Fit or Fat? The Overfed Horse

Most, if not all of our employees here at Big Dee’s are true horse-people. Meaning they have owned, worked with, and/or show/shown horses. Many have been involved in the horse industry for numerous years. Within that knowledge, we’ve all had personal experiences with horse related products. We know what products really work and we want to share our experiences with our customers!

I freely admit, since my horse has retired, I spoil him rotten  horse treats and extra hay. Not to mention an excellent high-quality Diet Balancer feed. Including all of the supplements he is on for his joints, digestion and immune system.

In all seriousness, overweight horses are at a greater risk for developing major health issues, and Dr. Corey Paradine wrote the blog below to help horse owners trim down their plump ponies and keep them in fit condition.

 

The Over-fed Horse

There are a lot of fat horses these days, and it’s a problem.  A serious problem.  A problem that is so widespread that peoples’ assessment of normal is becoming skewed – often what most consider to be normal is actually obese, and what is actually healthy is often seen as too lean.

Horses are not exempt from health risks associated with obesity. Insulin resistance, for example, is a common weight-related disease.  Insulin resistance is a disease in which the bodies’ insulin receptors become increasingly resistant to insulin and as such the body must increase the levels of insulin to achieve the desired effect – mainly, affecting glucose uptake by cells.  Think of it as Type 2 diabetes in people – not exactly the same disease but similar.  Inappropriately large body size also increases the stress on many joints and ligaments – in other words, increases the “wear and tear” on them by having to carry more weight than they should every minute of every day as well as increasing their load during performance.

So your horse is fat – now what?

Diet and exercise.  Calories IN must be less than calories OUT in order to shed pounds.  Grain should be cut first when starting to decrease feed.  Many horses, especially the easy keepers, do not need grain in their diet.  The horses’ digestive tract is made to digest forages, not grains, and unless the grain is needed to meet energy requirements (often high performing horses, like racehorses, eventers, barrel horses), it’s unnecessary.  That being said, a diet of hay or grass alone is not considered to be a balanced diet. While a lot of horses do not need grain, they should be fed a diet balancer to provide vitamins and minerals. Most major feed companies make one.

Weight tapes are useful to help gauge weight loss – I recommend using a weight tape every couple weeks and keeping a log of the number.  It can be very useful to chart trends in your horses’ weight.  It’s important to be consistent in your placement of the tape as you can create false “gains” or “losses” by inconsistent placement and tension on the tape.  The tape is most accurate when placed in the girth area, just behind the elbows and over the withers.

Weight loss is not always easy.

There is considerable evidence that there are genetic factors that contribute to a propensity for weight gain and even insulin resistance.  It takes time and persistence and often a complete lifestyle/management change to achieve and maintain significant weight loss in many of these horses.  Products like slow-feeder hay nets are helpful for horses on strict diets as they slow feed intake and make the limited amount of hay last longer for the horse.

Another key component to feeding is weighing feed (both grains/diet balancers and forages) as horses should be fed by weight (so many pounds of hay per day, so many pounds of grain or diet balancer per day – recommended amounts depend on the individual) rather than volume (flakes, scoops, coffee cans….).  Your veterinarian can provide some guidance for your individual horse, and it may benefit to contact a feed representative or nutritionist as well.

Employee Review of Back On Track Mesh Sheet

Most, if not all of our employees here at Big Dee’s are true horse-people. Meaning they have owned, worked with, and/or show/shown horses. Many have been involved in the horse industry for numerous years. Within that knowledge, we’ve all had personal experiences with horse related products. We know what products really work and we want to share our experiences with our customers!

Big Dee’s Marketing Assistant & Customer Service Rep, Jen Ahwash, says her favorite products would have to be anything made by Back on Track.

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7862C – Ceramic Mesh Sheet by Back on Track

“My Irish Draught/Arabian mare has always been fairly tense and nervous.  She was always the horse that spooked at everything and carried a lot of tension in her whole body so when we warmed up, especially at shows, it took me a long time to get her to relax and move more freely.  I mainly do eventing so a long warm up before dressage is not a good thing when you either have cross country or stadium to do later in the day. I bought the Back On Track mesh sheet and started using it and gradually built up the time she was wearing it.

It made a huge difference and cut our warm up time in half! I could trailer her in it, leave it on her overnight, or put it on her while I braided her.  She would start out so much more relaxed and looser through her body.  It made such a difference that I bought the t-shirt for myself.  We went from having good tests to having great tests with a lot of low scores. Our jumping improved because she was more relaxed and able to use her body and become much more adjustable.  The price is well worth it because you can use it for years and years and use it on other horses as well.”

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Employee Review of Cosequin Optimized w/MSM & Calphormin

Most, if not all of our employees here at Big Dee’s are true horse-people. Meaning they have owned, worked with, and/or show/shown horses. Many have been involved in the horse industry for numerous years. Within that knowledge, we’ve all had personal experiences with horse related products. We know what products really work and we want to share our experiences with our customers!

Big Dee’s Assistant Showroom Manager, Caitlyn Thurman, says her 10 y/o gelding, Austin is a much happier horse since she started him on Cosequin Optimized w/MSM.

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658C – Cosequin Optimized with MSM

“This joint supplement by far exceeds anything else I have tried.  I absolutely love this product! I use this product on my 10 year old gelding that has arthritis. He used to be so stiff especially in the winter or after being in his stall for long periods of time. I tried a lot of different joint supplements, all with excellent reviews, but none were able to provide as much relief as the Cosequin.  When first looking at the Cosequin, it does not appear that it would work as well as it does not contain as much Glucosamine and MSM as most joint supplements.

Cosequin uses a more purified product that absorbs better.  While I was hesitate at the price, since this provides an 84 day supply, the price evens out to approximately $40 a month.  He is a much happier horse since starting this supplement! If I happen to run out for a couple days, the difference is immediately noticeable. This gelding is super picky and he will actually eat this supplement, it really is apple flavored and fills the whole room with the smell of apples. If you are looking for a great joint supplement, this will not disappoint. The proof is in the horse.  Since using the Cosequin, I won’t use anything else.”

Caitlyn also owns a young gelding, named Shooter, that had some tendon issues as a baby. Although, Shooter has made a HUGE turnaround, and Caitlyn believes some of that can be attributed to Calphormin.

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802P – Calphormin

“This is such a great product. It has everything you are looking for to help a baby grow up right. It is palatable and my finicky horse eats it right up. I have used this product with my gelding since I purchased him at 3 months old. When he was x-rayed him last winter, at 1 1/2 yr. and he had no OCD or juvenile arthritis.  I have continued to use this product, as he was diagnosed with contracted tendons, due to his large size and fast growth.  When he was first diagnosed, the vet had me stop using the Calphormin and switch to a supplement that could only be gotten through my vet.  It was much more expensive and only came in a powder.  The first problem was that my horse did not eat the supplement so I was constantly mixing and fighting with him to get him to eat it.

  Finally, I stopped using it and switched back to the Calphormin.  I saw a huge difference with the Calphormin compared to the vet’s product.  He is now almost three and I have continued to use the Calphormin with great results.  When he goes through a large growth spurt, I double the dosage and he seems much more comfortable.  This is the only calcium supplement I have found that comes in a pellet.  While this is a great product for any growing horse, it is especially helpful for the finicky baby and for simple feeding.  I would recommend this to anyone who is breeding or raising babies.  You can feed it at any age and I think it is well worth the investment. The 6lb pail will last around 60 days. If you are feeding multiple horses or if you are going to keep a horse on this product for longer than 60 days, this is available in a 22lb (#802) and it is much more cost effective.”

When To Call the Vet: Eye Issues

We are very pleased to bring to our readers a blog series from Dr. Corey Paradine, a local veterinarian here in northeast Ohio. Over the next few months, she will touch upon some important equine health issues. This time were are focusing on when to call the Vet for eye issues.

Eyes Issues

Symptoms:

Eye problems are generally easy to recognize and can involve squinting, tearing, swelling, or discoloration to the eye.

When to call:

Generally it is recommended to call the veterinarian for any issue with an eye.  Certain eye problems can be very serious and require prompt treatment.

What you can do:

Removing the horse from bright lights may help their comfort level.  If the eye is swollen icing the area is beneficial.  Flushing the eye with saline is fairly benign and may be helpful, but resist the urge to put anything else in the eye unless directed by your veterinarian.  Even if you have ointment on hand that was prescribed for a prior issue, do not use it unless directed by your veterinarian.  While certain ointments may be appropriate for one condition, they may be wrong for another.  A good rule of thumb – if you would not put it in your eye, do not put it in your horses’ eye either.

When To Call the Vet: Fever

We are very pleased to bring to our readers a blog series from Dr. Corey Paradine, a local veterinarian here in northeast Ohio. Over the next few months, she will touch upon some important equine health issues. She is here to provide you with some general advice on how to keep your horse(s) healthy.

Fevers

Horses, like people, will get fevers from a variety of causes. Most often being infectious although occasionally a fever may come from a non-infectious disease.  The normal temperature range for horses is 98.6 F – 101.5 F.

Symptoms:

Generally horses with a fever are lethargic and have a decreased appetite.  Sometimes they will have an increased respiratory rate and will “blow”.  Often owners will initially think that the horse is colicky due to the lack of appetite, but usually febrile horses do not show signs of pain.

When to call:

It is appropriate to call anytime your horse has a fever.  While it may or may not be necessary to have an emergency visit, most horses should be seen within the next day or so to further evaluate the cause for the increased temperature.

What you can do:

Medications like Bute or Banamine are often given to bring down a fever but should be given only as directed by your veterinarian.  Fans and/or an alcohol bath may help to bring down a fever as well.

 

When To Call the Vet: Dystocia & Sick Foals

We are very pleased to bring to our readers a blog series from Dr. Corey Paradine, a local veterinarian here in northeast Ohio. Over the next few months, she will touch upon some important equine health issues. She is here to provide you with some general advice on how to keep your horse(s) healthy.

With the 2013 Foaling Season upon us, it seems one can never prepare enough for foaling emergencies. Here are two scenarios that Dr. Corey thought were important to include in our “When To Call the Vet” series.

Foaling Mares – Dystocia

Dystocia is defined as abnormal or difficult birthing and is a serious concern in a foaling mare.

Symptoms:

Anytime a mare is in labor for more than 15-20 minutes or if you see anything other than two front feet and a muzzle it is a cause for concern.

When to call:

ALWAYS!  Dystocia is always an emergency, as both the foal and the mares’ lives are at high risk.

What you can do:

While waiting for the veterinarian to arrive you can walk the mare.  Walking her may help to minimize straining.  Do not attempt to manipulate the foal on your own.

Sick Foals

Young foals are at a higher risk for illness due to their naïve immune systems.  Making sure that a foal gets adequate colostrum (the first milk from the mare that is high in antibodies) is important to reducing the risk of illness to the foal, but it does not completely omit the chance that a foal could get sick.

Symptoms:

Symptoms that a foal is sick can range from subtle changes in nursing and activity to more obvious signs such as coughing, diarrhea, lameness, and extreme lethargy.

When to call:

Sick foals can go from bad to worse in a matter of hours, so it is prudent to call your vet as soon as a change is noted.

What you can do:

While you may be tempted to give your foal something, whether it’s a probiotic for diarrhea or Banamine to make them feel better, it is better to not give the foal anything unless directed by a veterinarian as foals are often more sensitive to medications than an adult horse.

When To Call the Vet: Wounds

wounds-blog-banner

We are very pleased to bring to our readers a blog series from Dr. Corey Paradine, a local veterinarian here in northeast Ohio. Over the next few months, she will touch upon some important equine health issues. She is here to provide you with some general advice on how to keep your horse(s) healthy.

No matter how careful we are with ensuring our horses have a safe environment, it seems they will always find that ONE thing we missed. Inevitably they end up with a cut, scrape, or wound. There are days that I wish I could just “bubble wrap” my horse and I know I am not the only horse owner that feels this way! This weeks blog provides expert advise on wound care. Here is Dr. Paradine’s blog on “When To Call the Vet: Wounds.”

When to call the vet: Wounds

Wounds are another common emergency and can certainly vary in severity.

Symptoms:

Wounds are generally pretty obvious and involve skin disruption and possibly disruption of deeper tissues.  The amount of bleeding may vary depending on location of the wound.  Small wounds can sometimes have deep tracts (as often the case with puncture wounds), so full evaluation of any wound is always warranted.

When to call:

Minor wounds and abrasions do not always necessitate an emergency visit, but a call to the veterinarian may be helpful for guidance in appropriate at-home treatment.   Factors to consider when deciding if your horses’ wound needs seen by a vet are both wound size and depth. Amount of bleeding is essential. Check if there is lameness associated with the wound, and importantly, the wound’s proximity to any important structures such as a joint or eye.

What you can do:

Gently clean the wound with soap (Betadine or Nolvasan if available, but even a mild dish soap such as Dawn or Ivory will work) and water.  Do not put any ointment or spray on the wound if there is any chance it will be sutured.  If there is bleeding, pressure may be applied to the wound.  Keeping the horse quiet and in a clean dry area will help to minimize contamination.

When To Call the Vet: Colic

Colic | Dr. Corey Paradine | Big Dee's

We are very pleased to bring to our readers a blog series from Dr. Corey Paradine, a local veterinarian here in northeast Ohio. Over the next few months, she will touch upon some important equine health issues and is here to provide you with some general advice on how to keep your horse(s) healthy. If there is a specific topic you would like her to discuss, you can email it to me, jena@bigdweb.com, and I will pass your ideas along to Dr. Corey OR you can place it in the comment section of this blog.

At some point or another, every horse person will have the unfortunate run in with a colic case. If you haven’t already had a horse come down with colic, then this blog provides expert advise on what you should look for and how to help your horse through it. Here is Dr. Paradine’s blog on “When To Call the Vet: Colic.”

When to call the vet: Colic

Colic is the most common emergency call veterinarians get.  The definition of colic is abdominal pain, which can arise from any organ in the abdomen including liver, kidneys, the reproductive tract, etc. Most often from the gastrointestinal tract.

Symptoms:

Symptoms of colic range from “just not right” to pawing, looking at their abdomen, lying down, and when severe, rolling and thrashing.

When to call:

Recommendations of when to call can vary depending on the owner.  Even if the colic is mild a phone call to your veterinarian is always a good idea for guidance and to give the veterinarian a heads up that you may need them.  Certainly more severe colics warrant a vet visit.

What you can do:

Many horse owners are familiar with colic and may try and treat a mild colic on their own by withholding feed and walking the horse.  Any medications such as Banamine or anti-ulcer drugs should be given only after consulting with your veterinarian.  Walking the horse is often recommended to keep the horse from rolling. If the horse is so painful that it is thrashing it can be a danger to anyone attempting to handle the horse. Further intervention should then wait until veterinary assistance has arrived.

Horse Health Series With Dr. Corey Paradine

Welcome_Corey

We are very pleased to bring to our readers a blog series from Dr. Corey Paradine, a local veterinarian here in northeast Ohio. Over the next few months, she will touch upon some important equine health issues and is here to provide you with some general advice on how to keep your horse(s) healthy. If there is a specific topic you would like her to discuss, you can email it to me, jena@bigdweb.com, and I will pass your ideas along to Dr. Corey OR you can place it in the comment section of this blog.

So please help welcome Dr. Corey Paradine:

Hello everyone. I’m using the first post as an introduction, to give you a little background about me and my thoughts and plans for this blog. My name is Dr. Corey Paradine, and I am an associate veterinarian at Cleveland Equine Clinic. I graduated from Michigan State University (not to be confused with that other school in Michigan!) where I completed both my undergraduate degree as well as my doctorate in veterinary medicine. My interests include internal medicine, reproduction, and lameness. I do not practice any dentistry, so if there is a strong push for a post regarding dental health in the horse, I will likely outsource that article.

So here’s the disclaimer – My goal for this blog is to help educate the horse community in a variety of medical issues relating to horses. Due to the nature of a blog, my posts will be fairly generalized as each horse is different and each case can be different. These posts are to be educational and are not an attempt to diagnose or treat any specific horse. If you have questions regarding your horse, I strongly encourage you to contact your veterinarian as they will be able to take your horses’ individual medical history and circumstances into account. I will read responses to the blog on a regular basis but I will not be able to answer questions directly. I am happy however to consider suggestions/requests for topics.

So a little about me….southern Michigan is where I grew up and started riding when I was a kid. I spent my high school and early college years working for a Morgan show barn as well as showing my breeding stock paint gelding at various open shows. I can’t say that I was one of those people who have always known that they wanted to be a vet – I didn’t figure that out till I was half way through undergrad and spent a few days shadowing a local equine vet.  Intent on practicing equine medicine, I went through vet school and came across the job at Cleveland Equine Clinic almost by chance. I have now been at CEC for four and a half years and am honored to work in such a great practice. In my free time (haha) I enjoy riding and showing my OTTB, downhill skiing, and traveling.

Feeding to Ensure Digestive Tract Health

Feeding to Ensure Digestive Tract Health

We have all heard that certain horses exposed to stressful conditions are at a higher risk of developing ulcers and hindgut imbalances, but did you know that how and what you feed your horse can also increase the likelihood of damaging his or her sensitive digestive tract? One of the most important facets of equine management is learning what strategies should be used to ensure digestive tract health in the horses you care for.

Extensive research has shown us that how we feed our horses affects GI tract pH (acid levels), the inflammation level in the digestive tract, and the digestibility of the diet. It also impacts the balance of good versus bad microbial populations that are so crucial to a healthy hindgut. Researchers tell us that horses benefit from continual eating, either by grazing or by eating frequent small meals throughout a 24-hour period. When horses chew, there is a continuous supply of saliva buffering the stomach and keeping the pH above 4 for most of the day. Horses that eat consistently maintain a comfortably full stomach, which allows feedstuffs to be completely digested. When there is a constant flow of feedstuffs, it provides a continuous supply of nutrients to the horse’s digestive tract and to the microbes that populate the gut. It was the way nature intended horses to eat and when fed this way, they remain healthy and happy.

Best management practices you should be following to ensure a healthy digestive tract:
  • Allow access to good quality hay or forage 24/7. Always feed some long hay.
  • Feed mixed grass and alfalfa hays when possible, as alfalfa hay contains higher levels of protein and calcium that help to buffer the stomach.
  • Feed a total diet that contains no more than 10% nonstructural carbohydrates (sugar and starch).
  • When concentrates (in the form of sweet feed, plain grains or pellets) must be fed to provide energy for work or weight maintenance, offer them in meals of no more than 4-5 pounds per feeding. Feeding intervals should be at least 6 hours apart. Consider adding fat instead of carbohydrates to increase calories.
  • Make all feed changes slowly, over 7 days for hay and 10 days for concentrates and/or supplements, to allow the microbes in the horse’s gut to adjust. Got a new load of hay in? Even if it is the same type of hay, it probably has a different nutrient makeup that can throw your horse’s microbes out of whack.
  • Feed at consistent times of the day. If your feeding routine has to change, make the change slowly over several days.
  • In certain circumstances a change in routine is unavoidable. During times when you know your horse’s digestive tract will be stressed, additional supplementation with a product such as Neigh-Lox Advanced will reduce pH fluctuations and support a healthy microbial population.
  • For horses that are constantly under pressure due to rigorous training and competition schedules, or for those that are simply sensitive, routine digestive tract support with Neigh-Lox Advanced is highly recommended.

There are a lot of traditions when it comes to feeding horses, but modern science has shown us that not all of them are healthy for your horse. Over time the old ways will fall to the wayside and new strategies will be employed. Our horses will benefit from what we have learned and live longer, happier lives.

Article written by Kentucky Performance Products

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