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When Laminitis Strikes, What’s Your First Line Of Defense?

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Barbaro, Edgar Prado, and Dr. Dean Richardson at New Bolton during the Derby winner’s treatment for laminitis

The most important time to take action against laminitis is when a horse shows early signs or a high-risk event occurs that might trigger laminitis. Triggers for laminitis range from exposure to black walnuts to injury to physiological disruption from colic, high fever, retained placenta, or carbohydrate overload. In essence, anything that causes a horse significant trauma might set in motion a cascade that ends in laminitis.

Laminitis is regarded by many in the veterinary field as the most horrific disease to attack horses because in severe cases, it literally causes the hoof capsule to slough off when the laminae that make up the connective tissue between the interior structure of the hoof and the hoof wall die. Theories about what actually happens to the horse physiologically to cause laminitis are numerous, and researchers still seek answers to many questions about the disease.

Dr. Hannah Galantino-Homer is the director of the Laminitis Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center. The laboratory is part of the Laminitis Institute founded by the university after the tragic death of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. The colt was euthanized after an eight-month battle against laminitis at New Bolton Center after fracturing his right hind leg at the beginning of the Preakness Stakes.

If you think laminitis is a threat, call your veterinarian immediately. Time is of the essence.

Galantino-Homer said several things can be done while waiting for the veterinarian to arrive. First, move the horse to a confined area with soft footing. This can be a round pen with a deep sand base or a stall with at least six inches of bedding, either shavings or several bales of scattered straw.

“This allows them to distribute the weight more, and it encourages them to lie down if their feet are really sore,” she said.

Next, ice the horse’s feet. Studies show that cryotherapy reduces pain and inflammation. This can be done by standing a horse in ice and water, using ice boots, packing crushed ice in a bag and securing it to the horse’s foot with bandage, or pulling pantyhose over the horse’s lower limb and filling it with ice. If you are fortunate to have a Game Ready system, this is an ideal use for it.

More importantly, icing can slow down the cascade of events.

“Any kind of damaged tissue tends to compound the damage by releasing more things that cause more damage, more inflammation,” Galantino-Homer said. “You’re slowing all that down. You’re slowing the metabolism of the white blood cells that have been activated by tissue damage going on. So you’re trying to slow all that down.”

Administering a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug is the next measure but be sure to get your veterinarian’s approval first. The horse’s history, current medical condition, and potential cause of laminitis must all be factored into what the horse should receive.

“Veterinarians have preferences for what they use,” Galantino-Homer said. “For a horse owner in a first-aid situation, it would be whatever you have on hand—Bute, Banamine. It’s medical management for painkilling and inflammation, and it is going to depend on other clinical aspects. Such as a horse with colitis, you have to worry more about kidney damage. So they may manage pain differently.”

When your veterinarian arrives, he or she will examine the horse to determine the best course of treatment. This commonly includes tubing the horse with mineral oil and activated charcoal to protect the intestinal mucosa, particularly in the case of carbohydrate overload. When colitis is a threat, your veterinarian may recommend Bio-Sponge to combat bacterial overgrowth, Galantino-Homer said. Developed by the late Dr. Doug Herthel’s Platinum Performance laboratory, Bio-Sponge oral paste is an intestinal adsorbent that grabs onto damaging agents and carries them out of the horse’s body when it defecates.

Because laminitis is a complex disease and every horse is an individual, no set plan of treatment can be applied to every horse. Long term, expect the horse to require the care of a farrier knowledgeable about laminitis and therapeutic shoeing. Your veterinarian also may recommend management changes for the horse, including a nutritionist to modify the horse’s diet.

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Does Your Overweight Horse Have An Insulin Problem?

by Eleanor M. Kellon, VMD

 

Easy keepers and overweight horses and ponies have been around forever. Laminitis has also always been with us, and it’s no secret that overweight animals are at high risk. We now know that the vast majority of laminitis cases are caused by high insulin levels – hyperinsulinemia. Does this mean being overweight/obese causes insulin problems?

 

It might seem that way superficially but the logic is faulty.

 

There is an important principle in science which states, “Correlation (or association) is not causation”. Observing that things occur together does not mean one causes the other. Let’s say that the native horses of the country Muropa are observed to regularly consume the leaves of the Bajunga plant, which only grows in Muropa. It has also been observed that Muropa horses never develop sweet itch. Does this mean Bajunga protects from sweet itch? While there could be a link, this doesn’t prove it. It could be a genetic factor protecting them – or simply that there are no Culicoides midges in Muropa!

 

Many horses that develop laminitis are overweight or obese. We know that the vast majority of laminitis cases are caused by high insulin levels. The correlation has always been obvious and it didn’t take long for an assumption to arise that obesity is a laminitis risk factor and causes elevated insulin. There’s just one thing: It’s not true.

 

A study (Bamford) published in the Equine Veterinary Journal in 2015, fed horses and ponies a control diet or one designed to cause obesity, by feeding either excess fat or excess fat and glucose. The weight gain did not reduce insulin sensitivity in either group. Dr. Bamford has also clearly shown that insulin responses to oral or intravenous glucose have marked variation by breed in horses of normal weight. You can read all of Dr. Bamford’s work in detail in his thesis here: https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/bitstream/handle/11343/148423/Bamford%20PhD%20Thesis.pdf?sequence=1.

 

Selim, et al., 2015, followed two groups of Finnhorse mares on either native pasture or intensively managed improved pasture. At the end of 98 days of grazing, the mares on improved pasture went from a body condition score of 5.5 to 7 and gained 145 pounds; but this was not associated with insulin resistance.

 

If obesity isn’t a cause, why is more insulin resistance seen in obese horses – 25 to 50% IR depending on the study versus 10 to 15% of horses in general? The answer is simple. The IR increases appetite and weight gain. Yes, there is an association between obesity and high insulin but obesity is the result, not the cause.

 

This is more than just splitting hairs. If you think obesity is a cause, then weight control becomes a treatment — even possibly a cure. When you realize it is a consequence, not a cause, expectations for results of weight loss become more realistic. There are many benefits to weight loss and it should be aggressively pursued, but it won’t make insulin resistance go away.  Approximately 50% of IR horses are normal weight.

 

 

About ECIR Group Inc.

Started in 1999, the ECIR Group is the largest field-trial database for PPID and IR in the world and provides the latest research, diagnosis, and treatment information, in addition to dietary recommendations, for horses with these conditions. Even universities do not and cannot compile and follow long term as many in-depth case histories of PPID/IR horses as the ECIR Group.

 

In 2013 the Equine Cushing’s and Insulin Resistance Group Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation, was approved as a 501(c)3 public charity. Tax deductible contributions and grants support ongoing research, education, and awareness of Equine Cushing’s Disease/PPID and Insulin Resistance.

 

THE MISSION of the ECIR Group Inc. is to improve the welfare of equines with metabolic disorders via a unique interface between basic research, and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal. The ECIR Group serves the scientific community, practicing clinicians, and owners by focusing on investigations most likely to quickly, immediately, and significantly benefit the welfare of the horse.

 

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Hay! Are You Getting What You Pay For?

Today’s high forage prices are an extra incentive to understand hay quality.

 

by Stephanie Davis DVM 

 

July 31, 2018 – In most instances, I would argue that the idiom, “You get what you pay for,” is almost always true. Especially as U.S. hay prices have escalated significantly, it would be great if that were true. However, when it comes to buying hay, it’s not that simple.

Just because the hay is expensive, looks or feels good, or is a “heavy bale,” does not automatically mean it’s of high quality. Although hay is most typically sold by weight, much of that weight could be due to a high percentage of ash in the hay.

Ash is the total mineral content divided into two types: internal ash (from the plant) and external ash (dirt and dust from harvesting and storage). So, you could literally be paying more for a bale that essentially has more dirt than another one. A ranch manager in Central California recently paid $345 a ton for the “high quality” alfalfa she requires for a band of senior equine citizens, up from $190 a ton 10 years ago. Fuel prices involved in that hike make it an extreme example, but, at any price, you don’t want much of it going toward external ash.

Therefore, weight is not a good way to determine if the hay is of high quality. It’s important to know if the hay is actually of high quality as well as what factors can affect the quality and nutritional value.
The main factors affecting hay quality include: the type of hay, soil, weed contamination, rain (moisture), and how the hay is cut, dried, and baled. As the buyer for our horses, we cannot control any of these factors. Even if we have a great relationship with our hay supplier, they can only control so much themselves depending upon the weather and the type of equipment they use to bale the hay.

The only definitive way to know the quality of your hay is to have it tested. There are feed companies that will test your hay for you at a very reasonable cost. Additionally, some of the best hay providers will have the hay tested before they sell it to you. The more often you test your hay, you will be surprised by the differences in the nutritional profiles.

In a perfect world, your hay has been tested and shows an excellent nutritional profile with a low ash percentage and has a high leaf-to-stem ratio. If this is the profile of your hay, then why would the hay need to be steamed? There are two simple reasons: mold spores and external ash. Mold spore count can also be tested by a laboratory. They are measured in “colony forming units per gram” (cfu/g). If hay has over 1 million cfu/g, you have a high risk of causing respiratory problems with your horse. Even though the hay has a high nutritional profile, it could still have a high mold spore count.

Unfortunately, as the grass itself grows, there are a number of bacteria and fungi that will grow on the plant naturally. As the hay is cut and dried, certain types of bacteria and fungi will die off but others may thrive in a lower moisture environment. That is why the drying stage of making hay is so very important. However, even if the processing of the hay goes exactly to plan, a certain number of mold spores remain and will inevitably invade your horse’s airway. Second, is the issue of the external ash. Even with a low percent, there will still be an amount of dust and particulate matter that will remain on the hay and become airborne once the horse pulls on the hay to break it apart to eat.

Therefore, regardless of the quality of the hay, all hay will have mold spores, dust, and particulate matter that can insult the horse’s airway. The best way to combat those problems is to steam the hay from the inside-out using a high temperature hay steamer. This is scientifically proven to kill mold spores and reduce the dust and particulate matter.

 

Article provided by Haygain as part of our Horse Health Library, and photos are available on request. For more educational articles on a variety of conditions our products address, please contact Kim F Miller at kimfmiller1@mac.com.

 

Haygain is committed to improving equine health through scientific research, product innovation and consumer education in respiratory and digestive health issues. With offices in England and the USA, Haygain distributes products for healthier horses to 19 countries, including its Haygain® Hay Steamers, ComfortStall® Orthopedic Sealed Flooring System, ForagerTM Slow Feeder and Flexineb® Portable Equine Nebulizer. Visit www.haygain.us for more information.

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Ask Your Veterinarian: How Much Does Environment Influence OCD Lesions?

by | 07.09.2018 | 2:38pm

Question: What do we know about environmental factors that could make a horse more or less likely to get OCD?

Answer: Osteochondrosis (OC) is widely understood to be a disturbance of endochondral ossification (the formation of bone from cartilage) and is arguably one of the most clinically relevant developmental orthopedic diseases in the equine patient. Although it was once thought that OC lesions were static, sequential radiographic studies on foals, weanlings, and yearlings revealed that the characteristic lesions of OC could increase in size or completely regress (“heal”) up to 12 months of age. The timeline of this lesion formation and regression is different for each joint, and has supported the idea that there are number of environmental factors, in addition to genetics, that play a role in the progression of osteochondrosis.

Although no definitive cause of osteochondrosis has been determined, factors such as nutrition and exercise have been shown to play a role in the development and progression of OC lesions. Of these possible etiologies, the role of nutrition has been most closely investigated. Initial research into the effect of diet on OC focused largely on dietary energy level, usually in relation to a high growth rate.  Although the results of many of these studies seem to be conflicting, many support the conclusion that high growth rate (a combination of genetics and diet) is associated with an increase in the severity of OC lesions. It is important to note, however, that this is a combined effect: decreasing nutritional plane below maintenance levels will not decrease the incidence or severity of OC lesions and can lead to other dietary imbalances.

Studies investigating the role of trace elements (copper, zinc, calcium, and phosphorus) have determined that low copper levels (which can be induced by increased zinc) are linked to decreased resolution of OC lesions, and copper supplementation, to a certain extent, was able to reduce the severity of cartilage lesions. Investigations into the role of calcium and phosphorus in OC have determined that high calcium diets failed to produce OC lesions, whereas high phosphorus diets (five times NRC) reliably produced lesions in foals.

The role of exercise in the formation of OC lesions seems intuitive; it is well known that exercise is vital to the formation of a functional articular cartilage surface and OC is a developmental defect in articular cartilage. Investigations into the exact role of exercise in OC however, have yielded conflicting results.  In some studies, increased exercise was correlated with decreased incidence in OC, whereas other research was unable to find decreased incidence in OC lesions with exercised horses but did notice a decrease in severity of existing lesions. As with nutrition, it is clear that although exercise can play a supporting role in decreasing the incidence or severity of OC, no single factor is responsible for the course of the disease.

Since the process of cartilage metabolism and bone formation is highly dynamic, especially during the first year of age, it is widely thought that there are certain periods of times (“windows of susceptibility”) during which environmental factors can play a pivotal role in the severity of OC lesions. Research investigating these developmental periods, as well as the exact pathogenesis of osteochondrosis, will yield more answers and recommendations in the future.

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Can Bandages Cause Tendon Damage In Racehorses?

by | 06.11.2018 | 1:19pm

Many racehorses have their legs bandaged in an effort to reduce the chance of overreaching and injury when they are worked or exercised; many sport horses and those ridden for pleasure have their legs bandaged or wrapped by owners who believe they are providing support to equine legs. In horses that are not racing, the chance of injury from interference is much lower as they are not working at racing speeds.

British veterinarian Dr. Campbell Thompson of Nantwich Equine Vets is urging horse owners and riders to carefully consider if their horses should wear leg support while being ridden. The former vet of the British Olympic team, Thompson warns that horses’ legs can overheat if the horse is worked hard or if the weather is hot. This overheating can make horses susceptible to tendon damage in the legs that are wrapped, he says.

While open-front boots, like those worn by horses that jump, are not potentially harmful, bandages that completely encase the horse’s legs, like those used on racehorses, can cause overheating and potential for injury, Thompson said. Additionally, he does not feel that any wraps provide support for the horse’s limbs.

Read more at Horse & Hound

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Ask Your Veterinarian: Recovery Time After Long Hauls

by | 05.02.2018 | 11:40am

Kentucky Derby Champion Nyquist is escorted off the van by groom Elias Anaya after arriving at Monmouth Park July 27 ahead of the Haskell

QUESTION: When a horse ships long distances to race, why do some lose so much weight…and how long does it take them to recover fully?

DR. PETER MORRESEY: Transportation causes stress in horses. Many things are done to minimize this, but stress cannot be eliminated completely and like people, horses respond individually. Many studies have been performed to assess metabolic and physical changes in transported horses.

During transport, heart and respiratory rates increase. The stress hormone cortisol is released, promoting breakdown of body tissue and energy stores. The levels of other hormones involved in metabolism (e.g. thyroid hormone) are also altered.

Transportation also results in the horse constantly needing to preserve balance, requiring energy from his muscles. This is most needed during acceleration and deceleration of the transport vehicle, so the skill of the driver also affects body condition.

All of these alterations to the daily needs of the horse over and above maintenance consume energy. In addition to this, exposure to new horses and novel environments provide an infectious challenge; this, too, has an energy cost to defend against.

During transportation, horses vary in their water and food intake. If the horse eats and drinks adequately, losses will be comparatively small and easily made up. When the horse cannot or will not eat enough due to circumstance or personality, these reductions compound the loss of energy stores and body condition (muscle, fat).

Recovery time varies between individuals. Time taken to recoup losses depends upon the ability of the horse to resume intake adequate to replace losses and meet ongoing needs. For some horses this is not difficult and they rapidly adjust with minimal outward signs. For others, situations of stress resulting from a new environment, altered social setting, and variations in the food offered due to different hay/concentrates and water source (which can greatly affect taste) mean many days may be needed to regain body condition and energy stores depleted on their journey. There is no set period over which this may occur. Special attention should be paid in the days following transportation to the vital signs of the horse, with alterations in respiratory rate or effort, or elevations in rectal temperature, requiring prompt veterinary attention.

Opportunities to ease the stress and resulting losses due to transportation include acclimating the horse to trailers or stalls well in advance of the time of transport, progressively altering food offered to match that available during their journey, and ensuring in the initial period after arrival that routine and feedstuffs to as great of a degree as possible do not deviate any more than necessary from that which the horse might expect.

Dr. Morresey began his career in New Zealand as a mixed animal practitioner following graduation from Massey University in 1988. He completed a theriogenology residence at the University of Florida and spent time as part of clinical faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. Areas of interest include reproduction, internal medicine, neonatal medicine, veterinary business and Chinese medicine.

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Possible Link Between Selenium and Cribbing In Horses

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Stereotypic behaviors such as weaving, cribbing, and stall-walking occur commonly in high-performance horses as well as many companion horses. In addition to being unsightly, potentially damaging to the barn, and raising welfare concerns, stereotypic behaviors also result in important health issues such as dental disorders, temporohyoid joint damage, poor performance, weight loss, and colic.

“Cribbing is the most troublesome of these compulsive behaviors. It involves grasping a fixed object with the incisor teeth and aspirating air with an audible grunt,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research.

The exact reason horses crib remains unknown. Some suggest that cribbing horses have unmet dietary or management needs. Others believe that altered biological functions are the culprits, such as decreased antioxidant levels or increased oxidative stress.

Because trace elements such as selenium, zinc, manganese, and copper protect the body from oxidative stress, one research group* recently explored the hypothesis that oxidation status may contribute to cribbing. To test this theory, blood samples were collected from horses during or immediately after an episode of cribbing and when cribbers were resting. Control horses with no known history of cribbing were also tested. Samples were analyzed for various markers of oxidation.

“The most important finding in this study was that serum selenium concentration was significantly lower in cribbing horses than in controls, with the lowest levels measured while horses were actually cribbing,” Crandell said.

Based on these data, the researchers concluded “that alterations in serum selenium, an important component of the antioxidant system, may play a role in the pathophysiology of cribbing behavior in horses, adding further evidence to the theory that cribbing may be related to increased oxidative stress and alterations in essential trace elements.”

Micronutrients imbalances can affect many physiological processes, which is one reason why Kentucky Equine Research nutrition advisors are available for consultation. They can help with feed analysis, recommend ration fortifiers containing vitamins and minerals such as Micro-Max (Gold Pellet in Australia), and antioxidants such as Nano•E, a water-soluble, natural-source of vitamin E, and Preserve PS (Preserve in Australia) to provide natural-source vitamin E, vitamin C, and other antioxidants.

“Management also plays an important part in minimizing stereotypic behaviors. Strategies such as providing environmental enrichment tools, offering free-choice hay or prolonged grazing, and allowing direct visual contact or prolonged turnout time in groups are thought to improve the welfare of affected horses,” Crandell mentioned.

*Omidi, A., R. Jafari, N. Saeed, et al. 2018. Potential role for selenium in the pathophysiology of crib-biting behavior in horses. Journal of Veterinary Behavior 23:10-14.

Article reprinted courtesy of Kentucky Equine Research (KER). Visit equinews.com for the latest in equine nutrition and management, and subscribe to The Weekly Feed to receive these articles directly (equinews.com/newsletters).   

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Dr. Getty’s February Tip: Hay Before Grain, or Vice-versa?

Which should be fed first – hay or grain?  If you’re feeding correctly, this issue is truly a moot point because the horse should have access to forage (hay and/or pasture) 24/7 with no gaps. Therefore, when fed concentrates, the horse’s digestive tract should already have hay flowing through it.

If fed starchy cereal grains (oats, corn, barley, etc.) on an empty stomach, the horse will produce even more acid (potentially leading to ulcers) and it will be leave the stomach quickly. When this happens, there is a risk that it will not be fully digested in the small intestine (especially if large amounts are fed), and end up in the hindgut where starch can be fermented by the bacterial population. This can lead to endotoxin-related laminitis.

If hay is present in the stomach first, it creates a physical barrier for the grain to move out of the stomach as quickly. Since starch does not get digested in the stomach, the grain is simply mixed and churned into a semi-liquid mass, which enters the small intestine where it can be digested down to glucose. If there is hay present, fiber mixes with the starch and the whole mass enters the small intestine. Fiber is not digested until it reaches the hind gut, but its presence slows down the digestion of starch, and obstructs the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, leading to a less dramatic rise in insulin.

One thing to note – there is more water involved when hay is present (from increased drinking and saliva production). This is a good thing since digestion within the small intestine cannot take place without water.

 

Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. is an independent equine nutritionist with a wide U.S. and international following. Her research-based approach optimizes equine health by aligning physiology and instincts with correct feeding and nutrition practices. Dr. Getty’s goal is to empower the horseperson with the confidence and knowledge to provide the best nutrition for his or her horse’s needs.

Dr. Getty’s fundamental resource book, Feed Your Horse Like a Horse, is available in paperback as well as in hardcover, searchable CD and Kindle versions. All except the Kindle version are available at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com — buy the book there and have it inscribed by the author. Print and Kindle versions are also available at Amazon (www.Amazon.com); find print versions at other online retail bookstores. The seven individual volumes in Dr. Getty’s topic-centered “Spotlight on Equine Nutrition” series are available with special package pricing at her website, and also at Amazon in print and Kindle versions. Dr. Getty’s books make ideal gifts for equestrians!

Find a world of useful information for the horseperson at www.GettyEquineNutrition.com: Sign up for Dr. Getty’s informative, free e-newsletter, Forage for Thought; browse her library of reference articles; search her nutrition forum archives; and purchase recordings of her educational teleseminars and interviews. Find top-quality supplements, feeders, and other equine-related items, at her online Free Shipping Supplement Store[i]. Reach Dr. Getty directly at gettyequinenutrition@gmail.com.

 

[i] http://horsesupplements.gettyequinenutrition.biz

 

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Lasix Study Backs Four-Hour Administration Time

Pair of Lasix studies of interest outline results.

A study that has some potential to reshape the timing of Salix administration ahead of racing determined that the current four-hour timeframe is more effective than administering 24 hours out in reducing the severity of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.

The study, led by Dr. Heather Knych, was one of two studies on Salix (furosemide, commonly referred to as Lasix) with results outlined at the American Association of Equine Practitioners convention in late November. The other study, led by Dr. Warwick Bayly, found some potential for a low dosage of Salix 24 hours out combined with controlled access to water in reducing EIPH in racing.

The Paulick Report first posted a story on the results of both studies Jan. 30.

According to the AAEP’s 2017 Convention Proceedings document, the study by Dr. Knych of the Ken L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory looked at the efficacy of administering Lasix 24 hours out, instead of the current four hours out called for in racing’s model rules. The study concluded that administering furosemide four hours before a race was more effective in reducing the severity of EIPH than going to 24 hours out.

The Knych study saw 15 Thoroughbreds administered furosemide either four or 24 hours prior to a five-furlong simulated race. Blood samples were collected before and after the simulated race for determination of furosemide, lactate, hemoglobin, and electrolyte concentrations.

One hour after the race, an endoscopic exam and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) was performed. Horses were assigned an EIPH score based on previously published criteria. The number of red blood cells in in BAL fluid was also determined.

“There was a statistically significant difference in EIPH scores between the four-hour and 24-hour furosemide administrations,” the study determined. The study noted that none of the treatments prevented EIPH in the horses but that reducted red blood cell counts in bronchoalveolar fluid post-race indicated that administering furesomide four hours before a race was the most effective.

According to its introduction, the study came together following anecdotal reports that suggested furosemide administration 24 hours prior to strenuous exercise could be equally effective at decreasing EIPH.

The United States is one of the few countries that allows the raceday administration of Lasix. A study showing efficacy in preventing EIPH at 24 hours or beyond had potential to reshape current raceday policy of administration four hours before the race.

In the study led by Bayly, it was determined that a 0.5 mg/kg administration of furosemide 24 hours before strenuous exercise combined with controlled access to water shows potential for reducing the severity of EIPH.

The study used six horses who underwent treadmill exercise to fatigue after seven different protocols that adjusted the dosage amount of the Lasix and timing of the administration. The study concluded that, “Furosemide, 0.5 mg/kg, combined with controlled access to water, significantly reduced the severity of EIPH,” adding that, “No ill effects were detected in the horses.”

In its AAEP presentation outline, the study noted that “Although the findings were promising, the number of horses used was small. The effects of furosemide on water and ion excretion were evident for 24 hours but did not adversely affect the horses, likely because of increased absorption of wager and ions from the colon.”

In September 2015, Grayson Jockey Club Foundation announced it had launched funding of the two projects. The AAEP also played a prominent role in funding the projects, along with a number of racetracks.

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When The Storm Clears, Veterinary Challenges Remain For Horses Stuck In Flood Waters

by | 09.12.2017 |

 

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma flooded two of the largest horse populations in the United States. Texas has a million horses and Florida has a half-million. During the hurricanes, the major threat to these animals was flying debris, but in their aftermath, horses struggled through floodwater to survive.

Floodwater is particularly hazardous because of the level of pollutants it carries. Not only does it harbor bacteria from sewage and other sources, but it also contains harmful chemicals from flooded industrial facilities and breached storage areas on farms.

“I’ve been through a lot of floods,” said Dr. William Moyer, who in 2015 retired from Texas A&M University after a 22-year career as a professor and head of the Large Animal Clinical Sciences Department. He still helps out as a member of TAMU’s Veterinary Emergency Team, which he helped establish during Hurricane Rita in 2005. The unit is the largest and most sophisticated veterinary medical disaster-response team in the country.

Moyer said skin problems are common in horses standing in floodwater. Water leaches natural oils and other protective factors from the skin, making it easier for pollutants to invade. Usually these horses don’t suffer from a specific skin disease with a name, he said, but from exposure to a variety of irritants, chemicals, and bacteria that can have a deleterious effect, depending on the concentration.

“If you look at some of these refineries, there are cattle or horses grazing on the other side of the fence,” he said. “But with the exception of one chemical plant incident during Harvey, I don’t think there have been any toxic spills.”

Moyer said the most important thing is to get the horse somewhere it can dry off and examine it closely to find and treat any open wounds, even small ones. He said to pay particular attention to the pasterns and the backside of the fetlocks, where the feather might hide a wound.

“You might see a little cut that you normally wouldn’t even treat,” he said. “But then two days later the leg is blown up all the way up to the horse’s chest because the contamination is such that just a nick potentially becomes a significant problem.

“Clean it up with soap and water or some kind of effective disinfectant,” he said.

Clean water in disaster areas usually is scarce, but if a safe water supply via a hose is available, Moyer said to bathe the horse in mild detergent, such as Dawn dish soap, to wash off contamination from the floodwater.

If possible, horsemen should try to find out the status of the tetanus vaccination of any horse pulled from floodwater and boost it, if needed.

Hoof wounds

Dick Fanguy is a former president of the American Farrier’s Association who lives near Baton Rouge, La. Though his area was spared from flooding this time around, he took care of many horses during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, triaging their foot wounds and passing them on to veterinary students for further care.

“These horses are going to come out of that water and their feet are going to be extremely soft,” he said.

Soft hooves are more easily penetrated when they step on foreign objects. The hazards depend on the area where a horse is found. In urban areas, debris from damaged buildings is under the water, whereas horses in rural areas will be exposed to fewer hazards.

“I pulled so many foreign objects out of soles that it was ridiculous,” Fanguy said. “We rescued two horses from New Orleans, and I pulled roofing nails and glass out of their feet. But horses that were in a rural setting just came in with wet, soaked feet. It was just a matter of putting them in a dry stall and letting nature do what nature does.”

Puncture wounds were the priority because of the danger from pollution in the floodwater. For these, Fanguy immediately disinfected the wound with a surgical scrub, debrided it, packed it with a mixture of Epsom salt and povidone iodine (Betadine), and wrapped the foot.

“My experience is that a hoof is a very resilient thing and will come out all right,” he said.

One of the tragedies in the wake of disasters is that many horses (and other animals) are never reunited with their owners because they bear no identification. Moyer, a strong proponent of microchipping, hopes these hurricanes will be a wake-up call for owners to have their animals microchipped.

Louisiana requires all horses to be microchipped. In the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, all but one of 364 recovered horses were able to be reunited with their owners using microchip identification.

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