The Animal Health Bulletin
Healing Springs Animal Hospital
Serving Family & Farm Since 1979
Dogs, Cats, Equine, Bovine, Small Ruminants, Camelid
Healing Springs Animal Hospital
107 Nuckolls Curve Rd
Galax, VA
(276) 236-5103


Volume II, Issue IX

September 2006


        Easily Preventable Cancer in Dogs & Cats

        Vaccinations for Pregnant Mares

        Founder & Laminitis in Horses (reader requested)



Pet Portals Login






Easily Preventable Cancer in Dogs & Cats


Dog's Chance of Mammary CancerDid you know that more than half of all tumors found in female dogs are easily preventable?  With a prevalence of greater than 26%, mammary tumors (breast cancer) are the most common tumors in female dogs who have not been spayed.  However, when dogs are spayed before their first heat, the chance of developing mammary cancer drops to 0.05% (1 in 10,000 vs. 1 in 4).  Dogs spayed after their first heat have an 8% chance of developing mammary cancer, and dogs spayed after their second heat have a 26% chance of developing mammary cancer.  Pet owners who have no intention of breeding should spay their female dogs before their first heat to help control unwanted pet population and to help protect the long-term health of the dog.


Mammary tumors have been found in dogs as young as two years of age, but mammary cancer occurs most often in dogs between five and ten years of age.  A female dog has ten mammary glands, each with its own nipple.  Mammary tumors in dogs can develop in any of the glands / nipples, but it develops most often in the four glands / nipples closest to the tail.  When mammary tumors first appear in dogs, they feel like small rocks under the skin.  They feel hard to the touch and do not move around easily.  Tumors may also feel like diffuse swelling.  These tumors can metastasize and spread to the lymph nodes.  Tumors that have spread to the lymph nodes can also be palpated (palpated means felt and detected by the hand).  The lymph nodes most often involved are those at the top of the legs, the axillary and inguinal lymph nodes.  Think of the dog as having armpits, and this is where you will find the lymph nodes in question.  Owners can palpate the mammary areas and lymph node areas of dogs and cats periodically to check for the presence of tumors, but it is also helpful to have your veterinarian palpate the pet during routine wellness screenings.


The treatment for mammary cancer is surgery.  If surgery is performed early in the course of the disease, the cancer can be fully eliminated in over 50% of the cases having a malignancy.  Mammary cancers can grow and spread rapidly.  The promptness of surgery greatly affects the prognosis.  If you suspect mammary tumors in your dog or cat, call Healing Springs right away – this is not a wait and see problem. 


Veterinary oncology is changing rapidly, and new therapies are becoming available at an impressive rate.  For this reason, the vets of Healing Springs usually recommend a consultation with a board certified oncologist once a cancer diagnosis is made.  This usually involves a trip to Carolina Veterinary Specialists or NC State in Raleigh.  If the oncologist recommends chemotherapy or other treatments, the vets of Healing Springs can coordinate with the oncologist and administer and monitor the treatments locally.


Mammary Cancer in Cats:  At 1 in 4,000, mammary cancer in cats is far less prevalent than mammary cancer in dogs.  Unfortunately, when mammary cancer develops in cats, it is far more likely to be an aggressive, malignant variety with a poor prognosis.  Up to 65% of mammary tumors surgically removed from cats will reoccur within 12 months.  Cats who receive aggressive treatment on small tumors that were caught early sometimes live two to three years.  As with dogs, spaying cats before the first heat cycle greatly reduces the chance of mammary cancer.



At the Animal Shelter, Adoption Equals Rescue





















The Twin Counties Euthanize 2,653 dogs and cats in 2004


Twin County Humane Society
Davis-Bourne Inn Independence

Twin County Humane Society

Semi-Annual Membership Meeting & Brunch


Davis-Bourne Inn will provide brunch from 10AM to 1PM

November 4th

The cost of only $30 per person includes your 2007 membership, all-you-can-eat brunch, tax, and tip.  Please mark your calendars now and plan to join us for fun and fellowship.  Send checks to Twin County Humane Society at PO Box 125, Hillsville, VA 24325.  Deadline Oct 25.


Visit the TCHS Website

Visit the Davis-Bourne Inn online




Vaccinations for Pregnant Mares


The vaccination needs of pregnant mares differ from the vaccination needs of mares without foal.  As disease prevalence and environmental conditions vary from region to region, the vaccination schedule you might see in a book or magazine can be slightly off from what will be best for your horse.  Here is the vaccination schedule currently recommended by the vets of Healing Springs for horses in southwest Virginia and northwest North Carolina.  The typical gestation period for a mare is 330 days / 11 months. 



At Five Months:

·        Rhinopneumonitis

At Seven Months:

·        Rhinopneumonitis

At Nine Months:

·        Rhinopneumonitis

4-6 Weeks Before Due Date (Yearly Boosters):

·        Eastern / Western Encephalitis

·        Tetanus

·        Flu

·        West Nile Virus

·        Rabies

For more information on these vaccinations and the diseases they prevent, see the Animal Health Bulletin on Foal Vaccinations.

Click Here




To begin vaccinations for your pregnant mare, simply call Healing Springs at (276) 236-5103.  A veterinarian can travel to you (click here to see the large animal service area covering VA & NC), or you can save a trip fee by bringing your horse into our large animal receiving facility.





Founder & Laminitis in Horses


Founder and laminitis occur most often in the spring, but as some readers are well aware, founder can strike any time of year, regardless of grass conditions.  Vets and horse owners alike often use the terms founder and laminitis interchangeably, but this is not technically correct.  Laminitis refers to problems with the laminae (the tissue inside the hoof walls).  Founder is an old sailors’ term meaning “to sink.”  The original meaning of founder was specific to the sinking of the foot bones to a lower position.  Therefore, technically speaking, laminitis causes founder, and they are not the same thing. 


Acute founder or laminitis is an emergency.  A difference of 30 minutes can change the outcome for your horse.  Horse owners should know the signs of laminitis, so they will be able to call Healing Springs promptly.













Do you know about the Iron Mountain Trail Riders Club?

Press Release























Two Positive Coggins in Pulaski County, VA





















Track Your Horse’s Vaccination Status with Healing Springs’ Pet Portals Feature













Founder Diagram

Understanding the Anatomy:  The bottom bone of a horse’s leg is the coffin bone.  The hoof surrounds the coffin bone, but does not attach directly.  A tissue called the lamina connects the coffin bone to the hoof (the plural form of lamina is laminae).  The lamina connects the coffin bone to the hoof walls but not to the sole.  This connection strategy helps the horse distribute percussive force over the whole of the strong hoof walls and protects the sensitive soles.  When the lamina is damaged, it can no longer hold up the whole weight of the horse, and the coffin bone begins to sink (founder).  A strong tendon connects to the back of the coffin bone, the deep digital flexor tendon.  As the coffin bone tries to sink downward, the tendon holds up the back of the coffin bone, and the coffin bone rotates forward.  Horses find the pressure on the soft tissues extremely painful.  In severe cases, the horse can walk out of its hoof or the coffin bone can penetrate the sole.


The Causes of Laminitis:  Laminitis can result from a variety of causes.  However, some horses develop laminitis for no discernable reason.

·        Eating too much carbohydrate-rich grass clippings, lush pasture, or grain:  People often use the term “grass founder” to refer to the laminitis and founder that develops from over-consumption of lush pasture.  In these cases, the over-eating of grass or grains changes the microbial environment in the intestines.  These changes lead to the release of bacterial toxins into the bloodstream.  The toxins disrupt the normal blood flow to the hoof, and laminitis results.  Too much grass consumption serves as the most common cause of laminitis and founder.

·        Horses getting into feed bins and eating too much grain at once

·        Reproductive difficulties in mares including retained placenta

·        Excessive concussion of the feet (often called “road founder”)

·        Cushing’s Disease

·        Equine Metabolic Syndrome (popularly referred to as peripheral Cushing’s):  this refers to insulin resistance.  Horses with insulin resistance can develop grass founder at any time of year, even when the pasture is far from lush.  The unusual blood chemistry negatively affects circulation, especially at the feet.  At the owner’s request, Healing Springs can conduct blood testing to confirm the presence of Equine Metabolic Syndrome.  Horses with insulin resistance require a low-sugar diet.  This situation is analogous to diabetes in humans and a diabetic’s risk for poorly healing pressure sores on the feet.

·        Prolonged use of high dose corticosteroids

·        Stressful conditions including colic

·        Any illness that causes a high fever or diarrhea such as Potomac horse fever

·        Standing on black walnut shavings


Preventing Laminitis: 

·        Don’t let your horse get overweight.  The weight puts extra stress on the lamina, and gaining weight may be a sign that your horse is getting too much grass or grain.

·        Avoid lush pastures.  When pastures are lush, used paddocks and/or limited turnout time.

·        Double protect grain.  Keep it in closed bins and in a room with a closed door.  If your horse gets into grain and consumes an unusual quantity, do not wait for signs of laminitis to appear.  Call Healing Springs immediately.  Veterinarian administered treatments of mineral oil through a nasogastric tube, anti-inflammatory / toxin binding medication, and antibiotics can prevent laminitis from occurring.

·        Avoid stress.  When routines need to be changed, change them gradually.

·        When feeding needs to be changed, especially where grass is involved, make changes gradually.  If you are moving a horse from a low grass environment or an unknown environment (i.e. buying a new horse), keep the horse in a small paddock to graze before releasing it suddenly to a grassy pasture. 

·        When cooling down a hot horse, do not allow it to drink too much cold water too fast.  Control water intake when the horse is hot.  However, giving horses free access to clean, fresh water at all other times can prevent colic. 

·        Understand that large draft breeds, ponies, horses with thick, cresty necks, and horses with a history of laminitis are those most prone to laminitis.  Be especially careful with these horses.  Lines around the hoof walls may be a sign of chronic laminitis in horses.


Recognizing Laminitis:  Know the signs of laminitis listed below.  When you identify signs of laminitis, call Healing Springs  immediately and request an emergency visit.  Some horses exhibit high pain tolerance and do not show these antalgic (away from pain) behaviors until laminitis is advanced.

·        Sore front feet.  Laminitis can affect the back feet, but the front feet bear 60% of a horse’s weight while the back feet bear only 40% of the horse’s weight.  Laminitis most often affects both front feet at the same time.

·        “Founder Stance”: when standing, the horse will extend its front legs forward and push on the heels while leaning on its rear legs.  The horse does this to reduce pressure on the front feet and to reduce pain.

·        Steps shorten and become slower, making the horse look stiff.

·        The horse voluntarily soaks its front feet in cold, running water.

·        The horse frequently shifts weight from one foot to another.

·        The horse spends a lot of time lying down.

·        Reluctance to walk

·        Begins turning by leaning back and pivoting in the rear legs.

·        The horse pulls both front legs and back legs in towards each other, under the center of its body.  This sign indicates that both front and back feet are involved.

·        Heavy breathing and glazed eyes due to pain

·        The feet feel hot.

·        The digital artery, which you can find over the fetlock joint, has a pounding pulse.

·        Rings on the hooves may indicate chronic laminitis.

·        In advanced stages of laminitis, blood or serum may ooze from the coronary band (the place where hair meets the hoof wall).


Treating Laminitis: 

1.     When you notice signs of laminitis, call Healing Springs immediately.  Many laminitis experts believe that most of the damage done by laminitis occurs within the first few hours of onset.

2.     Most cases of laminitis are treatable, but outcomes are highly variable.  Even horses that seem to be recovering can take a turn for the worse.  A veterinarian will only be able to give you a prognosis (tell you the odds) after a thorough evaluation.  The degree of rotation of the coffin bone and the rate of change serve as the primary prognostic indicators.  Healing Springs uses portable x-ray machines to evaluate the position of the coffin bone.  A rotation of greater than 12 degrees generally correlates with a poor prognosis.  A rotation of greater than six degrees correlates with a low likelihood of return to athletic activity.  Some horses affected by laminitis eventually require euthanasia. 

3.     If the vet instructs you to do so, or if you are not in the Healing Springs emergency service area and a vet consult is not available, it may be beneficial to provide bute – up to 2 grams per 1,000 lbs twice daily.  Do not attempt to treat laminitis on your own when veterinary care is available.  There are too many treatment options that you will not be able to provide without ongoing veterinary evaluation.

4.     While waiting for the veterinarian to arrive, you may want to encourage your horse to walk.  Some authorities suggest that walking reduces pain and increases circulation to the tissues that desperately need circulation.  Others express concern that walking adds pressure to tissues that need rest, and the issue is debatable.  If you choose to walk your horse, let the horse’s pain be your guide.  Encourage your horse to walk, but do not force your horse to walk.

5.     Medical treatment may include mineral oil, anti-inflammatory / toxin binding medication, antibiotics, pain relievers, fluids, draining of abscesses, and radiographic evaluation.

6.     After verifying the exact problem affecting your horse (some other hoof problems can mimic laminitis), your vet can recommend a farrier or work with your preferred farrier.  Expertly applied heart bar shoes or other shoe strategies may prove beneficial. 

7.     Keep laminitis horses on a soft surface such as sand or shavings.





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Galax, VA  24333


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