Happy Friday the 13th! While I’m not the superstitious sort, I do sometimes find myself wondering if there’s a full moon when I’m having a particularly busy emergency night. I have some small animal practitioner friends who wonder the same thing. Weird emergencies just seem to happen more frequently when the moon is big in the sky.


This seems to be so much the case that in 2007 a study was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association examining the correlation between veterinary emergency visits and the phase of the moon. Analyzing almost 12,000 cases over a ten year period, this study found that significantly more ER visits occurred when the moon was full.


It’s been theorized that a full moon correlates to an increase in nocturnal behavior simply due to animals’ general increase in visibility. Although the 2007 study looked at only cat and dog ER visits, I could reasonably imagine a similar correlation in the farm animal world as well.


But, before we get too excited, there was another study in 2009 that looked for an association between a full moon, days of the week, and Friday the 13th in case distribution at a small animal ER clinic. This study found no correlation between moon phase or Friday the 13th in case numbers. Whew.


Regardless of studies and superstitions, I will admit to having a lucky horseshoe, although I don’t keep it for luck. Instead, it’s a nice memento from my childhood horse, a gray Connemara gelding named Wimpy. Hanging on my office wall, looking small compared to some of the horseshoes I have to remove now and then to treat a hoof abscess or more thoroughly evaluate a lameness, I’m struck by a story relating why horseshoes are considered lucky.


As the old story goes, and there are numerous variations, an English bishop named Dunstan living in the 900s a.d., who was also a blacksmith, was approached by the devil appearing as a woman. Recognizing the cloven feet, the bishop grabbed the devil by the nose with a pair of hot pliers and nailed a horseshoe to the cloven foot.


As the devil cried in pain and demanded Dunstan remove the shoe, Dunstan replied that he would only do so if the devil swore to never enter the house of anyone hanging a horseshoe outside of it. St. Dunstan is regarded as the patron saint of blacksmiths and farriers.


Although there seem to be variations also on how to hang a horseshoe in order to consider it lucky — should it hang up or down? — the general theme of luck is the same. The circumstances whereby I acquired a shoe from Wimpy were not spectacular; one day he came in from the pasture with a shoe dangling, which sometimes happens when a nail comes loose. Getting a friend to help me, we soon had the shoe off and a call was made to get the farrier out the next day to replace it. Thinking it as something nifty to have, I put it in my bedroom and have carried it in my professional life from office to office ever since. Lucky? Probably not. Meaningful to me? You bet.


Dr. Anna O'Brien


Image: Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock