What to expect at a North Wind Equine appointment
**Changes in Protocol due to COVID-19**
These are the changes we have made to our protocols in order to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 when interacting with people outside your household. As always, these risks are never zero. If you are feeling ill, have a fever, or have been in contact with someone you believe is infected with COVID-19, please postpone your appointment for 14 days.
At this time:
1. One person should be chosen to handle all the horses who will be seen at the appointment.
2. We will be wearing masks while we are on your property. The person who is handling horses for the appointment should also wear a mask as horses sometimes have their own ideas about our plans to stay 6 feet away from each other.
3. If possible, please have your horse ready for us in a stall or paddock without a halter on. We will use our halter and lead rope. If such a space is not available, we will leave your halter on and switch to our lead rope while a horse is tied/held.
4. Only North Wind Equine employees may enter our trailer. We are happy to take pictures/video so that owners, friends, family, etc. can see what we are seeing inside the horse’s mouth. The person who is attending the appointment may stand outside the trailer door at a safe distance for updates if they like. We are happy to update any owners who cannot be present for the appointment by phone or email.
5. According to your preference, we can email you your paperwork or print it out as normal. We are still accepting cash, check, or credit cards.
6. While we appreciate everyone’s natural instinct to help, please refrain from touching trailer doors, halters, etc. while we are loading, unloading, and handling horses unless instructed to do so. If you need to get our attention, please shout rather than knocking on the trailer doors.
7. Please keep in mind that we may be required by local authorities to postpone appointments in the event of a surge in the virus.
8. On our end, we will be carrying a hand-washing station, screening staff for fevers/other symptoms daily, wearing masks, and following the CDC’s disinfection protocols.
Each veterinarian at North Wind Equine travels with a horse trailer that has been retrofitted to accommodate one horse along with our instruments and equipment with enough room left for owners to have a seat and be involved with the appointment. Working out of a trailer allows us to create a lower stress, consistent environment where the patient is securely positioned in a set of padded stocks.
When we arrive at your farm, we will need about 10 minutes to get set up (a little longer in winter). You can help by directing the veterinarian to the best place to park, keeping in mind that the trailer needs to be fairly level and near a functional electrical outlet (we will bring a 100-foot extension cord). We will also need access to water for the appointment. Warm or hot water is greatly appreciated, though we do carry water heaters if needed. In the summer, access to a hose can be very helpful.
The basis of good dental care is a thorough examination. To accomplish this, all patients need to be sedated. A physical examination is performed on each animal outside the trailer to ensure they are healthy enough for sedation. Then, the patient is given a dose of sedation prior to loading in the trailer. Every equid is additionally given an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) to decrease inflammation and soreness associated with having their mouth open for an extended period of time. If your horse has gastric ulcers or is currently on an NSAID (for example, bute or equioxx), please let us know before the appointment so that we can adjust their medications accordingly.
Once the patient is sedated, the mouth is rinsed to remove all food before proceeding with either survey radiography (x-rays) or a full oral examination. The mouth is held open using an oral speculum. With a good light, a variety of dental probes, and a mirror, all 36-44 teeth (the exact number of teeth per patient depends on gender and the presence of wolf teeth), can be examined individually and as a whole. A thorough evaluation of all soft tissue structures and periodontal (gum) health is also performed during our comprehensive exam. Once problems have been identified, a plan for further diagnostics (such as radiographs) and/or treatments (such as at-home care or tooth extractions) can be made. Some diagnostics and treatments may be performed at the same appointment. If an advanced procedure (usually tooth extraction) is recommended and you choose to move forward with the recommendation, in most instances this treatment will be performed at a second appointment. It is important to remember that the teeth are living, changing structures and can be damaged by overly aggressive work. The goal of equine dentistry is to remove as little tooth as necessary to give the horse a comfortable and functional mouth.
Animals are kept in the trailer until they are awake enough to safely back out. The average time a patient is in the trailer is about 60 minutes, depending on the amount of work done and how long the horse takes to wake up.
Because the sedative is still active and inhibits the horse's ability to swallow and react, animals need to stay in a safe environment with no hay or grain for about 1 hour after leaving the trailer. This can be a stall or a paddock where no other horses can pick on them. In most instances, after the hour is up, the animal can go back to their regular feed and environment. Occasionally, due to the specific treatment that was performed, different post-appointment accommodations may be needed and you will be provided with detailed instructions. To ensure the sedation has fully worn off, equids should not be ridden or worked for the rest of the day after their dental appointment.