COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – an update for our clients.

Seasonal opening hours for Garston farm & equine clients

Seasonal surgery opening hours

Christmas Eve 24th December – 8.30am – 5pm

Christmas Day 25th December – Emergency team

Boxing Day 26th December – Emergency team

Bank Holiday Monday 27th December – Emergency team

Bank Holiday Tuesday 28th December – Emergency team

Wednesday 29th December – Normal opening hours

Thursday 30th December – Normal opening hours

New Years Eve 31st December – 8.30am – 5pm

New Years Day 1st January – Emergency team

Sunday 2nd January – Emergency team

Monday 3rd January – Emergency team

Tuesday 4th January – Normal opening hours

Please remember to place repeat drug orders by Tuesday 21st December 2021

Emergency Care

As a client of Garston Vets you can feel confident that we are always available to deal with any veterinary emergency that may arise, day or night, including Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day.

If you have a pet emergency please call us on 01373 451115

Autumn Watch – Sycamore Poisoning & Atypical Myopathy

Atypical myopathy, known as sycamore poisoning, is a frequently fatal disease of horses in the UK caused by eating sycamore seeds, and possibly the leaves. The disease is most common in the autumn, typically around October, and often occurs as an outbreak when large numbers of seeds fall onto the pasture following bad weather. These helicopter shaped seeds fall onto the pasture and contain a toxin known as hypoglycin A (HGA) that causes severe muscle damage, in particular to the muscles that enable the horse to stand, to breathe and the heart muscle. The amount of toxin within the seeds varies, and some horses appear to be more susceptible to the disease and become sick after eating only a small number of seeds. Individual grazing habits and the condition of the pasture are also likely to determine why some horses become sick and others don’t. Even with intense veterinary treatment and hospitalisation, the survival rate is around 50% for affected horses.


What are the signs?

• Muscle soreness and stiffness
• Muscle tremors
• Reluctance to move
• Fast and laboured breathing
• Lethargy and reluctance to exercise
• Red/ brown urine
• Choke
• Colic symptoms
• Head tossing and low head carriage
• Sudden death


How is the disease confirmed and treated?

Recognising the signs early give the best chance of survival. If your horse is showing any of the symptoms above with sycamore seeds on the grazing, we often assume the diagnosis and begin treatment immediately. In particular, if your horse is passing red/ brown urine, as this is caused by a pigment released from the muscle breaking down into the urine. A more definitive diagnosis is made by taking a blood sample to check for muscle breakdown. Unfortunately there is no anti-toxin, but some medications can be used to stop the absorption of the
toxin from the intestines.

The best chances of survival are to transport the affected horse to an equine hospital for intensive care within the first 24-48 hours of symptoms. If the horse survives the first few days of treatment their chances of recovery are good, although this may take several months.



Check for sycamore trees around your fields and avoid letting horses graze pasture with over hanging sycamore trees in the autumn. The seeds can spread up to 3x the height of the tree, but this distance may increase in bad weather.
If horses have to remain on pasture with sycamore trees, fence off areas where the seeds and leaves fall, and clear them from the grass as often as possible. Ensuring there is adequate grazing, and if not supplementing with hay or haylage placed well away from the trees, will encourage horses not to eat the seeds and to graze away from the trees. Reducing stocking density on the pasture may also help ensure there is enough grass.


For more information on sycamore poisoning and atypical myopathy, or if you are concerned your horse is at risk, please contact the practice to speak to one of our equine vets for further advice.


Welcome to the equine team Kate

We’d like to introduce you to our new vet Kate, who joined our equine team this month

Kate has recently qualified from Liverpool vet school after an 8 year career in engineering before taking the plunge to study veterinary science. Outside of work, Kate is kept busy looking after her two ex-race horses George and Andie. She describes herself as a happy hacker and her favourite thing to do is ride on the beach. Look out for Kate and her cocker spaniel Maisie!

Click here to meet the rest of our expert equine team.

How to tell if it’s too hot to ride your horse

Did you know that less than 20 minutes of gentle exercise increases a horse’s body temperature to dangerous levels?
By exercising  your horse when it’s cooler and less humid you can really help to keep things cool. Don’t forget that they will need more fresh water sources and shade from full sun. Clipping long hair and installing good ventilation or an air conditioning unit in their stalls can all help to keep them comfortable, along with a nice cool hose down if things get too warm.
Signs your horse could be dehydrated:
•Dark/less urine
•Less droppings
•Dry skin
•Dry mouth
•Dull eyes
•Dark coloured gums
Signs your horse could have heat exhaustion:
•Fast & shallow breath (panting)
•Nostril flaring
•Increased rectal temperature
•Irregular heartbeat
•Reduced appetite and thirst
•Slow recovery after exercise
•Muscle spasms
•Reduced performance
If you are worried about your horse, please contact our equine team straight away.
BozMerix – A new product aimed at supporting joint function

As all horse owners are aware, there are many different products and supplements on the market to support joint health and manage arthritis in our horses, ranging from pharmaceuticals such as phenylbutazone (bute) to herbal remedies such as turmeric. 

Choosing the right therapy for your horse and how best to manage their condition, is a conversation our equine vets are always happy to have, and encourage our clients to have with us. After all each horse is unique and each case is different.  

BozMerix is a new product aimed at supporting joint function. It is a combination of naturally derived active ingredients proven to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, at a therapeutic concentration.  

It can be used in combination with drugs such as bute, or as a natural alternative where bute cannot be used or is not suitable such as during competitions.  

You can either watch the video or for further information on the ingredients, please click here

If you think your horse could benefit from BozMerix, feel free to contact the surgery to speak to one our equine vets, or alternatively you can register here to order your free samples and 30% discount voucher for your first box, and we would very much like to hear your feedback!  


“I have an 18 year old retired KWPN showjumper with arthritic changes who was becoming
increasingly grumpy in the stable. All veterinary treatment had been exhausted. I had wondered
whether discomfort might be causing some of her mood. I have tried her on BozMerix for a number
of weeks now as I want her to be as comfortable as possible, now she seems considerably less so and
generally much happier in herself. She is a fussy eater and I have no problem with adding it to her

“Our 14 year old thoroughbred, used to be used for eventing but has now stepped down to general
hacking/riding club etc. Yesterday we lunged him for the first time since starting the BozMerix and
for the first time in four months he was sound in front! Fingers crossed this carries on helping for his navicular problems.”






Spring immunisations for your horse

Springtime usually signals an increase in activity for many horses, whether that’s more time out in the paddock, more riding, competitions, transport, and generally mixing with more people and potentially other horses. More activity means more exposure to bacteria and viruses.

To give horses the best protection from serious and life-threatening diseases they should be vaccinated annually. 2020 was a particularly difficult year so if there’s a chance your vaccine schedule could be overdue, spring is the ideal time to organise immunisations for your horse. Plus, if you’re entering official competitions, you’ll need to be up to date with vaccines.

Check out our Equine Rounds and book a spring checkup

Garston Equine Vets vets routinely vaccinate horses against:

Equine Influenza
● A virus affecting the respiratory system, resulting in a high fever, runny nose, and cough.
● Typically affects young horses.
● Rarely fatal, however, it can be a very debilitating disease.

● Caused by production of endotoxins by the bacteria Clostridium tetani.
● Following a wound, if unvaccinated or overdue, horses must be given a tetanus antitoxin injection urgently to prevent tetanus infection.
● This is usually a fatal condition.

Equine Herpes Virus (EHV)
● Usually given to breeding stock.
● Common virus worldwide.
● EHV-1 causes respiratory disease in young horses, paralysis in all ages/types, and abortion in pregnant mares.
● EHV-4 causes a less severe respiratory disease, and occasionally abortion.

If you’d like to know more about equine immunisations, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and ask for advice from Garston’s equine vets.

Contact us about your horse’s vaccinations.

What is a healthy body score for your horse?

Garston’s equine vets want to emphasise the importance of knowing your horse’s body score so you can take the best care of their health and welfare.

Obesity in horses is common and puts them at risk of health issues like Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), laminitis, and arthritis. Horses tend to carry fat unevenly across their bodies (neck, shoulders, middle & quarters) even though they may have protruding ribs. Fat feels spongy whereas muscle feels firm, and crest fat is especially dangerous as it hardens after a while and can rock from side to side when walking.

You can measure a horse’s fat using a universal 5-point body scoring chart. Race horses may differ slightly, but in general a healthy fat covering is a score of 2.5 – 3 out of 5 for most horses, unless your vet advises you otherwise.

Download our horse body guide and use it alongside the descriptions below to understand where your horse scores on the chart. Be objective and honest.

Download our horse body guide

Horse body score chart descriptions:

0) Emaciated – No fatty tissue can be felt, skin is tight over the bones. The shape of individual bones are visible. The backbone and pelvis are very prominent. They have a marked ewe-neck, very sunken rump, deep cavity under the tail and a large gap between the thighs.

1) Very Thin – Barely any fatty tissue, shapes of bones are visible. They have a narrow ewe-neck and ribs are easily visible. The backbone, croup and tail head are prominent. Plus, a sunken rump, under-tail cavity, and a gap between the thighs.

2) Very Lean – A very thin layer of fat under the skin can be felt. They have a narrow neck with sharply defined muscles. The backbone is covered but still protrudes. The withers, shoulders and neck are accentuated, and the ribs are just visible. The hip bones are easily visible but rounded, and the rump slopes from the backbone to the point of hips, only rounded if very fit.

3) Healthy Weight – There is a thin layer of fat under the skin. Muscles on the neck are less defined. The shoulders and neck blend smoothly into the body. The back is flat or forms a slight ridge. The ribs are not visible but can be easily felt. The rump is beginning to appear rounded and the hip bones are just visible.

4) Fat – Muscles are hard to determine. Spongy fat is developing on the crest and behind the shoulders. The ribs and pelvis are difficult to feel and the rump is well-rounded (appears apple shaped from behind). There is spongy fat around the tail head and a gutter along the back.

5) Obese – The horse has a blocky, bloated appearance and the muscles aren’t visible. The crest is pronounced with hard fat. Pads of fat can be felt instead of rib bones. There is a deep gutter along the back and rump, and lumps of fat around the tail head. The rump is a bulging apple shape and inner thighs are pressing together.

If you think your horse’s weight is concerning or need some help determining this, request an equine visit from one of our vets who will be able to help you, and devise a plan to get your horse on the road to a better weight and health.

Get in touch

Symptoms and prevention tips for winter colic

Colic has many different types, causes and outcomes, and is the leading cause of premature equine death. It’s not always preventable, however, you can protect your horse from certain situations that predispose them to colic, such as cold weather.

What is winter colic?

Winter colic, a common condition associated with the colder months, is an impaction-colic. The horse’s intestine gets blocked with feedstuff and other material, usually from a lack of fresh water and moisture-rich fresh grass. This can be due to the horse being stabled more during the winter, and having less access to water.

Dehydration impedes gut movement, which can result in a blockage. Feed and gas build up behind the blockage, and cause distention of the horse’s intestine and associated pain. Impactions can occur anywhere throughout the intestine, however, the pelvic flexure portion of the large intestine is one of the more common sites due to the decreased diameter at this point.

Symptoms of winter colic:

– Frequently looking at their side.
– Biting/kicking their flank or belly.
– Lying down and/or rolling.
– Little or no passing of manure, fecal balls smaller than usual, and/or passing dry or mucus (slime)-covered manure.
– Poor eating behaviour (eats less grain/hay) & a change in drinking behaviour.
– Changes in vital signs – heart rate of over 45 to 50 beats per minute, tacky gums and a long capillary refill time.

If you notice any or some of these symptoms, call us on 01373 451115 for advice.

Diagnosing, treating and avoiding winter colic

Thankfully, winter colic is typically easy to diagnose, mostly during rectal palpations. Treatment normally includes painkillers, possibly a sedative, along with hydration to get things moving again. If the impaction is more severe, your horse may need to be hospitalised so that intravenous fluids can be administered.

Most horses tend to recover quickly from winter colic, but of course, it’s much better for the horse if this condition can be avoided. Garston Vets’ equine vets have this advice:

  • Provide your horse with fresh, clean water 24/7. Add some to bucket feed.
  • Introduce a scheduled daily feeding routine. If weather conditions force a change in the routine & stable usage, look for signs of colic vigilantly.
  • Feed plenty of clean, long-stemmed forage. Soak/steam hay prior to feeding.
  • Turn your horse out as much as possible.
  • Regularly check stables & fields and remove any ingestible foreign objects.

Call us on the number above if you’re concerned about your horse’s health this winter.

Understand the RCVS/BEVA’s five stage equine vetting process

Purchasing a new horse or pony can be a daunting decision and whatever the animal’s intended purpose, it’s advisable to have an expert opinion on hand to help. Our equine veterinary team at Garston Vets has helped many equine keepers over the years and are well versed on the RCVS/BEVA’s 5-stage equine vetting process. Here’s what you need to know.

Book an equine vetting

Equine vetting, or a pre-purchase examination, is a series of checks carried out by a vet to evaluate, as far as is possible by clinical examination, whether the horse or pony is fit for purpose. It should only be carried out by an experienced equine vet and could save you a lot of expense and heartache in the future.

You can request a 2-stage or 5-stage equine vetting, but it’s recommended that every horse or pony regardless of their value or cost should have one.

  • Stage 1 – Preliminary examination
  • Stage 2 – Trotting up
  • Stage 3 – Strenuous exercise
  • Stage 4 – A period of rest
  • Stage 5 – The second trot and foot examination

The vet may carry out slight variations on the RCVS/BEVA’s guided process where there are good clinical or practical reasons. Other important factors include:

  • Identification – The vet will attempt to verify the horse’s identity from a written description and diagram detailing their markings, as well as scanning for a microchip and checking their passport. A blood sample may be taken (stored up to 6 months) should further testing be required to check for potential substances in the horse’s system that could have affected the vetting process.
  • Certificate – All clinical findings & information within the horse’s documentation (includes a valid PIO passport) relevant to the veterinary opinion must be included in the certificate – copies of this information should be retained.
  • Conflict of interest – If the equine vet you choose to carry out the pre-purchase examination is the vendor’s vet also or has a personal relationship with them, the vet must disclose this. If you’re happy to continue, the vet should follow additional safeguards to ensure the vetting is fair and perceived to be fair by you.
  • An indication not a guarantee – Following a clinical examination of the horse, the equine vet will give you an indication, in their professional opinion, as to whether the horse is fit for your intended purpose. This is not a guarantee and the final purchase decision is still yours.
  • Limitations of equine vetting – If any of the five stages are omitted, the vet’s opinion can only be based on the stages carried out, which could then exclude a clinical check for signs of disease, injury or abnormality. Also, a vet cannot accurately confirm a horse’s age, or spot any vices (objectionable habits) that are not present during the pre-purchase examination, or know about any previous treatments or conditions that are not detailed in the horse’s documentation (unless they are the vendor’s vet also).

If you have questions about equine vetting, give us a call on 01373 451115 and our equine team will be happy to help.

Headshaking in horses; causes, diagnosis and treatment.

Whilst it’s a common condition in horses, because the clinical signs are not all that specific headshaking can be difficult to diagnose and treat.

If you think your horse is beginning to show signs of headshaking please contact our equine vets.

Here’s what the equine vets at Garston Vets know:

  1. It’s normally a sudden onset condition that becomes worse over time.
  2. Although in the vast majority of cases the cause is unknown, vets now think that the principal cause is facial pain.
  3. It can be triggered and exacerbated by intermittent or seasonal factors including bright sunlight, wind, rain, noise, pollen or dust.
  4. Affected horses are typically middle-aged, with geldings more frequently affected than mares.
  5. We can’t cure headshaking but we can manage it, when we have identified the triggers.

Diagnosis for Headshaking

We may undertake diagnostic tests to rule out known causes. However, as there is no reliable diagnostic test for the specific cause of headshaking, once identifiable diseases are ruled out, we tend to diagnose the condition as idiopathic (cause unknown). We do this based on the presence of characteristic clinical signs including;

  • Excessive face rubbing.
  • High or low head carriage.
  • Involuntary, sharp movements of the head.
  • Snorting (sometimes coupled with nasal discharge) or nostril clamping.
  • Distracted behaviours like striking out at the face during exercise.

Treatments for Headshaking

A number of treatments are available, all aimed at minimising the trigger factors that affect your horse. From nose nets and face masks to tinted contact lenses and various drug based treatments. Whilst these won’t cure the problem, they will minimise the clinical signs to a certain level.

What’s important is that when the condition first appears you call us so we can rule out disease, assess the causes of the now idiopathic condition and plan a relief strategy for your horse.

Contact us.

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