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Veterinary Corner 10/98
by Frosty Franklin, DVM
Edgecliff Equine Hospital
S. 1322 Park Road, Spokane, WA 99212 * 509/924-6069

Providing veterinary care for miniature horses is an exciting and challenging addition to equine medicine. Two health issues that are of great importance to miniature horse owners are dental care and reproductive care. Dental pathology is very common in miniature horses as are reproductive problems. In order to lessen any confusion about these topics and give mini horse owners easy to follow guidelines, we have adapted an excerpt from Dr. Katherine Burnett's Miniature Horse Care- A Veterinary Guide. Keep in mind that these are only guidelines. If you are experiencing a situation that is not clearly defined in the following article, please do not hesitate to call your veterinarian for further assistance.


At birth: The veterinarian should check the incisors for proper bite alignment, noting any over- or underbites.

0-12 Months: The farm manager should check the bite (incisor alignment) monthly. Any overbite or underbite that is off by more than 1/4 tooth should be examined by a veterinarian if it does not resolve on its own within two months. If the bite is persistently abnormal, then the veterinarian may need to gently file off any uneven surfaces on the incisors and molars. This procedure is most effective if performed by ten months of age. Smoothing the teeth allows the jaws to slide more freely and will often allow the bite to correct.

2-3.5 Years: At this age, deciduous (baby) incisors and molars are erupting and shedding from the mouth as the permanent teeth erupt and push them out. Deciduous molars are called "caps" when their roots dissolve and they are about to shed. Sometimes they are retained, that is, they remain adhered to the permanent tooth after the permanent tooth has started to erupt through the gum. Facial swelling below the eyes, as well as localized sinus infections and blocked tear ducts (runny eyes) can result. Removing caps is a simple procedure that helps relieve symptoms and restores the face to its normal shape. NOTE: A persistent single bump below the eye should be examined. It may be a deformed tooth or tooth root.

Adults: Any mini that is dropping grain, spitting out balls of hay, retaining feed in its cheeks, eating slowly, or not maintaining its weight should have a thorough dental examination. Equine dentistry has progressed tremendously in recent years, and many dental problems that were once incurable can now be corrected. All miniatures, even those without apparent problems, should have an annual dental examination. Neglected dental problems can lead to tooth decay, tooth loss, chronic weight loss and severe discomfort for the animal.


Miniature mares have a much higher rate of pregnancy loss than other breeds. For this reason, it is imperative that pregnant mares receive excellent care for the duration of their pregnancies.

4-6 weeks after last day of breeding: Your veterinarian should palpate* or ultrasound the mare to confirm pregnancy. If pregnancy is confirmed, start the mare on 1/2lb. of a grain mix formulated specifically for pregnancy. Continue your routine deworming program using pyrantel and/or ivermectin. Avoid moxidectin (Quest).

5 months: It is necessary to have your veterinarian palpate* or ultrasound your mare again to confirm pregnancy because early pregnancy loss is so common in miniature horses. Vaccinate for rhinopneumonitis.

7 months: Vaccinate for rhinopneumonitis.

9-1/2 months: Vaccinate for rhinopneumonitis, influenza, tetanus, encephalomyelitis, and rabies. Ask your veterinarian to give you a list of supplies you will need for the foaling. Start stalling the mare at night and when unattended for long periods during the day.

*There is no evidence that palpation or ultrasound causes abortion in the miniature mare. The examination in conducted in the rectum; the uterus and cervix are not manipulated during the procedure. The procedure does not invade the vagina, cervix, or uterus; the veterinarian gently feels the surface of the uterine wall through the rectal wall. It is natural to assume that if an abortion takes place within days or weeks after a palpation that the palpation is to blame. With pregnancy loss rates as high as 31%, this is bound to happen fairly often as a coincidence.

Some equine veterinarians will have trouble palpating miniature mares because the minis are so small and the veterinarian's hands are too big. In order to eliminate this problem, we have been using an ultrasound technique developed by a doctor in Virginia. Using a modified balling gun, the ultrasound probe is inserted into the rectum allowing the veterinarian to scan the uterus for pregnancy. We have found this technique to be very accurate and comfortable for the mini mares. We have confirmed numerous pregnancies using this ultrasound technique, a few as early as 18-23 days post breeding.

Miniature horses are quickly becoming very popular in our country. As their popularity continues to grow, so will advances in miniature equine veterinary medicine. As with any horse, please consult your veterinarian if you are experiencing problems, or if you just need questions answered.


Recent events have prompted me to write this article as an "alert" to all Miniature Horse owners about a very serious condition called "Hyperlipemia". I had never heard of this particular malady until just a few months ago when a couple of my friends had Minis come down with this, and came very close to losing them! I have since read of many, many others on the internet who have had experiences with the same condition...and in most cases, the Minis died! In this day & age of e-mail, world-wide web, surfing the net, etc, etc...we are all much more "connected" to people all over the country (not to mention the world!) One lady who was experiencing Hyperlipemia with her Mini mare wanted to learn more...and requested, on line, that others who had similar experiences to please contact her. She was shocked at the number of responses she received. 36 Minis were affected (27 mares & 9 colts/stallions). 13 lived....23 DIED!

Rare condition? I don't think so! Just think of all the people out there that she didn't hear from!

I am not a veterinarian, and this article by no means should be taken as a substitute for your own vet's expertise. This article is just to give everyone a basic understanding of this serious problem, and alert Miniature owners to the symptoms. Call your vet immediately upon suspicion of this condition! Hopefully, other Miniatures will be saved in the future by educating owners how to recognize Hyperlipemia.


Hyperlipemia is generally considered a rare occurrence in full-sized horses, but is proving to be otherwise in Miniatures & ponies! This malady usually comes on very suddenly and can be fatal if not diagnosed rapidly and treated very aggressively...
within just a day or so!

The word Hyperlipemia itself means "over-active or excessive fat". For some reason the body calls on its fat reserves and doesn't "turn off" like it normally should. The fat quickly begins entering the bloodstream and overloads the liver, which results in damage to the liver or complete liver failure & death if not treated promptly. Triglyceride levels are high, kidney function poor, low blood sugar & so on.

This seems to be a "stress" induced condition. For any number of reasons, such as foaling or being in late stage pregnancy, excessive weight (although, thin horses can get this also!), colic, transportation, internal parasites, change of diet, etc., etc....the horse gets "depressed" and stops eating. (They are usually not interested in grain, hay, pasture....nothing!) Depression, weakness, staggering or reluctance to move, glassy eyes, edema (lump in front of belly button) are all potential signs to watch for. Mares who have recently foaled or who are lactating appear to be the highest risk group!

When the horse stops eating, it triggers the fat reserves into action & then won't stop unless you get proper treatment & can get the horse eating again. Some horses with this condition may first be diagnosed (in error) with just low blood sugar...but with Hyperlipemia, complete & proper diagnosis followed by IMMEDIATE treatment is imperative if the horse is to live! So, anyone who has a horse who is acting depressed & has stopped eating for more than a day or so, should immediately suspect Hyperlipemia & have their vet run a series of blood tests.

Diagnosis of this condition is through a variety of blood tests. Treatment is to break down the excess fat in the bloodstream and to stop the release of fat from the body tissues. And, it's imperative to get the horse eating again and/or provide nutrition to the horse via I-V feeding. Insulin and glucose are used to keep the body from releasing more fat into the blood stream. Heparin (an angi-coagulant) is used to break down the fat that is already in the bloodstream. Treatments can get exotic depending on how advanced the condition has become and your particular vet's methods. Make no bones about it...Hyperlipemia is most definitely a scary, life-threatening condition that comes on quickly & demands immediate attention to save the horse!

But, as grim as this all sounds...remember that Miniatures are a particularly hardy breed...even when it looks hopeless, don't ever give up! One lady whose pregnant Mini mare "Mundy" came down with this and was tested to have a triglyceride level of 3100, was told that NO horse had ever lived with a triglyceride level over 1200! Well, miracle of miracles...this tough little mare DID make it by the grace of God & several weeks of expert, intensive treatment at the vet's clinic...and of course, the loving dedication of her owner! And to top it off, "Mundy" went on to foal a beautiful, healthy little filly just a couple of weeks after returning home from the clinic! The "toughness" of these little horses never cease to amaze me!

In closing...I believe Hyperlipemia is turning out to be much more common in the Miniature breed than originally thought. I also think that a condition as serious as this warrants further investigation & research to see just how big of a problem this is, and possibly finding ways to reduce the number of horses affected. Losing even one Miniature "friend" is tragic...especially when that friend is yours!

(dedicated to "Mundy" and her "Miracle Filly")
submitted by: Dona Neargarder - Kickapoo Acres Miniature Horses



Frost Hill Farm Miniatures
Hampstead, NH
Karen Rudolph,

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