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Articles

All (23)
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Equinews (2)
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Health (10)
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Nutrition (11)

Microbes and Equine Gastrointestinal Health


A complex microscopic world thrives inside the gastrointestinal tracts of healthy horses. Pinpointing surefire ways to optimize and stabilize these microscopic organisms will benefit horses immensely, especially in times of stress or illness.

Probiotics are live-fed microorganisms, usually in paste or powder form, given to achieve digestive normalcy in both humans and horses. The benefits associated with probiotic administration are vast and varied. For example, probiotics:..
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Equine Cushing's Disease and Eye Health


Uncontrolled Cushing’s disease (pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, PPID) negatively impacts the health and quality of life of horses in multiple ways. Increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol caused by a growth in the pars intermedia region of the pituitary wreaks havoc on almost every organ system. Classic signs of disease include a poor coat, recurrent laminitis, lethargy, abnormal fat deposits, and increased thirst and urination. Moreover, the effects of Cushing’s may extend to the eyes.

Steroids, including corticosteroids used to treat simple eye conditions such as conjunctivitis, are contraindicated for other ocular conditions, such as corneal ulcers and certain infections. Corticosteroids, including cortisol, inhibit wound healing. Clearly, a veterinarian would not prescribe such medications to any horse with an ocular wound, but what about the natural cortisol levels found in the tears? Could the cortisol in tears slow or completely impede healing of eye injuries?..
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Deworming Horses: Predatory Fungi May Help


Due primarily to the indiscriminate use of dewormers over the past several decades, widespread resistance to chemical deworming products has become a major concern for horse owners. In the wake of that resistance, horses are once again susceptible to parasite-related diseases, such as colic and diarrhea. Researchers dedicated to the development of novel deworming products and strategies struggle to fill the void created by the misuse of chemical dewormers. One recent study* suggests efforts by researchers may prove fruitful, and the fruits of their labor could be fungi.

“As we know, horses become infected with internal parasites by ingesting eggs laid by adult internal parasites living within their gastrointestinal tracts. Eggs shed in the feces populate the environment where horses graze and are subsequently ingested, ultimately growing into adult parasites,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Equine Behavior and Dopamine Levels


A group of researchers from the United Kingdom* suggest that dopamine plays an important role in how horses behave (or misbehave!).

Dopamine is a potent chemical, called a neurotransmitter, produced in certain brain cells that plays an important role in learning, memory, pleasurable reward, behavior, attention, sleep, and mood...
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Equine Fitness: How to Build Muscle


Twiggy, John Candy, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. What do these three people have in common? Infamy perhaps, but definitely not muscling! And neither do most horses and ponies. Nonetheless, maintaining appropriate muscling among individual horses is vital to overall health and athleticism.

“Athletic horses need appropriate muscle mass to support their rider’s weight, perform the task at hand, and protect their joints and support soft tissues, such as tendons and ligaments,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist...
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Add Vitamin E to High-Fat Horse Diets


Equine nutritionists routinely advise horse owners to dole out more fat when hard keepers or high-performance horses have trouble maintaining or adding body condition. Fat can bump up the energy density of a ration significantly and often provides just the right top-off to achieve weight gain.

During digestion, fat is broken down into its most basic structures, fatty acids. An increase in the amount of fat fed will therefore create an upsurge in circulating levels of fatty acids. Fatty acids are prone to oxidation, the byproducts of which can be harmful to cells. As a result, nutritionists typically recommended that an antioxidant be supplemented when a diet is high in fat, especially vegetable oil...
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Complete Feeds for Horses


Advances in equine nutrition have increased the quality and quantity of products available to horse owners. This is unquestionably the case with nutritional supplements, but it is also true of bagged feeds. Nearly all horse owners are familiar with traditional textured and pelleted feeds, both of which contain concentrated sources of energy. The best of these feeds are fortified with the protein, vitamins, and minerals required for the horses they’re intended for, and these feeds are designed to be fed with a source of forage, such as pasture, hay, hay pellets, or hay cubes.

A “complete feed” is different than a traditional fortified feed. “A complete feed contains both the concentrate and forage portions of the diet in a single bag, supplying all that the horse needs for optimal nutrition with the exception of water,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER). Complete feeds are typically pelleted but may also be extruded or semi-textured...
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New Treatment Tested for Sarcoids in Horses


What better way to fight fire than with fire, especially when it comes to sarcoids? The growths, which normally appear as nodules or flat, hyperkeratotic patches, resist many types of treatment, with many growing larger and more stubborn after treatment attempts. Fire—or more accurately, electricity—was the exact approach a group of researchers took in a recently published study on the topic*.

Delivering electrical impulses directly to the tumor makes cells temporarily “leaky,” thereby allowing injectable chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin, to infiltrate and kill tumor cells...
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Equine Muscle Builders: Choose Carefully for Safety


The word “designer,” when used in reference to horses, draws different images for different people. Perhaps you envision the designer clothes you sport while riding your horse or the matching designer tack your horse dons. Designer feeds, even. But what about designer anabolic steroids in your nutritional supplements?

“According to one study*, so-called ‘designer steroids’ can be hiding in your horse’s supplements,” explained Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutrition advisor for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Joint Products for Horses: Follow Directions for Safety


Veterinarians have the privilege of using medications “off-label” in certain situations to benefit the health and longevity of their patients. Pergolide serves as a classic example of off-label drug use in horses. This drug is borrowed from human medicine for the treatment of Cushing’s disease (pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, PPID) in horses. Off-label drug use comes with great responsibility.

The perils of off-label drug use were recently highlighted in a study by the Colorado State University Gail Homes Equine Orthopedic Research Center1. According to the researchers, using a non-FDA-approved joint product off-label not only appears to have no benefit but may also actually be harmful. The tested product contained ingredients typically included in oral joint supplements: hyaluronan, sodium chondroitin sulfate, and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine...
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Feed Horses by Weight, Not Volume


Most horsemen rely on both forage and concentrates to fuel the performance and breeding goals of the horses and ponies in their care. Forage requirements are easily met, especially if horses are allowed free-choice access to good-quality pasture or hay most of any day. How much concentrate to offer can be a trickier question, especially if a horse owner is unaccustomed to weighing feed.

“To ensure horses are receiving proper nutrition, carefully read the feeding directions provided by the manufacturer,” advised Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., nutrition advisor at Kentucky Equine Research (KER). “Required by most regulatory agencies, feeding directions provide a sound jumping-off point for the proper use of any product. Recommendations are typically provided as a total weight per day.”..
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Horse Feeding: Is Your Supplement Strategy Safe?


Depletion of minerals in soils worldwide impacts the mineral content in forages grown on these soils. Low mineral content in hay and grass doesn’t necessarily negatively impact horses due to the widespread availability of soil testing and dietary mineral supplementation. That said, being a little heavy-handed with the mineral supplements could sometimes cause more issues than they solve.

According to researchers at this year’s Australasian Equine Science Symposium*, there are three main reasons why owners supplement horses: (1) to improve performance; (2) to prevent a problem from occurring (e.g., laminitis); and (3) to manage a problem after it arises (e.g., degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis)...
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Research Highlight: Chronic Lasix Administration in Horses


Many horse owners and trainers recognize that the diuretic drug furosemide, also called by trade names Lasix or Salix, helps racehorses prone to exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. Many owners may not, however, be familiar with the fact that long-term furosemide administration helps horses with kidney disease, heart failure, and edema. Unlike the known consequences of acute furosemide administration, including increased thirst and salt intake, and decreased body weight, the impact of long-term furosemide remain unknown.

To identify the potential problems associated with chronic furosemide administration, researchers from Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine administered 0.5 mg/kg of furosemide daily to six Shetland ponies via intramuscular injection for three weeks*...
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Feeding Straight Corn to Horses


Every horseman knows that corn is a suitable feedstuff for horses. In fact, it is often an ingredient in high-quality feeds, though it is usually cracked or steam-flaked, processing strategies that increase its digestibility and thus its caloric contribution to the diet. Some owners like to feed corn straight from the field, either on the cob or shucked. Did you know these four facts about straight corn?..
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Stem Cell Therapy for Metabolic Horses


Stem cells have become, over the past several years, somewhat of a magic elixir for horses suffering from musculoskeletal injuries. These cells have the ability to grow into a variety of cell types, including bone, cartilage, tendon, and ligament. The technology is autologous, meaning that an injured horse’s cells can be used to treat its own injuries, which limits adverse side effects. But what if that horse’s stem cells aren’t what they should be, as in horses with equine metabolic syndrome (EMS)?

EMS describes horses that are often overweight  with insulin resistance and chronic laminitis. Mirroring the obesity epidemic in both humans and horses, EMS is increasingly diagnosed in both species, with body-wide consequences reaching far beyond the sensitive tissues of the horse’s hoof...
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Feeding Horses for Weight Gain


A full measure of patience comes in handy when looking for ways to best nourish skinny horses. Patience not a virtue of yours? Tick off this to-do list to make sure you’re doing everything you can from a nutritional perspective...
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Electrolytes Vital for Performance Horses


More than one horse owner has asked herself this simple question, “Why don’t feed manufacturers put electrolytes in feed specifically designed for performance horses?” According to Joe Pagan, Ph.D., founder and owner of Kentucky Equine Research (KER), this is a reasonable question but one that is easily answered.

“A horse's energy requirement stays the same during consistent work,” explained Pagan, “but sweat losses change with weather, work intensity, and other factors. Horse owners need to be able to easily adjust the amount of electrolyte given based on sweat production.”..
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Alfalfa for Horses: Know When to Pass on This Forage


When grown, cured, and baled with care, alfalfa (lucerne) hay proves appropriate for many classes of horses. Because of its high energy content and nutrient density, alfalfa is fed extensively around the world. Management situations arise, however, that preclude the use of alfalfa for certain horses.

Circumvent alfalfa hay in these circumstances:..
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Assessing Dehydration in Horses


Over two-thirds of a horse’s body is comprised of water. Endurance horse owners are concerned about dehydration and electrolyte imbalances during competition and fight the long-held belief that you can’t make a horse drink. In contrast, Standardbred and Thoroughbred racehorses frequently have water withheld prior to competition. But how do we know if any of these horses are actually dehydrated?

“Dehydration is a welfare issue for all horses competing in athletic events. Typically, a clinical examination of the horse’s gums, skin-tent response, sweat production, and some blood cell count values help veterinarians determine if a horse is dehydrated,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist...
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Cobalt Limits for Performance Horses: An Update


For maximal joint health, a gleaming coat, strong hooves, and overall micronutrient balance, many horses receive a spattering of supplements daily. In some cases, when more than one product is used and the total supplements in the diet are not assessed, nutrient excesses occur, with potentially disastrous results, including elimination from competition.

“This is exactly what can happen if the levels of cobalt are not carefully scrutinized,” warned Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...
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Omeprazole Use in Horses: New Lines of Query


Horses suffering from gastric ulcers benefit from the administration of omeprazole, a drug that decreases the production of stomach acid. Although omeprazole products labeled for equine use clearly indicate an appropriate dose, researchers* recently questioned those dosing guidelines, suggesting that diet and dose might not yet be optimized.

In their most recent study, Sykes and colleagues from the University of Queensland, Australia, and University of Liverpool, UK, wrote, “In humans, the effect of cumulative dosing, which results in an increased bioavailability over time, is well documented, yet conflicting evidence exists whether such an effect is present in the horse.”..
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Digestibility of Horse Feeds: What Does It Mean?


Although the concept of digestion might be obvious to most horse owners, the idea of digestibility may be more elusive. Further, why horse owners need to know about the digestibility could also be somewhat unclear.

According to Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist, Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., “Digestibility is a term used to describe the amount of nutrients that are actually absorbed by a horse and are therefore available for growth, reproduction, and performance in addition to body maintenance.”..
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Bladder Stones in Horses


Although relatively rare, bladder stones remain an important cause of discomfort in horses, causing bloody urine, weight loss, and incontinence. Stones vary in size, and some can become large, weighing more than 14 lb (6.5 kg). According to experts, treatments aren’t a guaranteed solution. Diagnostic and treatment costs can be exorbitant, complications following surgery can’t always be avoided, and stones all too frequently recur. Treatment options have advanced, providing more options for long-term solutions.

One group of veterinary surgeons recently described a novel method of removing bladder stones*. Using a minimally invasive approach, the surgeons inserted into the urethra a laparoscope with a “retrieval pouch.” Stones were placed inside the pouch before being broken into small pieces either manually or with the assistance of a laser, shockwave, or other device. Using the pouch ensured that fragments were not left behind in the urinary bladder, serving neither as a nidus for future stone growth nor as a source of further bladder irritation...
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