Microbiota of the Neonatal Foal
During the first few weeks of a foal’s life, the development of a diverse and healthy microbiota occurs. The microbiota, or population of beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria and protozoa, plays a major role in the proper function of the immune system and will serve to protect the foal from harmful pathogens as it matures. The microbial population is influenced by environment and diet. Most discussion surrounding the equine microbiota involves mature horses, and a closer look at a foal’s hindgut inhabitants provides interesting insight.
Foals are born with a sterile gut, but microbial colonization begins the first day of life. Some researchers found that meconium, the foal’s first feces after birth, is not sterile, while others report that it is. Differences may be attributed to the mare or sample collection techniques...Read More...
Maximizing Equine Health, Welfare Using GPS
Other than discretely observing your herd for hours on end in the rain, sleet, snow, or blistering heat at various hours of the day or night, how can you know if your horses are truly getting all the care they need? According to a group of Japanese researchers*, affixing global positioning system (GPS) units to halters of horses and tracking their movement generates important information for managing herds of all shapes, sizes, and compositions.
For example, the researchers used GPS units on mare-and-foal pairs to determine mare-foal, mare-mare, and foal-foal distances to better understand behaviors of broodmares. They found during the first month of age, dam–dam and foal–foal distances were significantly greater than dam–foal distances. This finding makes sense considering how frequently foals nurse during their first month of life. During the second month of age, the dam–foal distance increased, and by the sixth month of age, dam–foal distances were significantly greater than foal–foal distances. ..Read More...
Gastric Ulcers in Horses: Injectable Treatment in Development
The effects of equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) keep many horses from performing their best. Greater awareness of this has led horse owners to be more conscientious of management practices that optimize gastric health, including the use of FDA-approved treatments such as omeprazole and research-based nutritional supplements such as Rite-Trac.
A buildup of acid that is not buffered by saliva and feedstuffs can cause the development of gastric ulcers in horses which, in turn, can account for many roadblocks to well-being, such as inappetence, weight loss, dull coat, and sour disposition. A recent study* in Australia has suggested that a long-acting, intramuscular formulation of omeprazole (LA-OMEP) may suppress gastric acid for up to a week after administration...Read More...
Overweight Horses: How Much Hay Is Too Little?
To some horse owners, maintaining easy keepers on an appropriate diet requires incredible restraint. While owners may wish to turn their horses out in bountiful pastures, they know it’s best to limit intake and use the drylot or grazing muzzle instead. Likewise, caretakers who want to dish out just a few pounds of sweet feed refrain from doing so and offer a balancer pellet in lieu. When it comes to hay, these same horse owners know too much is not helpful, but how much is too little?
With a limited menu available for overweight horses, maximizing hay intake is important, said Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutrition advisor with Kentucky Equine Research (KER). “Hay intake should be about 2% of body weight, if horses are receiving no other feed or forage.”..Read More...
Metabolic Syndrome in Horses: Use of Sweeteners Studied
Despite best efforts by owners to follow strict diet recommendations for horses with metabolic syndrome, some feeds and medications contain sweeteners, including certain medications used to counteract equine metabolic syndrome (EMS).
Horses with EMS are insensitive to the effects of insulin, typically overweight, and may suffer chronic bouts of potentially life-threatening laminitis...Read More...
Research on Algae for Horses with Ulcers
Treatment options and management strategies to help horses fight or prevent stomach ulcers exist, yet the ideal solution to ridding horses of these uncomfortable, niggling nuisances remains elusive. Could a high-algae supplement finally be the reprieve horse owners are looking for?
“Current options for handling ulcers, widely referred to as equine gastric ulcer syndrome or EGUS, include pharmaceutical drug administration, such as FDA-approved omeprazole products, nutritional supplements, and management changes,” remarked Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist...Read More...
Five Tips for Avoiding Pasture-Associated Laminitis in Horses
Scores of horses will gorge themselves on that long-awaited lush, green pasture of springtime. As many of us already know, overgrazing grasses and legumes that are high in water-soluble carbohydrates puts horses at risk for laminitis—a painful, life-threatening condition of the hooves.
“Many horse owners are already aware that pasture-associated laminitis is particularly concerning for overweight horses and ponies, easy keepers, those with insulin resistance or equine metabolic syndrome, and horses and ponies with a history of chronic laminitis. It is important for owners to appreciate, however, that pasture turnout can trigger a bout of laminitis even in lean, nonobese horses with no history of laminitis,” says Peter Huntington, B.V.Sc., M.A.C.V.Sc., director of nutrition at KER Australia. ..Read More...
Cool-Season Grasses and Fructans in Horse Diets
Many species of grasses have proven suitable for grazing by horses. Cool-season grasses seem especially appropriate for pastures, and because they do best in temperatures between 65 and 80o F (18 and 270 C), these grasses grow most abundantly in spring and fall. Growth slows in the warmer summer months in some years, and this is often referred to as the “summer slump,” though reduction in growth seems dependent on other factors, such as rainfall.
Five common species of cool-season grasses used in horse operations include timothy, orchardgrass, tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass...Read More...
Potassium Imbalance: Hyperkalemia in Horses
Potassium is an electrolyte necessary for proper muscle function. Along with other electrolytes such as sodium and calcium, potassium plays an important role in normal muscle contraction and relaxation. However, when potassium concentration in the bloodstream gets too high, a condition known as hyperkalemia, it can be life-threatening.
In healthy horses, the kidneys filter out excess potassium from circulation, which is then excreted through the urine. When the kidneys fail to clear potassium, or when too much potassium moves from inside to outside of cells, hyperkalemia can result. Abnormally high concentration of potassium in the blood causes muscles to contract more than they should, resulting in cramping and irregular heartbeat. At a greater risk of hyperkalemia are horses with a history of hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP), compromised kidney function, or massive cellular destruction, such as after trauma, burns, or a severe episode of tying-up...Read More...
Improving Intestinal Motility in Horses
Measuring 100 feet or more in the average mature horse, the equine gastrointestinal tract serves many functions, all neatly compartmentalized:
The mouth chops and grind feed and forage into manageable pieces;
The esophagus transports ingesta from the mouth to the stomach;
The stomach further breaks down ingesta into minute particles that pass into the small intestine;
Some types of nutrients in the feed, such as nonstructural or water-soluble carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals, are digested and absorbed in the small intestine;
The remainder of the feed, primarily structural carbohydrates or fiber, pass into the cecum and large intestine, where they are fermented to form volatile fatty acids, a primary source of energy for the horse.
Any alteration in the proper functioning of this system can quickly become life-threatening. A large variety of disorders can decrease the ability of the gastrointestinal muscles to contract appropriately, delaying the movement of ingesta. Decreased motility, or hypomotility, can occur in cases of equine grass sickness, gastroduodenal ulceration, colic (e.g., obstruction, impaction, excessive wall distention, strangulating obstruction), inflammation of various regions of the gastrointestinal tract such as peritonitis, duodenitis, proximal jejunitis, and colitis...Read More...
Laminitis in Pregnant Broodmares
Even the mildest cases of laminitis cause panic among horse owners, leaving them wondering what comes next. Will the uncomfortable shifting escalate to the dreaded sawhorse stance in an attempt to get the weight off painful feet? Will the sawhorse pose progress to recumbency within a few days? Will the coffin bone shift or sink through the sole of the foot?
If you think that is the worst-case scenario, consider a heavily pregnant mare suffering from the same bout of laminitis. Suddenly the ante increases dramatically because two lives are now at stake and the clock is ticking. She needs help fast!..Read More...
Horse Weight Loss Requires Diet Changes, Exercise
Mirroring the epidemic in humans, the number of horses suffering from obesity continues to increase at an alarming rate, primarily due to excess nutrition and lack of exercise. One way to lose weight, regardless of species, involves restricting caloric intake. According to a recent study*, however, dietary restriction alone isn’t a cure-all.
“Excess body weight and inactivity both contribute to inflammation in the adipose tissue—setting up the horse for a dangerous, body-wide pro-inflammatory state and insulin resistance (IR). Both of these are major predictors of metabolic dysfunction, including equine metabolic syndrome, which is associated with laminitis,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...Read More...
Six Steps to Feeding a Pregnant Mare
Choosing to breed a mare involves a multitude of decisions, some that require protracted thought (“What stallion should I choose?”) and others that can be made almost instantly (“Who will foal out the mare? Me, of course!”). Providing adequate nutrition for the mare as she transitions from one trimester to the next need not be difficult. Use the following six guidelines to stay on track, helping to ensure the delivery of a healthy, nutritionally robust foal.
1. Familiarize yourself with body condition scoring. If you’re not proficient at body scoring yet, having a pregnant mare in your care is an opportune time to start. As pregnancy advances, the mare will inevitably gain weight, mostly in her abdomen. Key points of fat deposition, however, should remain similar throughout the duration of her gestation. A pregnant mare should be kept in moderate to moderately fleshy body condition throughout pregnancy...Read More...
Exploring Esomeprazole for Equine Gastric Ulcers
Gastric ulcers all too frequently cause poor performance and decreased appetite, loss of condition, poor coats, and even colic in horses and foals. FDA-approved omeprazole products, but not their compounded counterparts, effectively heal ulcers. Esomeprazole, a compound much like omeprazole, may be a more effective option.
Both omeprazole and esomeprazole belong to the same class of compounds, called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). These drugs block the production of gastric acid, effectively decreasing the acidity of the stomach, which allows ulcers to heal. Currently, omeprazole remains the only FDA-approved PPI for horses...Read More...
Forage Shortages and Weed Toxicity in Horses
Though they generally seek out nutritious, palatable plants, horses are inquisitive and will sample an array of vegetation if available, some of which is less than wholesome.
"Many wild and decorative plants contain toxins. As forage resources run low, whether it’s pasture or hay supply, horses are more tempted to nibble on plants that otherwise wouldn’t be enticing,” warned Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...Read More...