What does the vet know?

It’s worrying, but how often do vets actually know what they are talking about when it comes to hooves and feed?
Most veterinary colleges are geared up to small animal and/or livestock work these days and the specific equine knowledge is still rooted firmly in the late 19th / early 20th century. True, we have a vast range of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and pain killers these days but even those are often applied in a surprisingly unscientific way.
Only this week, I came across a horse which, according to the vet, had been trimmed (by a regular farrier) too short… There rests the first question, what is too short? If you mean the sole has been cut away, yes, but trimming back to sole level is not “short”. Prescribing Phenylbutazone (bute), he showed even less knowledge – you cannot relieve contact discomfort with an anti-inflammatory.
Furthermore he prescribed avoidance of hard ground for at least 4 weeks and soaking in soda at least twice a day. What a horse needs in these circumstances is quite the opposite – movement will stimulate the regrowth of the hoof and also harden off the soft sole tissue that is so sensitive. Soda will only keep this tissue soft and sensitive.
In this case, the owner believes implicitly in the vet (and the farrier is no longer welcome!) who has now changed his advice… Because the horse was refusing to leave his stall yesterday (banged up for 14 hours) the vet came and looked him over again and decided it was equine exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER), also known as azoturia or Monday Morning Disease. The treatment for this is vitamin E and plenty of movement.
I don’t blame the vet for changing his advice but it does rather make a mockery of his first diagnosis and treatment…
What this all boils down to is don’t just believe every word your vet says. He is not an expert in every field of veterinary medicine and furthermore, his horse-related education is very restricted. If your horse has problems after trimming, call the trimmer first. He probably knows as much about horses feet as all the local vets put together. If you use a traditional farrier, at least give him a chance to come and see for himself what has happened (the training for farriers, not dissimilar from that of vets, also sadly remains stuck in the early 20th century).

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