We remain open to provide care for your pets. We are following the direction of government and regulatory authorities and have implemented hospital and visit protocols to keep both you and our team safe. For regular updates on our hours and visit protocols, please follow our social media platforms.

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Equine Botulism

What is botulism?

Botulism is a syndrome that is caused by a neuromuscular toxin, that is produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. This organism is found in soil and needs an environment that does not have oxygen to grow and produce the toxin. Horses are very sensitive to the botulism toxin.

How can my horse get botulism?
The most common way for an adult horse to get botulism is by eating the toxin that has already been formed in the forage. Decaying vegetation and animal carcasses that are present in an environment without oxygen, provide the perfect conditions for the bacteria to grow and produce the toxin. Round baled hay, haylage, and silage are the biggest culprits for creating the needed environment. However, other sources of forage and grain have also been implicated. Less commonly, horses may develop signs of botulism when ingested spores of the bacteria germinate within the intestine, or if a deep wound becomes contaminated with the spores.

What clinical signs are associated with botulism?
Clinical signs of botulism can start 24 hours to 7 days after the horse has the toxin in its system. If left untreated, botulism is usually fatal. Initial signs may include weakness, trembling, inability to retract tongue, drooling, difficulty eating/swallowing, stiff short gait, and flaccid tail. These signs progress to difficulty breathing, partial paralysis, recumbency, and death. The onset of these signs may be very rapid with death occurring within hours or may appear over several days. The more gradual the development of signs the better the prognosis for survival, however, it will take weeks to months to recover.

Is there a treatment for botulism?
The treatment for botulism consists mainly of intense medical management involving IV fluids, nutritional and respiratory support, and general nursing care. Secondary infections that arise, may be treated with antibiotics. An antitoxin is available and may be useful in the very early stages of the disease, or for those who are suspected to be at risk for developing botulism. However, the antitoxin only binds the toxin that is present in the circulation. The antitoxin will not reverse the binding of the toxin to the nerves.

Is there a way to prevent my horse from getting botulism?
Yes! If your horses are fed round baled hay or haylage, the best way to prevent them from getting botulism is to vaccinate. Initial vaccination requires three doses given at monthly intervals. After this initial series is complete, a booster is given on a yearly basis.

Written by Dr. Danielle Doubleday, DVM

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COVID-19: Additional measures we are taking

Dear Clients,

Due to the close contact that our work requires, we have taken additional measures to protect you and our team while providing care for your furry family members.

The following changes are effective as of Wednesday, March 18, 2020:

1. We are currently operating a “closed reception area” policy to protect our clients and staff. When you arrive, please remain in your vehicle and use your cell phone to please call the number posted on our windows. We will take a history from outside of your vehicle, and bring your pet into the clinic for an examination with the veterinarian. We will then return to your vehicle with your pet to discuss our recommended treatment plan. If you do not have a cell phone please knock our door to let us know you have arrived and then return to your vehicle.

2. We are continuing to accept appointments for urgent or sick pets and equine, as well as time-sensitive vaccinations. All other services will be scheduled for a later time.

3. We are still OPEN with the following hours: Monday to Friday: 8:00 am - 7:30 pm. Saturday: 8:00 am - 3:00 pm and Sunday: CLOSED

4. If you are ordering food or medications, please allow 3-5 business days as our suppliers are dealing with increased demand and are trying to fill orders as quickly as possible. We will advise you as soon as your order arrives. Please call us when you arrive to pick up your order, but do not enter the hospital. Our staff will bring your order to your car and take payment over the phone. You can also use our online store and have your food delivered directly to your home. To sign up for the online store, visit our website.

5. For the time being, we are not accepting cash as payment. Credit cards and debit card payments are still available.

Following the recommendations of our government and medical experts, we are doing our best to practice social distancing within the constraints of our roles. As such, we have taken measures to avoid both contracting and facilitating the spread of this virus.

Thank you for helping us be diligent for everyone's safety. As we have heard from all levels of government, the situation is fluid and any updates will be provided as changes occur.

- Your dedicated team at Avon Animal Hospital