Ask Horse Journal: 12/01

Odd Change In Mood
Weeds is a 40-year-old jenny diagnosed with Cushing’s last fall, based on her slow shedding and a high calcium ratio in her last blood test.?? No formal Cushing’s test was conducted.?? She was place on cyproheptadine and Thyro-L. Over the winter she became increasingly aggressive, which included savaging me twice and kicking. This jenny was always gentle and dependable, so this behavior change was a shock.

Another vet performed a standard Cushing’s test and the results were that she did not have Cushing’s.?? In fact, all her labs were normal, except for thyroid, which was high. We weaned her off the cyproheptadine and reduced the Thyro-L.?? Her behavior returned to normal.

Can you suggest any other ailment that could cause the lack of shedding’ She is missing her bottom teeth, so she gets a mix of soaked beet pulp and wheat bran with an equal amount of chopped timothy hay.?? She eats slowly and doesn’t seem to be able to open her mouth wide. It takes her most of the day just to eat, and I separate her from the others.

She’s also getting Accel Lifetime with additional Gluta-Syn, Ration Plus, and Corta-Flx.??Recently, I tried giving her 1/2 a gram of bute twice a day (I put it on a gingersnap with a dab of vanilla frosting) more as a diagnostic tool than as a medication.?? It seems to have picked up her appetite a little.??She has no interest in grazing.

I would like to restore quality of life back to this little jenny who has been with us for??15 years.??For many of those years, she was the “seeing eye dog” for our old, blind jenny named Grannie. They would roam together all day, until Weeds brought Grannie in for the evening.

One afternoon, Weeds came home all by herself and brayed at the house until I dressed and jumped into the truck to look for Grannie. I found her in a drainage ditch far from the house.??It took a tractor to lift her out, but she was unharmed and walked home with Weeds??following behind.??

On another day, I made the mistake of shaking out a blanket on a blustery day, spooking Grannie in the direction of a rocky, 20-foot bluff.?? I don’t think anyone can imagine my amazement as Weeds herself took half a dozen paces and placed herself dead center of Grannie’s anticipated descent, which was just a few feet away.??After all of this, I think Weeds deserves the best we can give her.?? Since Grannie’s death, however, Weeds’s health has declined.

I tried bringing other older jennies for her to bond to and serve as her “guide dog,” but she has refused them all, perhaps due to her eyesight problem.?? Any suggestions you might have would really be appreciated.

-Sunni McNary
Burro Rescue Rehab Relocation Onus (BRRRO)

Weeds definitely does sound really special. The cyproheptadine and/or Thyro-L were almost certainly responsible for her behavior change.?? Hypothyroidism without Cushing’s can cause failure to shed, too. Undiagnosed parasitism could do it, too.?? You might want to try a five-day regimen of double-dose fenbendazole to eliminate that possibility.

If the Cushing’s tests were run while she was on the cyproheptadine, this may have caused her results to look normal. You’d have to retest her off the drugs.?? It’s also possible she is one of the Cushing’s??cases that test normal for ACTH and/or cortisol.

If her thyroid hormone levels are normal and she doesn’t shed, odds are she has Cushing’s.?? Hormonise might work better for her and doesn’t have the risk of side effects like cypro or pergolide have.?? Dose is 10 cc/200 lbs. (see December 2000).

Although it’s not really “scientifically” appropriate to put it this way, it sounds to us like Weeds is depressed from her isolation and the loss of her buddy and, judging by the response to bute, she may also be getting a bit stiff from the insufficient exercise.??

There’s also a possibility she has an infected tooth, which is sometimes difficult to diagnose on signs alone.?? We would get that possibility checked out, perhaps even with a skull X-ray, which your vet may be able to do with portable equipment since she is small.?? Her teeth may also just be in need of attention.??She may also be responding to bute because of mouth or jaw pain or have a problem with her temporomandibular (jaw) joint.?? Again, X-rays might help with detecting this.

We suggest substituting soaked hay cubes for the chopped hay as she will be able to get this down easier.?? The soaked hay cubes break down??into a nice, soft mash when you add water.????Check with your local feed stores for a source of hay cubes in our area.

She may just need more time to adjust to the idea of a buddy again.??You may have to devise a way to set up a temporary pen in her enclosure where you can put the new buddy but still prevent fighting.??

You’ll know when it’s time to try letting them come into direct contact by how much time she spends around the other animal — probably acting like she couldn’t care less though — and by her reaction when you take the new friend away.??

If this doesn’t work, you might also consider a goat or a sheep as a companion for her instead. She may be more receptive.


Hock Troubles
I need to buy a rubber stall mat. My Belgian warmblood opens up her hock getting up every morning, so I thought mats would help. Can you tell me what issue to purchase’

-Sacha Mehta
New Jersey

We did stall mats and stall flooring in February 1996 and August 1997. However, we have a field test underway now that is expected to be published in a spring 2002 issue. In addition, you may want to try something as simple as hock boots on your mare. We solved a similar problem with an older, arthritic mare by putting inexpensive well-fitting hock boots on her when she was in the stall and removing them when she was turned out during the day.


Daily Dewormers For Tapes
Your December 1996 article mentioned a “small pilot study” that concluded daily dewormers eliminated tapes, and in 1998 when I started to use Strongid C daily dewormer, my veterinarian said the only thing I needed to do was to give the horses ivermectin two to three times a year. Last year, I added a one-time dose of moxidectin in the early spring.

Recently, however, another veterinarian said that Strongid C is not effective against tapeworms and that an annual double-dose of Strongid paste should be given to horses who are on the daily dewormer. Has new research shown Strongid C not to be effective against tapeworms or do veterinarians differ in their recommendations on this issue’ The Strongid C bucket label does not include tapeworms as one of the species against which it is effective.

-Judith Donegan

No dewormers are currently permitted to list activity against tapeworms on their labels because of insufficient study to document this.?? However, from the limited information we have, pyrantel pamoate (Strongid paste) at regular doses is from 58 to 100% effective (average of 87%), double-dose paste about 93% effective, and Strongid C, the daily-dosing regimen, is about the same as regular-dose Strongid.??

Since pyrantel pamoate is safe at up to 20 times the regular dose, we would agree that the best approach at this time is double dosing with Strongid paste.??Remember, too, that horses pick up tapeworms when they ingest infected orbatid mites.?? These tiny mites are found in close association with the root hairs of plants.?? Stabled horses and those only turned out on dry lots or sand are therefore at low risk for tapeworms.


Pregnant Mares And Joint Nutraceuticals
My 11-year-old mare has a stifle sprain, and I was told that because she is in foal I can only use Cosequin to help her. This is an expensive product, and my husband suggested I try Corta-Flx instead. I read the Corta-Flx package label and found no warnings about pregnant mares. Is it safe to use joint nutraceuticals on pregnant mares or are there some I should avoid’

-Colleen Ortiz

Use of Corta-Flx or any joint nutraceutical containing glucosamine or chondroitin appear to be safe for pregnant mares. You should check labels carefully for inclusion of any herbal ingredients however.?? Devil’s claw is believed to cause uterine contractions — although we could find no confirmed cases of this effect — and the effect of any medicinal plant on pregnant mares is likely to be largely unknown.


Weight Limits
My husband has been riding our seven-year-old Arabian due to his feisty nature (the horse, not the husband).?? Jerry weighs around 250 pounds.??Is this too heavy for the horse who, using a weight tape, weighs 1,070 pounds’??

-Ellen Izor

We can understand your concern, as your husband is a big guy. Although people often use the 20% of a horse’s body weight as a rule of thumb (the 20% would be rider and tack weight total), other factors come into play, making it difficult to give a simple answer just based on weight.

A broad-backed large pony or Morgan weighing under 1,000 pounds might be better able to carry a large rider than a tall, narrow-backed 1,100-pound Thoroughbred.??

Rider balance and skill is also important. A steady, balanced rider is easier to carry than one that moves around.??In addition, saddle type and fit also influence how well the weight is distributed on the horse’s back and how comfortably.????If your horse moves freely, with his head and neck in a relaxed frame, back swinging and no signs of soreness, he may be handling your husband’s size OK.


Stifle Injury
I have a 21-year-old palomino Quarter Horse gelding. He’s 16 hands and strongly built, as tough a trail horse as you’ve seen, and in good health — except for his stifles. A year ago, a creek bed we were riding in caved in, dropping him about four feet backward. My horse didn’t go clear down, but he had to scramble quite a bit to keep his footing.

A week later, the vet thought his stiffness in the hindquarters was from pulled muscles. He had three Legend shots and was on Arithriban for a month. He was OK all winter, until riding increased in the spring. We have had acupuncture and chiropractic treatments and started him on Cosequin. The only remaining problems appear to be problems going down hills and that he puts more weight on his front feet. Now he’s showing muscle loss in his hips and is laying down a lot.

X-rays showed the cartilage in his right stifle is down to bone-on-bone. On the left, they show a loss of cartilage. He’s on bute now, so he’s free of pain, but I wondered if there is anything I can do to preserve what cartilage he has left.

-Dorothy Hitchcock

Starting him on a program of good joint-cartilage support, including both anti-oxidants and joint nutraceuticals, is definitely indicated, but it sounds like you also have a mechanical problem caused by the accident.??

The interior of the horse’s stifle is similar to your own knee.?? It contains a variety of soft tissue structures that can become frayed or completely torn, damaging the stability of this complicated joint.?? The muscle loss you describe comes from the horse not using his hind end properly because of pain.??

We can’t really tell if it’s all in his stifles, though.?? He may also have injured his pelvis, spine or hips in the accident.?? To really know for sure what is going on you would need more diagnostic work.?? A rectal examination will allow the vet to palpate the pelvis and hip joints for any obvious problems.?? To really find out what’s going on, though, your best bet would be a bone scan.?? These are expensive but offer you the best chance of pinpointing the problem areas with certainty.?? Contact your nearest vet school.


Ease Weaning Stress
Weaning methods are often being dictated by a farm’s physical limitations. We know the goal is to minimize stress on the weanlings, but we don’t often see much solid information on what’s actually stressful. A study performed at Virginia Polytechnic Institute sheds some light.

The level of stress in foals being weaned was quantified by the measurement of serum ascorbate (vitamin C), cortisol and response of cortisol to injection of ACTH, the hormone that stimulates the adrenal gland to produce it. Researchers looked at the effects of pre-weaning diets (pasture, hay and concentrate vs. pasture and hay only), foal sex and placing the foals in stalls alone or with a buddy.

The foal’s sex had no influence on weaning stress. However, foals that received a concentrate pre-weaning and those kept in stalls alone showed fewer outward signs of stress and had a better response to ACTH than non-supplemented and buddy-system weanlings. Bottom line: Foals should be eating a concentrate before undergoing weaning, and the best weaning environment may be placing the foals in stalls alone.


Warning: Calming Herbs And Drug Interactions
If you are using a natural herbal calmative product containing kava kava or valerian root, you should be aware of potential drug interactions. Effects of tranquilizers and short-term barbiturate anesthetics may be enhanced. If your horse needs surgery, the anesthesiologist needs to be informed these substances were being used. Also tell your veterinarian if a field procedure is being done that requires tranquilization. Never mix herbal calmatives with prescription tranquilizers yourself.


Blanket Repair
If you need a super strong repair for that favorite turnout rug where function is more important than appearance, try using dental floss on a darning needle instead of heavy thread. If sewing isn’t your thing, try Jean Mender or Tear Mender fabric glue, available at many department and sewing stores. You can realign ragged edges of a tear, reinforcing with a patch on the back, and the repair will withstand washing. Check the site for their Tent Mender for most canvas rugs.