Horses - Health & Nutrition Thu, 12 Sep 2013 19:47:00 GMT Osteoarthritis - Why it Occurs and What to Look For Thu, 12 Sep 2013 19:47:00 GMT <p> Osteoarthritis is a chronic, degenerative joint disease that affects the soft tissues, cartilage and bones of a joint.  It causes pain and decreased flexibility in the affected joints.  There is often a genetic component to the disease and symptoms are often progressive with age.  The various factors that cause or contribute to the development of osteoarthritis include <u>abnormal stress </u>on a <u>normal joint </u>and <u>normal stress </u>on an <u>abnormal joint</u>.  Situations where this occurs include strains, direct or indirect injury, response to infection or faulty bone and/or cartilage development. </p> <p> Regardless of the cause, the end result is the same.  A common sequence of events is triggered that result in the hallmark signs of osteoarthritis.  Depending on the cause, the process may begin with either damage to or degeneration of the articular cartilage (the cartilage on the ends of the bones that make up the joint), or inflammation of the tissue lining the joint.  Either insult can trigger joint degeneration.  Substances that promote inflammation released into the joint fluid by inflamed tissue lining the joint can damage the articular cartilage.  Molecules and enzymes are released into the joint fluid from damaged cartilage and can cause additional inflammation of the tissue lining the joint.  In either situation, the products of inflammation can create a destructive cycle of inflammation and cartilage degeneration within that joint.</p> <p> Many horses with osteoarthritis show only subtle signs of the problem for several weeks or months before they become obviously lame.  A common early sign is a reduction in the horse’s activity level, or reluctance to do certain physical activities.  In early stages, the discomfort and reduced mobility may come and go or increase and decrease in severity.  Don’t disregard the early signs of osteoarthritis.  Have your horse examined by your veterinarian. </p> <p> Here is a list of some early warning signs to watch for that may indicate your horse is developing osteoarthritis:</p> <ul> <li> Lying down more than usual</li> <li> Reduced activity level</li> <li> Slow or stiff movements first thing after rest or in cold weather</li> <li> Stiffness or lameness that disappears with exercise</li> <li> Difficulty getting up from a lying down position</li> <li> Abnormal gait or lameness during exercise</li> <li> Swollen joints that are warm to the touch</li> <li> Any change from normal behavior or temperament</li> <li> Decreased appetite</li> <li> Loss of muscle mass</li> </ul> <p> Some of these warning signs can be associated with other diseases as well, so an examination by your veterinarian and a diagnosis of osteoarthritis is important before a treatment plan can be developed.</p> <p> Obesity is an important risk factor for osteoarthritis.  Decreasing the animal’s body weight decreases the load on the arthritic joints and makes it easier for the animal to get around.  Weight reduction includes dietary control and exercise.  Your veterinarian can help develop a diet and exercise program tailored specifically for your horse.  With exercise, it is important to include daily, low-impact exercise to improve strength, mobility, and attitude without too much rigorous exercise which can be more harmful to arthritic joints.  </p> <p> Please read my next blog in which I will discuss some treatment options for osteoarthritis. </p> <p>  </p> Blog:f2084268-665e-4317-a661-761dfceea820Post:78183459-b2af-44ef-808e-309fe25b64e4 Allergies Thu, 12 Sep 2013 16:24:00 GMT <p> An allergy is a condition in which the body reacts adversely (locally or systemically) to a substance.  In horses, allergic reactions can be triggered by many things including environmental allergies (such as dust, mold, and pollen), insect bites, substances in the feed, substances applied to the horse or touched by the horse, and injections.  Reactions can be localized to the skin and appear as swelling, redness, and itching, or  systemic in the form of "hives" over the entire body.  Systemic reactions might involve additional body systems such as the respiratory and circulatory systems and can become life-threatening.</p> <p> We will focus on insect bites here, because this time of year seems to be the worst.  The most common allergy horse owners report are skin allergies usually due to biting insects.  Flies and any biting insect can cause skin itching and allergies, but the most common insect reaction in horses is due to a gnat called <em>Culicoides</em> and is given the name "sweet itch".  These gnats can cause the horse to rub his tail, mane, neck and chest in response to the hypersensitivity reaction.  Secondary infections can become a threat from the trauma caused by rubbing.</p> <p> Prevention of sweet itch, similar to any other disease process, is the most important.  Managing insect control is the key aspect of preventing sweet itch.  <em>Culicoides</em> gnats tend to feed at dusk and dawn, so stable horses during these peak feeding periods.  Place fans in stalls to deter the gnats since they are poor fliers.  Install time-operated spray mist insecticide delivery mechanisms to control insects in the barn.  Install screens on barn windows and doorways.  Apply insecticide sprays topically on a regular basis and apply fly blankets and masks to act as a physical barrier to prevent the insects from feeding on your horse.</p> <p> Treating sweet itch or any itching caused by an allergy can be done topically with itch-relief shampoos<strong>,</strong> orally with omega-3 fatty acid supplements and herbal products with antihistamine-like effects<strong>,</strong> and possibly with prescription medications from your veterinarian.</p> <p> Using these concepts will hopefully enable you and your horse to enjoy the warm weather season.</p> Blog:f2084268-665e-4317-a661-761dfceea820Post:fc3df2e1-7718-4efb-9a7f-75a13ab917d8 Dental Care for the Horse Wed, 11 Sep 2013 16:23:00 GMT <p> Horses that graze on grass pastures regularly will properly wear off the surfaces of the teeth so that sharp edges do not form.  The wild horse is the best example of free grazing and the benefits to the teeth.  When your horse eats cut hay, the incisors do not have to cut the grass; they just simply grab and chew.  This pattern allows the incisors to grow a little faster than the grinding molar teeth.  Over time, the upper molars will develop sharp edges on the <em>outside</em> edge of the tooth.  The lower molars, however, will develop sharp edges on the <em>inside</em> edge of the tooth.</p> <p> Watch for indications that your horse is having problems from the sharp edges that form.  Signs can include dropping of feed when chewing, weight loss, sore mouth, refusing the bit, or head tossing when the bit is in the mouth.  Over time, those sharp edges need to be floated or filed off with a dental float to re-establish the correct table angle needed for correct chewing of the feed.</p> Blog:f2084268-665e-4317-a661-761dfceea820Post:c22598f9-a0a5-4598-ae45-6d00b3e726a8 Grass – A Healthy Diet for Your Horse Wed, 11 Sep 2013 16:12:00 GMT <p> Horses can adapt to different feed sources, but the best feed for your horse will always be grass.  Good quality grass seems to provide the horse with the most complete nutrition and health benefits.  The better the grass, the better the horse will respond.  We can still add supplements to the grass diet to meet any additional needs your horse may have.  For those horses without free-choice access to grass pasture (which is ideal), supplementation may be needed.  Supplementation needs can be influenced by type of confinement (stalled, dry lot, etc.), weather conditions, shelter type, age, breed, reproductive status, type of use, pre-existing health conditions and feed availability.   </p> <p> You can quickly see why it would be easier to feed quality grass hay with vitamins and minerals to help balance out the ration or just turn your horse out in the pasture.  Since that probably will not happen for a significant number of horses, let’s discuss some key considerations that may help maintain a healthier horse.  </p> <p> Exercise is one of the most important things we can do to enhance digestion, elimination, energy balance, mental stability, soundness, and conditioning.  Horses were made to move, but man has put the horse in a supposedly safe environment that restricts open, free movement.  Confinement of horses does increase stress which can also lead to other health problems.  An Australian study of stalled race horses found that over 80% of the horses had some degree of gastric ulcers related to stress.</p> <p> Other issues that can be serious in horses not fed an adequate amount of grass are colic and digestive problems.  When grain (especially corn and alfalfa) is the predominant feed, there will be a significant number of horses that do not perform well on that type of feeding program.  Unfortunately, the availability of good quality grass in your area may be limited, in which case I would consider other nutritional items to help improve digestion as much as possible. Probiotics, prebiotics, enzymes, extra fiber and water (chemical-free) are considerations to reduce excess gas production that may predispose to colic.</p> <p> If you have not evaluated your horse’s nutritional program, I would highly recommend doing it soon. A minor change in the diet could reduce the risk of colic.</p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> Blog:f2084268-665e-4317-a661-761dfceea820Post:e813fecb-d420-424b-b081-b168b45054bb Effective Equine Deworming Thu, 29 Aug 2013 14:57:00 GMT <p> Internal parasites are a serious concern for horse owners.  Developing a strategic deworming schedule will allow you to protect your horse from the severe damage these parasites can cause.  This includes rotating dewormers by chemical class and using the appropriate class at appropriate times of the year.  Owners become easily overwhelmed by the numerous choices of dewormers on the market today.  It is important for owners to become educated on the different chemical classes of dewormers rather than just purchasing a different brand name which may contain the same chemical ingredient.</p> <p> All of the brand names of dewormers on the market today can be categorized into just a few major chemical classes.  Utilizing the different classes serves to reduce the chances of developing resistance to parasites, and choosing the appropriate time of year maximizes the best attributes of each different chemical compound.</p> <p> Benzimidazoles are one of the classes of anthelmintics.  This group includes dewormers such as fenbendazole and oxibendazole which kill parasites quickly and offer broad spectrum protection against parasites including ascarids, large strongyles and small strongyles.</p> <p> Pyrantels are another class of anthelmintics which includes pyrantel pamoate and pyrantel tartrate.  These dewormers kill parasites more slowly by causing paralysis in a wide variety of worms.</p> <p> Macrocyclic lactones are the most well-known class of anthelmintics and include ivermectin and moxidectin dewormers.  This class kills ascarids, large strongyles, and small strongyles, but also attacks benzimidazole-resistant small strongyles and bots. </p> <p> Manufacturers have also recently combined macrocyclic lactones with a second deworming chemical called praziquantel.  These combination products help to attack the same broad spectrum of parasites as ivermectin alone, but have the added advantage of killing equine tapeworms with praziquantel.</p> <p> These are the different classes of anthelmintics found in available dewormers.  Knowing when to use each class may vary depending on your individual horse’s needs and environment.  This is an excellent opportunity to consult with your veterinarian to set up a strategic deworming protocol that will work best for your situation. </p> <p> There are some general deworming guidelines, however, that are important to consider.  Most deworming protocols will deworm once every two months.  Other protocols will include daily dewormers (which contain pyrantel tartrate) combined with the additional use of paste dewormers a minimum of twice annually. </p> <p> Bots were mentioned under the coverage of macrocyclic lactones.  Bot flies are a problem for horses in the fall making this a good time to use the macrocyclic lactone class of anthelmintics.  Ideally this would be administered after the first hard freeze when the adult bot flies are no longer laying eggs.  Administering the combination products which include praziquantel is another alternative in the fall; this type of anthelmintic is recommended once or twice a year. Your veterinarian may also suggest having a fecal egg count for your horse to determine the type and relative number of parasites that are present in your horse.</p> <p> Educate yourself about the different classes of dewormers and how to rotate these drugs.  This will give you the ability to provide the highest quality parasite control for your horses.</p> Blog:f2084268-665e-4317-a661-761dfceea820Post:2133fc3a-0c13-4c92-a5e2-1e717ac65b16