Poorly Timmy Tiptoes is improving, but he’s given a charity a biosecurity headache

Timmy was very ill, but is now improving. Photos: Blue Cross
Timmy was very ill, but is now improving. Photos: Blue Cross

A poorly Shetland pony named Timmy Tiptoes is in need of some special support from the wider community, and British pet charity Blue Cross is hoping horse lovers will come to the party.

Timmy has been terrribly ill with strangles and anaemia, the charity reports.

It has set up a Just Giving page in the hope it can raise money for his ongoing care and the management of its horse centre in the face of a lengthy quarantine procedure.

Timmy was rescued by the RSPCA and taken in by Blue Cross last month at its Burford Centre in Oxfordshire.

The bedraggled, emaciated and heartbreakingly dejected skewbald youngster, who stands just 90cm  at the withers, was battling to survive.

“On arrival Timmy was in a really sad state,” recalls Vicki Alford, horse manager at Blue Cross Burford.

“He had over grown and curled up hooves, was riddled with lice and very underweight.

“The transporter who brought him to Burford described the place where he was found as horrific – apparently there was no food or water and they were stood in mud up to their tummies. How they survived is any one’s guess.”

Timmy spent four weeks in isolation, which is standard procedure for the charity’s new intakes.

Unfortunately, Timmy became increasingly unwell. He was examined by the centre’s local vet and was admitted to the practice as an emergency patient.

He had a severe nasal discharge and his temperature, at 41 degrees, was dangerously high.

He was also anaemic, which made it more difficult for his immune system to fight the infection.

He was screened for strangles and both a blood test and a nasal swab proved positive. Strangles is a highly contagious respiratory infection, caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi.

Timmy had to be admitted to a veterinary hospital as an emergency patient, but is now back with the Blue Cross.
Timmy had to be admitted to a veterinary hospital as an emergency patient, but is now back with the Blue Cross.

Blue Cross immediately instigated its disease outbreak protocol at the Burford Centre to limit any spread of the distressing disease.

The horse unit is in lockdown with strict biosecurity measures in place.

“Timmy is now back at the Burford Centre and is much brighter,” Vicki says.

“His temperature is back to normal and the nasal discharge has cleared but he’s not out of the woods yet. He is in still in isolation, but we hope our stringent biosecurity will have stopped an outbreak it in its tracks and that the Horse Unit will be up and running again soon.”

However, managing a strangles outbreak comes at a high cost, given the rigorous safety measures that have to be undertaken. It costs the charity:

  • £5 to disinfect a stable for each horse
  • £35 for a full quarantine suit for a groom
  • £37 For a strangles blood test (approximately 100 will be needed)
  • £47 for a nasal swab (about 20 will be needed)
  • £156 for an endoscopy to check whether a horse is a strangles carrier (approximately 10 may be needed)

Those willing to help the Blue Cross with the costs of the operation, to help Timmy and assist the centre in meeting the costs of its lockdown, can donate here.

Strangles is characterised by swelling of the lymph glands below the horse’s throat, which subsequently develop into abscesses.

Other symptoms are a thick nasal discharge, often accompanied by a weak cough, a high fever and a generally unwell appearance.

Immediate veterinary advice, together with careful nursing, strict isolation and scrupulous hygiene are of vital importance.

A horse contracts the strangles infection though direct contact with an infected horse or indirectly through contamination in the surrounding area.

All horses that have been in contact with an infected horse should be monitored twice daily for signs of fever and the onset of infection.


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