, like deworming and vaccination, professional input can be valuable on regional parasite problems, drug resistances, unnecessary vaccinations and preventive measures beyond the “routine.” It doesn’t take much skill to do a fecal flotation test for parasite eggs at home, but eggs of specific species aren’t always easy to tell apart, and this can be an important consideration if a certain type of worm is developing resistance to your program. In addition, flotation tests aren’t as accurate as counts done in specialized counting chambers, nor will they detect larvae that have already hatched in a sample.

If you want to be more involved in your horse’s routine care, be sure you also involve the professionals with training and experience. If you do your own fecals, periodically have duplicate samples run through your vet’s office to make sure your results match theirs. If you do your own vaccinations, discuss vaccine brands and what ones to give with your vet, including what you would do in the event of an anaphylactic reaction. If you want to do some of your own trimming, make sure you’re working with a farrier who will still make regular visits to ensure things are going as they should.

Veterinarians, farriers and lab technicians spend years learning their jobs and being overseen and tested as they do. Don’t make the mistake of cutting them out of the picture completely or you’ll compromise the care of your horse.

-Eleanor Kellon, VMD

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