Maintaining Horse Health and Performance

Most horses live largely healthy lives, with only a few minor incidences. However, an annual health check for your horse with your veterinary surgeon is extremely important, not only for routine procedures such as vaccination but also because it enables early detection of disease and chronic conditions such as stomach ulcers, cancer, liver disease and metabolic diseases and therefore increases the chances of a more favourable outcome.

Horses have evolved to be grazing animals living in herds and domestication of horses may predispose them to conditions such as colic, stomach ulcers and behavioural abnormalities.  Feeding good quality feed and maintaining a fresh water supply is essential. Feeding a probiotic such as PROBIO FORTE and/or a prebiotic as found in EQUIBOOST helps to maintain good intestinal health and may be particularly beneficial during stressful periods. Feeding with vitamins and minerals using EQUIBOOST as a foundation supplement will help to fully supplement horses that have intermittent appetites or are prone to stress and reduced appetite.

Common conditions affecting horses:

Digestive Upset and colic in horses

Digestive upset caused by gastric (stomach) ulcers and colic are common in horses kept in intensive housed routines without continuous access to grass.  The global prevalence of equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) is estimated at 50-90% of horses in training.

The reported incidence of colic in different horse populations varies from 3.5 to 10.6 colic episodes per 100 horses per year. Among horse owners’ colic is one of the most feared clinical conditions, because it poorly understood and is associated with high mortality and high cost.

Both gastric ulcers and colic are almost a fact of life given the way horses are managed with intermittent access to feed and grass and intensive training associated with stress. While some management changes can be introduced to decrease the risk of ulcers and colic, such as feeding little and often and allowing adlib access to hay and/or grass, nevertheless the risk remains high.

Colic is a word used to describe the symptoms that a horse experiencing abdominal pain displays. While the term colic is most often considered to be associated with the intestines, abdominal pain can also arise from the kidneys, the bladder, the reproductive organs and the liver. Veterinary attention should always be sought when a horse displays colic. Some colics are uncomplicated and resolve with pain relief and fasting others are potentially more serious and may require life saving surgery. If a horse requires surgery for colic, the sooner the surgery is performed the greater the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Horses with ColicFor horses with spasmodic colic, CO-LIX paste contains Cape aloes which have a laxative effect by increasing intestinal motility. Cape aloes have been used for many years for the treatment of constipation in humans.   CO-LIX also contains seaweed, a component of which, called lamarins act as a prebiotic and promote intestinal health and immunity. The threonine contained in CO-LIX is required to help with the synthesis of mucin a major component of mucous in the gastrointestinal mucosa. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant that protects the gastrointestinal cells and the calcium and magnesium contained in CO-LIX address any deficiencies in these minerals that can arise in cases of colic.

CO-LIX is provided in a paste formulation and should only be administered to horses when a surgical cause or obstructive cause of colic such as a twisted gut have been ruled out. 80ml should be administered orally and can be repeated four hours later.

Gastric support for HorsesGastric ulcers are common in intensively managed and stabled horses, particularly high-performance horses such as racehorses, eventers, dressage horses and showjumpers. The ulcers arise because of increased acidity in the stomach between feeds. The signs of gastric ulcers are often quite subtle and include poor appetite, poor performance, weight loss and changes in temperament. In addition to management changes which include facilitating continuous access to food, administration of GASTROFEN is helpful. GASTROFEN contains calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide which is beneficial by helping to reduce the acidity of the stomach contents. The slippery elm in GASTROFEN sooths the lining of the stomach and helps to protect inflamed areas from further acid attacks. GASTROFEN contains prebiotics and probiotics that promote healthy good bacteria in the intestines (which improves the efficiency of digestion) and promote good intestinal immunity. GASTROFEN contains threonine, which is required in large amounts to synthesis the mucous lining the intestines, which protects them from damage from toxins.

GASTROFEN is a paste formulation and should be fed twice daily to horses at risk of developing gastric ulcers. 40mls should be administered morning and evening, prior to feeding.

Osteoarthritis in horses

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common cause of chronic lameness in horses and is a significant cause of economic loss in the equine industry due to the cost of treatment and loss of use of affected animals. The prevalence of OA varies, depending on the type and use of horses examined. It was reported at 13.9% across a range of horses in the UK, but at 97% in a group of horses over 30 years of age. Among Thoroughbred racehorses that died within 60 days of racing, 33% had at least one area of arthritis in the fetlock joint. Unfortunately, a major challenge in managing OA is that by the time clinical signs are observed (i.e. lameness), irreversible cartilage damage has already occurred.

OA can arise because of a primary bone or cartilage deficit in the joint or after trauma or as a result of normal wear and tear on a joint. The cartilage covering the ends of the bones and providing the cushioning in the joint becomes damaged and loose, this causes inflammation which results in further cartilage loss and a vicious circle develops. Ultimately all the components of the joint become affected including the bone, the cartilage, the ligaments, the synovial fluid and the joint capsule and other surrounding structures.

OA is usually diagnosed by clinical examination and x-ray. The clinical signs indicative of OA are lameness; reduced flexion and/or pain on flexion of the affected joint; poor performance and heat and swelling. Often there is a history of trauma preceding the onset of arthritis. Acute cases and severe chronic cases of OA are often managed with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which are very beneficial, but not without the potential for serious side effects especially following long term use. The main side effects observed are gastric (stomach) ulcers and kidney problems. Increasingly owners are turning to nutraceuticals to manage low grade chronic OA or to manage more advanced OA in conjunction with a lower dose of NSAIDs.

Horse osteoarthritisARTHROFORTE is a really good answer for horses prone to or with osteoarthritis containing glucosamine, chondroitin and green lipped muscle extract. Glucosamine, chondroitin and green lipped muscle extract have been used for many years for the alleviation of symptoms associated with OA in humans and horses.

Glucosamine is synthesised from glucose and is an important component of cartilage. Glucosamine is a precursor for glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) which are a major component of cartilage and thus supplementation with glucosamine provides the building blocks for cartilage repair.

Chondroitin is also an important component of GAGs that provide resistance to compression within cartilage in order to avoid bone rubbing on bone. In addition to stimulating cartilage repair, chondroitin is also likely to have an anti-inflammatory effect within the joint and to also stimulate the production of hyaluronic acid, a major component of synovial fluid. Chondroitin may also inhibit the breakdown of cartilage caused by joint inflammation.

Green lipped muscle (GLM) extract has been demonstrated to have a potent anti-inflammatory effect in arthritic joints and to improve lameness in horses affected by osteoarthritis.

ARTHROFORTE is formulated as a powder to administered in food. Adult horses should receive 30g (2 spoonfuls) daily and foals one spoonful daily. Arthroforte should be introduced gradually.

Respiratory problems in horses

Respiratory problems are common in horses and range from the head cold and dirty nose (upper airway disease) through to chronic lung conditions such as inflammatory airway disease (IAD or COPD). Irrespective of the cause, respiratory disease is an important cause of economic loss in horses due to days lost in training/competition and the veterinary costs associated with the medication of respiratory disease. IAD is considerably more common than signs of upper respiratory disease and in young racehorses has a mean monthly prevalence of around 12% and an incidence of around 10 cases/100 horses/month. The mean duration of each IAD episode is around 8 weeks, and the disease is often recurrent in individuals. The monthly prevalence and incidence of signs of upper respiratory disease are around 5% and 5 cases/100 horses/month respectively. Vaccination is critical for reducing the duration and severity of symptoms associated with equine influenza, however there are several other bacteria that can be associated with respiratory disease that are not covered by vaccines.

Respiratory problems are more likely to occur in horses that mix with other horses, horses that are transported, horses that are housed, those that are stressed and those that have underlying allergic respiratory conditions. One study reported that respiratory problems accounted for 33% of health problems associated with transport.

Stressed horses have a greater requirement for vitamin C (ascorbic acid) as they utilise increased amounts of vitamin C to protecting their bodies against the adverse effects of stress and these horses benefit from supplementation. Horses that are transported, stabled or tied up for extended periods of time don’t lower their heads like those that graze. Consequently,  the natural drainage of mucous from the respiratory tract by gravity is compromised. Similarly horses with allergic lung conditions or with compromised airway function (such as bleeders) have altered mucous clearance from their respiratory tracts and are more prone to secondary bacterial infections.

The aims of treatment of any respiratory condition are to address bacterial infections, provide additional support against damage to the respiratory tract, promote clearance of mucous from the airways and to support the immune system in fighting disease.

respiron equine, Horse respiratory problemsRESPIRON paste is  a real solution for horses with respiratory problems.RESPIRON paste containing echinacea is considered a common immunostimulant, or ‘cold fighter’ and has been reported to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which protects cells against damage. Echinacea is typically used as an immune booster to compliment a healthy immune system in horses. RESPIRON also contains various herbs garlic, rosemary, oregano which have anti-viral and antibacterial properties. Garlic also assists with thinning the mucous and making it easier for the horse to cough up. Seaweed extract contains vitamin C which is an anti-oxidant and has a wide range of antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.

RESPIRON is formulated as a paste and should be administered at a rate of 60ml orally, three days prior to an anticipated stressful event, transport or mixing with other horses. RESPIRON can be used as an aid in the long-term management of inflammatory airway when administered at a rate of 20ml/day.