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Managing Equine Health Problems with Diet
 By Winniefield Park   •   12th Feb 2018   •   777 views   •   0 comments


A basic diet of hay or grass and water, along with a salt block is the standard for most horses. But, if your horse has a health problem, you may need to adjust what you feed to help treat or manage the disease. Here is a look at some of the common health problems that benefit from extra attention to diet.

COPD
COPD is a disease of the airways. Horses with COPD often have laboured breathing and will cough. Because dust and molds can make the condition worse, horses with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, often called heaves need to eat a diet that is as dust free as possible. This can mean being very careful about the hay your horse is getting, or perhaps replacing some of its hay diet with other feed that will not contain dust or mold spores. Soaked hay, beet pulp and soaked soy hulls are a few of the options. And, to help reduce inflammation, feeds high in Omega 3 fatty acids such as rice bran, flax and fish oil are sometimes recommended.

EPM
If a horse has Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis, prompt diagnosis and treatment is essential. This disease affects the neurological system of the horse. So the sooner treatment starts the less damage the protozoa can do. Along with veterinary care, feeding to support the neurological system is important. This means feeds that are low in carbohydrates and high in fat and vitamin E supplements are often recommended. If your horse isn’t moving around much, you’ll want it to be eating lots of fiber, such as good quality hay. Your veterinarian may recommend other amino acids, vitamin and protein sources.

HYPP
HYPP or Exertional Rhabdomyolysis is a hereditary disease that affects the muscles. This causes the horse to have attacks of muscle tremors and paralysis. Diet is key to managing this disease. Horses with HYPP must have a diet low in potassium. This means horses should be kept off of lush spring grass, and not fed alfalfa and other feeds high in potassium. Better choices are low potassium feeds such as beet pulp, corn and oats. They also need plain salt and plenty of water.

Exertional Rhabdomyolysis
More commonly known as tying up or azoturia, this syndrome is quite distressing for the horse. The horse’s muscle stiffen up, they’ll have an elevated pulse and respiration, shaking and in some cases, the release of proteins in the blood may cause the urine to be discolored a dark brown. Don’t confuse this dark staining with what you might see in light colored bedding or snow. That’s from oxidization. With tying up, the urine comes out of the horse tea or coffee colored.

There are quite a number of reasons horses tie up. Your veterinarian will help you determine what might be lacking (or is in excess) in your horse’s diet, and help you develop a feeding program. Very likely, you’ll be feeding your horse more fat and fewer carbohydrates. So that means sugary concentrates like sweet feed may have to be replaced with something that emphasis fats.

Ulcers
There are different types of ulcers. Depending on which type a horse has, you can adjust its feed to help prevent the ulcers or aid in healing. If your horse has gastric ulcers in its stomach, hay is very important. The saliva that horse produces while chewing on hay helps neutralize the acid in its stomach. A horse that gets most of its nutrition from grains will be more prone to developing stomach ulcers, and will have a harder time healing once they are started. The type of hay might have an effect on ulcers too. Alfalfa and legumes mixed with grass may provide more acid buffering calcium than grass hay alone. The calcium may help calm the acids in the stomach, much the way calcium tablets like Tums does for humans.

Ulcers can form further back in the horse’s digestive tract too. These are called colonic ulcers or right dorsal colitis (RDC). These types of ulcers are caused by pain and anti inflammatory medications such as phenylbutazone and banamine. The feeding strategy for these ulcers is to reduce the amount of roughage the horse eats so the gut can heal. Complete pelleted feeds may a good choice fed in small frequent amounts. The addition of fats such as safflower oil may help the healing, while protecting the stomach from gastric ulcers while the horse is being treated.
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