Veterinarian Shortage, State Of  Equine Medicine Today

Posted by Joyce Harman, DVM, MRCVS on Apr 25th 2024

Veterinarian Shortage, State Of Equine Medicine Today

You may have heard about the shortage of equine vets, and may have experienced it, or may not. Whether you have had trouble getting your preferred vet out or not, it's important to understand that overall, there is an increasing shortage of equine vets in USA and perhaps in other parts of the world.

Here is a survey that was done with several important take-aways. Most people were having no difficulty or just having to wait longer than normal. But the smaller numbers of people who experienced severe difficulties, especially in some of the more rural areas become very important if you are one of them and it's your horse that is sick.

Part of the reason is that older vets are retiring or cutting back on emergency hours, while younger vets are burning out and leaving the profession within 3-5 years. Students are headed for small animal jobs, rather than the harder work of equine practice. As this pattern continues, the number of vets available is headed for a decrease, without a good replacement plan. Veterinary schools are trying to change this, but it's going to be a very slow process.

What to do?

The best defense is a good offence. Sixty six percent of the respondents to the survey have expanded their first aid kit. See below for the elements of a holistic firs aid kit. One of the best things you can do is to have your horse as healthy as possible. This means working on your nutritional plan to optimize health and decrease the need for a vet to treat an illness. (Obviously the self-destruct button that horses have will still require vet visits).

To optimize health, my complete nutrition course will guide you towards health and away from depending on your vet.

Look around your farm and think about places horses could self-destruct. That loose fence/stall board you have been meaning to fix, the gate that doesn’t latch right, that nail sticking out in the run-in shed…. etc. Think about pasture mates that do not get along, junk that has piled up in the corner or along the aisle walls.

Create a complete first aid kit

There are plenty of first aid kit checklists online such as this one. Look around and make you own checklist, then review its contents twice a year. Drugs tend to go out of date, though in a pinch most drugs can be used past their expiration date if kept in a dark and reasonably cool place (not inside your horse trailer in the summer). You need a good supply of bandages (they don't go out of date), tape and Vetrap type material (it can get old and not be very useful).

Now for the good stuff in a first aid kit

You didn’t think I would let you get stuck with just drugs in your kit, did you? In reality, many natural products keep much better and can treat more things safely than the drugs can. But there is no harm in having drugs in your kit. Homeopathic remedies do not go out of date, despite having an expiration date on them (the FDA makes them put it there, but you can use remedies that are 20-50 years old).

Homeopathic remedies

Homeopathy can treat many conditions very successfully. The more you learn about this branch of healing, the more tools you have available and since they keep well, you will always have them. My Homeopathic First Aid guide should be in every barn. It goes through most things you can treat yourself and is quick and easy to use. You can select a few main remedies to keep on hand or acquire a fairly complete set that allows you to treat a wide range of conditions, based on your comfort level.

Main remedies everyone should have (30C potency)

All remedies are given as 6—8 tabs, 1-3 times a day depending on the severity (see the book for details on giving remedies).

Arnica- for any and all trauma. You will never be wrong giving Arnica after an injury, even if in a couple of days, you need something different.

Phosphorus- for bleeding. Any injury that has excessive bleeding can be helped with phosphorus. It can help slow or stop bleeding. If the bleeding is serious, give it every 15 minutes.

Aconite- For a sudden onset of a fever, or a serious mental scare (fireworks, roof blowing off the run-in shed in windstorm, etc..)

Hepar Sulph- This remedy is very useful if a wound appears to get infected by becoming red, swollen, and painful to touch. It almost acts like a homeopathic antibiotic (not really but it heals up infections).

Apis Melifica- For bee stings and insect bites that red, swollen and feel better with cold compresses.

Ledum Palustra- For puncture wounds, tick bites, Lyme disease, and insect or animal bites especially if the tissue seems cool to touch rather hot and inflamed.

Bach Flower Remedy

Rescue Remedy is a flower remedy for stress, flight or fight type of stress. 10 drops into a water bucket or into a horse’s mouth directly can calm nerves and settle a panicked horse. It can help around a colic, not directly with the colic but the stress which in turn helps settle the gut. It's also useful for the human when the horse gets hurt – helps calm the human so you can deal with the injury or colic.

Hemp and CBD

CBD made from the hemp plant can also be a part of an emergency kit. As with all herbs, the shelf life is much shorter than homeopathics, usually a couple years in a barn situation. So, if you have it in your kit, when you do the 6-month check, you might take the CBD out and think of a use for it. CBD is an excellent pain reliever and anti-stress compound. It's great to start horses on before the fireworks in July, before shipping if the horse is a worrier. It's also great for old horses and dogs, so it's possible to find a critter to benefit from your CBD if you need to replace it in your kit.

For the uses and benefits of CBD check out my sister website, where I have my CBD products.

There are many more things you can have in a first aid kit, but these are the key ones that will come in handy most frequently. Learn as much as you can so you can help your own horse in case a veterinarian is not right at hand.