Over the past five years, vet Stephen Ashdown has written many articles, spoken on equine matters and contributed widely to horse magazines.

Here he reproduces in the form of questions and answers about 100 topics, all of them common problems which afflict horses.

To access Topics click on Vet Advice Menu.

Too much Limestone
Q Every autumn my 15-year old gelding gets blood down his legs from his sheath. The vet has said that it's because there is too much limestone in the soil.

He has given antibiotics to help the problem but I have heard that giving antibiotics regularly is bad for horses. Is there anything I could give him to stop this happening?

A I think the problem is likely to be linked to mineral deposits that are building up in the bladder, although without having more details from your vet it's difficult to know exactly. It may be due to the high levels of limestone in the soil.

The trouble with stones in the bladder is they are likely to cause infection which is probably producing the blood. You can help dissolve the stones naturally by using a kidney tonic. Antibiotics are used to get rid of the infection. Antibiotics are sometimes necessary to cure bacterial infections but it's true they are over-used.

The main disadvantage to using antibiotics is that the bacteria causing the problems can become resistant to them and in the future you will not be able to treat infections so well.

Another disadvantage is that antibiotics can kill off too many helpful bacteria in the horse's bowel and cause diarrhoea. In your case it's important that your horse has antibiotics if there is infection present.

You might, however, consider means to boost the immune system so infections do not get established. You might also discuss with your vet what you can give your horse to help minerals in the bladder dissolve. It's best to use acidifying agents but, of course, if you have too much calcium in the diet it will be best to change the diet or grazing.

In order to boost the immune system try using a good formula for about one month before the problem occurs. Alternatively, try moving your horse to different grazing, even if only for the most dangerous three months of the year.


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