Ask Horse Journal: 03/04

Bone Chip Diagnosis
My 17-year-old Thoroughbred mare was diagnosed with a bone chip in her right knee, and a single dose of Adequan was administered in her left hindquarter. She had a bad reaction where her left hind swelled and began to ooze pus. The leg stopped oozing but remained swollen and hard. She gets daily turnout, and I ride her three to four times per week, as she isn’t lame. After a workout, the size of the leg does decrease.

She had a flare-up where the left hind swelled and the lymph vessels were like hot, swollen cords that reached to her teats. It was treated with a seven-day course of SMZ and bute, and although it was still large, she was sound on it. A few weeks later, her right hind leg was similarly affected. She is being treated with the SMZ and bute. I can’t find any information on the cause. Most resources indicate that the condition is chronic and a leg is prone to a flare-up if it happened before, which basically tells me nothing new. Any ideas’

-Elizabeth Hackett
New York

Your last description is classic for a lymphangitis. Several bacteria can be involved, as can fungal organisms. All of these can be difficult to eradicate and may call for different treatments, so identifying the organism involved is important. Cultures may not be reliable after a course of antibiotics. Even one that isn’t effective can suppress growth on cultures enough to influence results.

We think your best bet is for the veterinarian to either make slides of material taken from open areas or attempt to aspirate fluid or express out fluid. The material should be stained for both bacteria and fungi. Depending on what is found, samples should be obtained for cultures and treatment. You might also consider putting in a call to the closest veterinary school to locate a specialist or take your horse there. This type of infection can be difficult to eradicate and if improperly treated will keep coming back and can spread.


How Much Flaxseed’
Previously you recommended feeding 1 1/2 pounds of flaxseed, but my vet treating my 23-year-old Arab gelding is unfamiliar with that quantity. I’ve chosen to feed Enreco Horseshine as the flaxseed source. The packaging specifies 1/2 cup daily.

The remainder of his diet consists of 10 lbs. of timothy, 1.5 lbs. of alfalfa cubes, 2 oz. Champion Nutrition Whey Protein Stack, 2 oz. VitaKey Antioxidant, 1 tsp. Source, 2 oz. Finish Line Fluid Action joint nutraceutical, 2 oz. of B-L Solution, and a 1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar.

The Fluid Action and B-L Solution are for chronic arthritis in hips and hocks incurred during a career in reining. Recently, a bout with acute laminitis (his first) has confined him to his stall. The vet and I are considering adding a Cushing’s medication to his daily regimen after the laminitis subsides. This horse is ridden lightly. Do you have any suggestions’

-Cindy Klein

We don’t know about feeding as much flaxseed as 40% of the diet, but the 1.5 lbs./day intake seems to be well tolerated. You didn’t mention whether the horse was under or overweight. This level of feeding would be adequate calories to maintain a weight of about 800 lbs. If he’s underweight, we would feed more hay. If he’s overweight or cresty, try substituting 1 to 2 lbs. of beet pulp for the flaxseed and just use it at supplemental dosages. Your current diet is pretty well balanced for minerals, just a little light on phosphorus. Trace minerals are good except that you need more selenium. If you know this horse has insulin resistance, which means a blood test for insulin was high, you need to add more magnesium, about 5 grams/day. If you don’t know his hormonal status, get it checked. Have your veterinarian run tests for T3, T4, insulin, glucose and ACTH (for Cushing’s). Laminitis alone is not sufficient reason to put a horse on medications for Cushing’s.


Dam Rejects Foal
I’m hand-raising a foal that was rejected by her dam. The mare cleaned her off but wouldn’t let her nurse. She become violent if we tried to get near her udder.

Now, at seven weeks of age, the foal is exhibiting violent behavior. She isn’t kept near other horses because her feeding schedule required that I bring her home and put her in my backyard. Lately she’s begun to kick. I know foals play rough with their dams, but she gave me quite a nasty kick. She has a goat for company and most of the rude behavior appears during mealtimes. I recently weaned her from her bottle to a bucket, but if she feels the milk isn’t poured fast enough she has a tantrum. She has free-choice 9% sweet feed mixed with Foal-Lac pellets. She also has free choice hay and pasture.

I’ve dealt with kicking, rearing and crowding. She tries to suck my fingers. She was imprinted and doesn’t kick when handled for grooming or picking up feet, only when loose. I’ve tried pushing her away, ignoring her and verbally correcting her. I admit I smacked her immediately after she kicked me, but nothing has helped. I don’t want to whack her and make her afraid of people, but I need some advice on how to handle her behavior before it gets more dangerous.

-Mary Buffet

You may have a few different things going on here. First, be sure you’re feeding her often enough. Foals nurse frequently throughout the day, so you need to mimic this feeding routine. Also, she may be anxious about not being able to suck. Babies find this comforting and miss the physical closeness. She also has more energy and desire to play than the goat can accommodate. She needs plenty of room to run off energy.

A third problem is discipline. Be consistent with how you handle and communicate with her. She needs to learn to interpret the cues and understand their meanings.

If she crowds you when you enter the yard, stand still and refuse to move until she backs off (but be careful not to get kicked). Teach her that an extended hand or a crouched position and a coaxing voice are her cues to come closer. It will take some time on your part, but she’ll learn.

It would also be a good idea to find her an equine companion, ideally a patient pony, before contemplating putting her out with other horses in the future. She’s going to need to learn how to behave in equine society, too.


I was wondering if you have ever come across small bumps on a horse’s back, right where the saddle goes. My trainer seems to think that it’s a skin irritation from either the saddle pad or something else. But they aren’t going away. They’re hard little bumps about 1/4” to 1/2” round. Do you have any idea what they are and how I can get rid of them’

-Sacha Mehta

If you can move the bumps around freely they’re within the skin layers and more than likely irritation from either a chemical in the pad/saddle or the saddle and pad moving around. An improperly fitted saddle can pinch/irritate sensitive skin as well. Bumps that don’t move around freely are originating in the deeper tissues and not likely to be related to skin sensitivities. Checking saddle fit is the place to start. If your saddle fit is good, try a different material for the pad and wash using only Ivory Snow or Dreft. If this doesn’t solve the problem, it’s time for a biopsy.


Carbohydrate Concern
I’ve been receiving your publication for several years now and always look forward to reading it. You’ve printed several interesting articles about laminitis and its relationship to carbohydrate metabolism and the associated insulin reaction.

Owning Fjord horses, the threat of laminitis/founder is always present. After reading the article on magnesium, obesity and laminitis (January 2001), I started all my Fjords on a maintenence level of magnesium. I noticed some softening in their lar ge crests. I asked my veterinarian for his opinion on this and he expressed a possible concern for creating a calcium imbalance. So, I have discontinued the magnesium.

Being health conscious and eating an Atkins-type low-carb diet, I also take the supplement chromium picolinate. Clinical research supports the idea that chromium is necessary in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fat by assisting insulin. Have there been any tests done showing the possible beneficial effects that chromium may have as a preventative for laminitis in high-risk horses’

-D J Navelski

We do not recommend just blindly supplementing magnesium, even though odds are most diets are low in it. To supplement magnesium correctly, as stated in the article, you need to know the calcium and magnesium level in your diet from all sources, grain, hay, supplements. The goal is then to provide the horse with 1.5 to 2 times as much calcium as magnesium. This is probably what your veterinarian was trying to explain to you. Figuring this out isn’t difficult to do.

If you feed grain or supplements, the calcium levels should be listed on the labels. Next is the hay and pasture. The best way to determine these calcium levels is a hay analysis. Even extensive mineral (plus protein and calorie/energy) analyses are reasonable in price. You can also use the average analysis figures for hays and grains published by the National Research Council. Done properly, magnesium supplementation won’t have adverse effects on calcium or health in general. In fact, the NRC Feeding Recommendations for Horses states there are no known toxicities with oral magnesium, even when fed in levels eight times that found in most grass hays.

While chromium supplementation has been found to be of benefit to diabetic/insulin-resistant people and experimental animals, there is also some research to suggest it is of greatest importance when there is an abnormal diet with either high sugar or high fat intake. On the other hand, key minerals like magnesium and zinc seem to operate across the board. Many people use chromium in their insulin-resistant horses, although there really haven’t been any critical studies to test how much it helps.

When dealing with a problem such as yours???easy-keeper breeds with abnormal fat deposits and a high risk of laminitis???the answer is more complicated than any one single mineral in many cases. Reducing the hydrolyzable carbohydrate portion of the diet by feeding absolutely no grain and taking care with fresh grasses and even early cuttings of hay is the most important factor.

Beyond this, there are many minerals that contribute to good glucose control and normal insulin responses, including chromium, magnesium and zinc. In fact, it’s always a good idea to get all the minerals in the diet brought into correct balance since even if you supply what should be an adequate amount of one, there may be levels of others that are off and will influence its function.


Supplements For Draft Horses
Have you ever heard of a hoof supplement called Bio-Zin Genuine Draft’ I happened across it while searching some catalogs for a hoof supplement for our five-year-old Belgian gelding.

We keep all of our horses barefoot and have had no problems, except with him. His hooves weren’t in the best of shape (cracked, chipped) when we got him, but we figured it had a lot to do with the environment he was in. They’re in much better condition now, (we’ve had him for about 18 months), but we still have a bit of a time with cracks and chips.

He now has a crack that the farrier has told me to keep an eye on. The farrier says we may have to put a shoe on him until the crack grows out. I asked him if a biotin supplement would be a good idea, and he said it might help.

I was going to get Shoer’s Friend by Equine America because we use a couple of their supplements, which we chose due to reading about them in Horse Journal and have been pleased with the products. But after seeing this Bio-Zin, I wondered if it would be a better choice for my draft horse. I’ve never seen anything developed specifically for drafts. Any suggestions’

-Annie Adams

The types of nutritional imbalances and deficiencies likely to cause problems with hoof quality are the same for drafts as for any other breed. The Bio-Zin focuses on one of the most common deficiencies and provides dosage of biotin, methionine and lysine appropriate for the draft’s bigger body size. They don’t increase the levels of copper and zinc by much, though, so you might be better off using their Super Bio-Zin Hoof Supplement product and increasing the dose appropriately for the size of your horse.

However, you could also do the same with the Equine America Shoer’s Friend or with Farrier’s Formula. If you don’t get a response, your next step would be a complete dietary analysis to make sure you’re supplying adequate levels of the needed nutrients. Individual horses vary in how sensitive they are to nutrient problems.


Simple Stuff: Spray Bottles
We’ve all experienced the frustration of a sprayer suddenly ceasing to function.??Usually it’s when there are annoying mosquitoes buzzing around, and the timing couldn’t be worse.?? We like to keep spare sprayer bottles around the barn. Wiping on fly spray is a thing of the past for most of us???and thankfully so.

Since most screw-top sprayers fit most screw-top bottles, we recommend keeping the sprayer top when you’re finished with a product, if it’s a good sprayer. Fill the empty container with water and thoroughly clean it out, then spray the clean water through the sprayer nozzle to clean out any residual product.?? This will create a spare sprayer top, so you’ll never be left in the lurch.??When replacing a sprayer with one you have in reserve, just make sure the screw top fits well to prevent leakage.

There are three common sprayer tops: ??

The continuous turning nozzle offers the widest choice of stream.?? When barely opened, the spray is wide, and as the nozzle is turned, the stream becomes narrower.??

The four-sided nozzle can be annoying, since the OFF/STREAM/OFF/SPRAY words are almost impossible to read, at least for baby boomers.?? In this case, making a little black mark on the stream of choice, and a red one on the OFF position, can be helpful when you glance at the container.

The flip-top??sprayer won’t give you a spray choice but does, generally speaking, does give an excellent spray, but can leak. It’s important to keep these sprayers upright.


Reserve NSAID Use For Inflammation
You know the side effects and dangers of using bute and other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are intestinal or kidney damage, slowed healing, interference with joint and tendon metabolism, even negative effects on circulation. These are all real side effects to keep in mind, especially with long-term or high-dosage use of NSAIDs.

However, don’t go overboard with worry and forget that many situations do call for these quick-acting, effective anti-inflammatory drugs. To strike a balance between the therapy’s maximum benefits and the desired minimum risks to your horse, remember these points:

??? Use NSAIDs only for acute and severe pain/inflammation.

??? Start with middle-dosage ranges and reassess after 24 hours.

??? Include non-drug inflammation controls such as cold, massage, topical anti-inflammatories and wrapping.

??? Do not try to completely block pain and inflammation.

??? After 48 to 72 hours, begin cutting back on the drug. If the condition worsens with decreasing dosages, your veterinarian needs to re-evaluate it.

The initial acute inflammatory response to an injury is when you most need control of pain and inflammation. As long as the insult to the tissues is removed, the response usually lasts about 72 hours. Beyond t his, healing begins and inflammation should start to subside.

Since NSAIDs can interfere with healing, you want them leaving in the same time frame as the acute inflammatory response. Obviously, many injuries won’t be healed within three days, but the swelling, heat and the pain should be starting to steadily improve by this time.

A characteristic of common NSAIDs is that they achieve relatively high concentrations in inflammatory fluids/exudates and are cleared more slowly from areas of inflammation. However, dosing intervals are largely based on blood levels. Because of the longer persistence in inflamed tissues, you can begin weaning easily and often with no difference in clinical control of pain and inflammation simply by stretching out the interval between doses.

If you gave the drug every 12 hours, stretch it out to every 24. From that go to every 36 hours, then 48 hours. Once you successfully reach the point of dosing only every two to three days, begin to drop the dosage by 25% to 50% each time. At this point, the horse’s pain should be one that he can handle without obvious distress but sufficient enough to remind him he has an injury that needs protection. Residual inflammation should be controlled with topical measures.

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