Ask Horse Journal: 07/05

Nuclear Scans
There is a horse at our barn that seems to have so many things wrong with him it’s unreal. Awhile ago, a veterinarian suggested a nuclear scan be done. What can you tell us about a nuclear scan’ What is the advantage of it and what could it tell us’??

Horse Journal Response:

It sounds like this veterinarian suspects the horse has multiple secondary sorenesses related to protecting an undiagnosed source of pain that has been bothering the horse for a long time.

A bone scan involves injecting a radioactive isotope into the horse’s vein, waiting for it to distribute and using a gamma camera, which is sensitive to radiation, to take pictures of the horse’s body.?? When a specific problem area has already been identified, scans can be limited to that area.?? Otherwise, the entire body is scanned with the gamma camera.

Allergic reactions to the isotope are extremely rare to nonexistent.?? The horse does not have to anesthetized but will probably be sedated.?? A 24-hour stay in the hospital or clinic??is required to allow the horse to pass the radioactive material in his urine.?? There is no more risk to the horse’s health than from X-rays.

When an area of bone is inflamed, actively remodeling or has a fracture, there is a higher uptake of the radioactive isotope in that area that shows up clearly on the bone scan pictures.?? The advantages over regular X-rays are:

• Whole body is scanned.

• Problems can be picked up at an earlier stage than with X-rays.

• The bone scan detects areas of active problems, while an X-ray may have abnormal findings that are not causing the horse any pain.

• Nondisplaced fractures that may not show up at all on regular X-rays are visible on bone scans.

The disadvantage is that the bone scan doesn’t give you a diagnosis. It only tells you where the active problems are located.


Vitamin E
My veterinarian recommended 5000 IU vitamin E per day, plus 2 mg selenium, for muscle/nerve support when my horse was diagnosed with EPSM. I heard that pure vitamin E is 2.5 times more effective than synthetic vitamin E. I also know the pure version is difficult to find and expensive. Is there a big difference between pure vs. synthetic’ When my veterinarian prescribed 5000 IU vitamin E, was he factoring in a higher recommended level knowing what’s out there is synthetic’

Horse Journal Response:

Natural vitamin E is approximately .5 to 1.35 times more biologically active than synthetic forms. However, the price differential is often too great to make up for this difference. Feeding recommendations for vitamin E in horses are based on the synthetic. The synthetic is also more stable and has a better shelf life.

To make up the difference between the E provided by an E-Se supplement and the level your vet recommended, you can use E from human soft gelcaps (not expensive and most horses will eat them) or use an E supplement.


Timing Blue-Green Algae
I have a 14-year-old mare with mild COPD, and bad hay and humidity will trigger an attack.?? I’ve used Ventipulmin, antihistimines and steroids with excellent results, but the blue-green algae piqued my interest. Do you give this as a supplement all the time or just during an attack’

Horse Journal Response:

You could try it either way.?? The histamine-stabilizing effects occur rapidly, so you could try substituting it for antihistamine drugs when the horse is actively having problems. Full anti-inflammatory effects and suppression of allergic reactions takes four to six weeks.?? If your horse shows low-level symptoms all the time, such as a clear nasal discharge, occasional cough when worked, or slow return of respiratory rate to normal after work, try it as a regular supplement to see if these improve and if it can help prevent attacks of more severe symptoms.??Otherwise, if there is a time when the horse is particularly prone to problems, try starting it a few weeks prior.


Oats In Manure
I feed my 22-year-old senior horse a pelleted feed.?? I used to feed him plain whole oats, and I would find the oats in his manure.?? I think he’s getting a better diet with the senior feed.?? Is this true’?? I feed my 12-year-old a handful of whole oats, but I soak them first in warm water, otherwise I find them in her manure as well.

Horse Journal Response:

Regarding seeing oats in the manure, the first thing to determine is if these are really whole oats (with the kernel inside) or just hulls.?? If they’re empty hulls, your horse is getting the nutrition from the oats, which is in the kernel primarily, but not efficiently fermenting the fibrous hulls in the hind gut.?? If you’re seeing whole oats, including the kernels, this is likely because of insufficient chewing.?? Horses that wolf down their meals without much chewing are more likely to have incompletely digested grains in their manure.?? Soaking the oats does make it easier for digestive enzymes and hind gut organisms to work and may encourage better chewing.

If it’s only husks you’re seeing, don’t be concerned.?? If it’s whole grains but only a few, it’s still not a reason for concern if the horse is holding weight.?? If you find whole kernels, you need to determine if it is a problem with the teeth or just how much chewing the horse does.?? Feeding a higher grade of oat (heavier, plumper) can encourage more chewing, as does adding some hay pellets.?? If the problem persists, try crimped oats.

As for the senior feed giving him a better diet, it depends.??Since most senior feeds are formulated as a complete diet, an equal serving by weight is often actually providing fewer calories than straight grains. If you mean in terms of vitamins and minerals, again, because the feed may be used as a complete diet, it will often have lower levels of added vitamins and minerals per pound than does a commercial supplemented straight grain mix.?? It’s true the mineral balance in the senior feed is better than a straight grain, but this doesn’t necessarily make it a better complement to your hay.


Let There Be Light…
When seeking out the source of an injury or attempting to better view a wound, a common flashlight can be a great help.?? Shadows cast by the surrounding environs, or even the horse’s own body, can make tracing a trickle of blood to a cut or scrape difficult, especially between the legs or on the belly.?? A small flashlight is easy to manage around your horse, but be sure you have familiarized your horse with its use before it’s needed.


Scott Wilson Says Keep It In Balance
An obsessive attitude will backfire in the ring and in life. Serious showing is grueling, and that’s why riders must learn to mix in a “normal” life.

Top national show trainer Scott Wilson, of California, won’t allow the show world to consume a client’s life. While a young rider needs a strong commitment and ambition to succeed, it must be kept in perspective. Everyone needs a break from the physical and mental stress inherent in competition.

Wilson uses an element of lightheartedness to achieve that level of realism. Humor helps to alleviate stress and takes some of the intensity out of the training. This helps a rider relax, which transfers to the horse. And school is the priority. “I don’t want to see my students during finals, unless it’s just to . . . take a break from study. If there’s a show that weekend, it’s not important,” said Wilson. Same with other big high-school events, like proms and other social events. You need to have balance. Ultimately, this balance contributes to success, said Wilson, as the rider feels more positive and refreshed.

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