Fall Panicum Grass and Liver disease

“Panicgrass” – Fall Panicum toxicosis in horses.

In 2004, our practice was involved in documenting an important toxin for horses—fall Panicum (Panicum dichotomiflorum) grass.  This common native grass has been fed to horses in hay and in pasture probably since the Europeans first brought horses to our area.  But, while we know that it doesn’t cause illness all the time, certain growing conditions can cause it to become toxic, as it did in Nokesville, VA in 2004.  We don’t know what triggers the grass to become toxic, but we do know that it sometimes does become toxic, and the conditions are right this year. This study proved the hepatotoxicity: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/17186859/

Currently, there are several cases of liver disease in Fauquier, Clark and Loudon counties that appear to be from grazing Panicum grass in the pasture. Some signs of toxicity from eating the grasses includes: decreased appetite, lethargy, somnolence (unusual periods of sleepiness), mild colic, or neurological signs. Some horses have no symptoms at all.

If you have this plant in your pasture or if you find it in your hay cut this year, you may want to have your horses tested for liver disease; this involves a simple blood draw.  Call us at 703-754-3309 if you would like us to consult on a case you think might be panicum toxicosis, or if you just would like blood work on your horse to be sure.   You can also consult your County Extension agent if you need help with plant identification.



Panicum grass


Close up of Panicum seed heads.


Base of Panicum grass.


Fall Client Education Seminar

By popular demand, we are hosting another client education seminar on September 9, 2015!

Please join us for “Equine Vaccines and the Diseases to Protect Against” presented by Dr. Mark Crisman, DVM, MS, DACVIM, from Zoetis.

Dinner, drinks and door prizes provided!

When: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 at 6:30pm

Where: The Clubhouse at Twin Lakes Golf Course,  in the “Oaks Room”

6201 Union Mill Rd, Clifton, VA 20124

We hope you can join us! Dr. Crisman is a great speaker and has a great presentation lined up to help you understand the different equine diseases we vaccinate against.

RSVP: haymarketvet@aol.com or to 703-754-3309 or use the form below:

Schedule A Farm Visit

If you have an EMERGENCY with a horse, call 866-503-7411
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Summer Seminar- June 9, 2015

A Closer Look at PPID (Equine Cushing’s Disease)

Please join us for a fun, educational evening and learn more about PPID, also known as Equine Cushing’s Disease. Discussion will include recognizing early vs advanced stage clinical signs, diagnostics and treatment, as well as key management techniques.

Presentation by:  Dr. Scott Hancock, DVM, Equine Professional Services Veterinarian at Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.

Date: Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dinner & Social: 6:30pm

Presentation: 7pm

Location: Twin Lakes Golf Course- Oaks Room

6201 Union Mill Rd, Clifton, VA 20124

Please RSVP by June 3, 2015 to the office: 703-754-3309 or haymarketvet@aol.com

Thanks to our sponsor, Boehringer Ingelheim.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Equine Emergency

What to do in an Equine Emergency

What to do when you call:

Chances are good at some point you will see us on emergency basis, horses being accident prone creatures! If you do have to call, here are some things we will probably ask you on the phone, so you can be prepared with answers when you call:

  1. Your name. Sounds silly, but in the heat of an emergency often panicked horse owners will forget to tell us who they are.
  2. Your horse’s name and where the physical address of the barn. We start looking your information up in our computer system, but sometimes horses move and this information is not updated. Might be good to have the physical address posted at the barn, as well as some rough directions as well. Again, sounds common sense, but you would be surprised at how often we get callers who don’t know where there horse lives.
  3. What the problem is, and how long it has been happening. If you are in doubt, please call sooner rather than later!
  4. Your horse’s temperature, manure production, and if they have eaten normally. It’s a great idea to have a thermometer at the barn because this is usually one of the first questions we will ask.

Finally, if you do call us, we strive to call you back as soon as possible. PLEASE do not make other phone calls while you are waiting for the vet to call you back! We get just as anxious to talk to you and get on the road to see your horse, and often we get frustrated with busy signals or voice mail on the number we need to reach you on. We understand you need to call others when there is an emergency, but if it’s possible use a different line or wait until we have called you back.

We are available 24-7 for equine emergencies. The answering service number is 866-503- 7411. There is no charge to call, so if you are in doubt about whether your horse needs to be seen, please call!

Equine Emergency Care

For emergency care, please call 866-503-7411.

We offer emergency care for horses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Once you have spoken to the answering service at the above number, PLEASE stay off the phone so that the vet may call you back promptly! If you need to call for back up help with your horse before the vet arrives, please use another phone line.

Normal vital signs in a horse:

Temperature: 98-100.5 degrees F

Heart Rate: 24-44 beats/minute

Respiratory Rate: 8-20 breaths/minute

Mucous Membranes: moist and pink

Capillary Refill time of gums: under 2 seconds

Gut sounds: gurgling, rumbling, and tinkling sounds present both sides of abdomen

Equine Colic, Horse Colic

Equine Colic

Colic: the dread of every horse owner. But what are all these different types of equine colic you have heard us talking about? Colic is a general term for gastrointestinal pain, and there are many variations of colic in horses. There four basic problems that cause pain in the abdomen: stretching (from gas or impacted feed material), displacement of the intestine out of normal position, lack of oxygen (ischemia), or ulcerations. All these conditions are painful as you might imagine.

Gas colic: the most common type of colic. General intestinal spasms/cramping, this type usually resolves with flunixin (Banamine), and controlled re-feeding. Usually the horse feels better quickly after treatment.

Impaction colic: a blockage of feed/fecal material in the GI tract (“constipation”). This type of extremely common in cold weather when horses are not drinking enough water. Usually these colics can be treated on the farm with water and laxatives such as mineral oil via a nasogastric tube. Occasionally horses are so dehydrated they need further support with IV fluids. If the impaction doesn’t resolve with these steps, sometimes surgery is needed to open the intestine and remove the blockage.

Displacement: a movement of part of the colon out of its normal position. Sometimes these will go back into the correct position with pain control and fluids, but often the horse can need surgery.

Strangulating lipoma: usually seen in older horses, a small fatty tumor gets wrapped around a part of the small intestine and blocks it off, causing the blood supply to be cut off to that part of the intestine (ischemia). Often you will see lots of fluid and feed material (reflux) coming off the nasogastric tube. This is a surgical colic.

Torsion: this is what horsemen refer to as a “twisted gut.” The large colon is twisted on itself and blood supply is cut off to a large portion of their colon. Horses are extremely painful, and it can be very difficult to keep them on their feet. When this type of colic is diagnosed, the horse needs to get to surgical facility as quickly as possible. Often this colic has a poor prognosis.

Ulcers: these can occur in the stomach, or further back in the large colon. Usually the horse exhibits frequent bouts of mild colic, or may act uncomfortable especially after eating grain. These are diagnosed with endoscopy, and treated with anti-ulcer medications. For each one of these types of colic, there many other variations that could be listed and we could write many more blogs about each one. The horse’s gut is quite the complicated maze! The best advice we can give you is to NOT WAIT to call for a vet when your horse is uncomfortable. When in doubt, call!