Ask Horse Journal: 05/06

Long-Term Bute Use
What are the long-term effects of phenylbutazone on my 33-year-old mare’ She was down several times last week, so the veterinarian checked her out and prescribed 1 tablet (1 gram) twice a day. The drug must help as she is now up and seems OK when she’s on it.

There are certainly horses that are on phenylbutazone long-term with no known problems but also many that develop serious complications of mouth, stomach, or colonic ulcers and kidney damage. Phenylbutazone has its place for the treatment of acute inflammatory conditions, but for long-term control of problems you should get an actual diagnosis and look for a better approach than just masking the horse’s symptoms.


Where’s the MSM’
I’m puzzled. You published an article on nutraceuticals (December 2005), and there was no mention of MSM. It seems to me that MSM is the most widely used joint supplement available, and while it’s never been entirely clear to me what’s a ”nutraceutical” and what’s just a supplement, it seems reasonable to expect MSM to be discussed alongside glucosamine, chondroitin and other supplements people use to try to treat or prevent arthritis.

Several of the products in our last joint nutraceuticals article, including best performers, contained MSM. However, the focus of that article was on ingredients already known to directly influence joint cartilage, such as chondroitin, glucosamine and hyaluronic acid. While some believe MSM helps joints by providing sulfur, this has not been confirmed to be the case. At this point, MSM is probably best classified as an alternative analgesic/anti-inflammatory. We do have an update article on this topic in the planning stages, and it will likely include MSM.


Ground Bees
Will an established ground-bee hive be active indefinitely in warmer weather’ In other words, will the same hive be used for more than one season’ If it is, then what method is recommended to eradicate it in a pasture’ I hesitated to poison the hive since I might be poisoning the ground and grass near it as well.

Some ground-nesting bees reuse nests, while others don’t. Without knowing the exact type of bee, we would have to assume the potential is there for a repeat performance. There are two environmentally kind methods recommended for dealing with ground bees. One is to simply place a heavy glass bowl, jar etc. over the entrance hole and seal the edges tightly with dirt. The other is to pour several gallons of water, with or without detergent in it (dish detergent will kill bees), down into the hole. Whichever method you use, be sure to do it at night when the bees are inactive.


Sound For The Vet
My 21-year-old warmblood has a high contracted heel and has been lame off and on for the past three years in the right front. There’s never any swelling, heat or increased pulse in the foot. He is always lamer going to the left but on the right front. He’s always tripping and running around on his forehand. Every time I schedule a veterinary appointment, he is sound.

After a few times of this happening I had X-rays done. The X-rays were clean. Three months later he went lame again. I called the vet and had them come out on an emergency call, so they could maybe block him and find out where he was hurting. They did some flexion tests, put hoof testers on him, and nothing really showed up. Next, they placed a thin piece of wood under his toe, forcing all his weight onto his heel, picked up the opposite leg and trotted him off for soundness. He was a little worse but not too bad. The next thing they did was place the wood under his heel forcing him on his toe, again picking up the opposite leg and then trotting him off for soundness. Well, the poor thing was crippled.

Does this mean navicular syndrome or is this something else like coffin-bone problems’ The farrier did some amazing corrective shoeing on him and put leather pads on him. He was completely sound with just a joint supplement. But we had to take the pads off to treat some thrush, and he is lame once again.

Your experience with ”corrective” shoeing helping only temporarily is unfortunately more often the case than not. Relieving pressure on one area of the foot is always a trade-off, overloading somewhere else. What you need first of all is a solid diagnosis. From the sound of things, your horse may have a soft-tissue problem in his foot. The best thing for you to do at this point is to take him to a facility that can do a MRI. This will give you the best chance of a diagnosis so that an appropriate treatment can be established.


Worried About Corn
Every other year my pastures are inundated with debris from the corn field next door. The farmer uses a no-till method that leaves stalks, cobs, all the leaves and ”wrappings” lying on the ground. I pick up all the material thrown in by the harvesting machine, but the problem continues as any brisk wind lifts and deposits much of this stuff into the pastures until the soybeans are planted the next year. I have tried garden netting attached to my fencing but that isn’t effective against the debris. I would like to know whether my concerns and efforts at hand removal are justified.

The corn-plant pieces are mostly in a black, moldy condition. One of my horses eats just about anything. The other is more choosy but does try to grab at corn plants when we are riding. Up to now, my diligence keeps them from having much access to the material, but I am getting discouraged. I know the problem is finite, but it has an infinite aspect to it as well.

Your diligence is definitely warranted. The same mold species that grows in corn kernels (Fusarium) and can be fatal to horses also may grow on other parts of the plant. It might be worthwhile to talk to the farmer to see if he would consider creating a buffer zone of cleaned-up debris in areas adjacent to your pastures.


Prunus Trees
Are leaves from prunus trees harmful if ingested after they have turned brown and fallen to the ground’ I think prunus may be worse for horses in the spring rather than in the fall.

You’re correct that spring is a danger time, but so is fall. When the leaves begin to be stressed by weather changes, hydrocyanic acid levels go up. Wilted leaves are also dangerous. Horses are not quite as susceptible as ruminant animals, but poisoning can occur.


Joint Supplement Confusion
I read your article December 2005 on joint supplements and found it useful. But then I read an article somewhere else that has now confused me. It pretty much states that glucosamine sulphate is the only form of glucosamine that works and to stay away glucosamine HCI, as it doesn’t absorb.

In the early days of joint nutraceutical supplementation, all of the formal studies were using glucosamine sulfate, and there was even some speculation that the suflate portion might actually be important, if not more important, than the glucosamine. However, since then several studies have been published showing glucosamine hydrochloride (HCl)to be effective.

For example, a Chinese study published in November 2005 specifically compared glucosamine sulfate to the hydrochloride and found both to be effective with no difference between them. However, they did find a higher incidence of intestinal upset side effects in the sulfate group. These human findings are identical to what we have seen in our equine field trials over the years. Both forms are effective and the hydrochloride is often better accepted, although we can’t say whether the horses actually had mild gut upset or if it’s related to the faint but obvious sulfate odor to the glucosamine sulfate.

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