Monthly Archives: July 2012

  • Parasites: Who are you really feeding?

    Written by Dr. Kris Hiney

    This month we will discuss other aspects of horse management that directly affect the nutritional status of your horse. While most horse owners are familiar with deworming their horses regularly, current recommendations from many equine practitioners are to be much more strategic with our deworming. There is a growing concern that parasite populations are developing resistance to almost all types of anthelmentics (drugs used to eliminate internal parasites). As no new anthelmentics will soon be offered to the public, this could represent a real risk to the health of our horses. In order to understand these issues, we will begin with a review of the major parasite classes in horses.
    While there are many types of worms which infest horses, we will address the major classes that represent the most health risk to your horse; ascarids, strongyles, tapeworms, bots and pinworms. Ascarids, or Parascaris equorum, are a type of round worm which grow to a substantial size of 8-15 inches within the intestine. They are yellowish in color and may be occasionally seen in the feces. Despite their robust size, much of the damage created by these parasites involves their life cycle and migratory journey through the horse. Adult females pass eggs into the horse’s feces, where they spend 1-2 weeks in the environment before they are capable of infecting a new host. Horses ingest the infective eggs by grazing or eating in contaminated areas. Once inside, the larvae burrow through the intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream, where they travel to the liver. They then travel to the heart and then the lungs. Ultimately they enter the alveoli of the lungs where the horse coughs them into the oral cavity and then are swallowed back down into the stomach and intestines. The entire life cycle of the ascarid takes about three months and the journey these parasites take can cause significant damage and scarring of the tissues. A heavy parasite load of adult worms can even lead to blockage of intestines.   Young horses are the most susceptible group of horses to acquire ascarids, as well as weak, or malnourished horses. Coughing and nasal discharge in young horses may actually be a sign of ascarid infection. Older horses eventually develop an immunity to these parasites, so ascarids are primarily an issue with horses under two years of age.
    Strongyles exist as both large and small strongyles, with many sub-species. The three main species of the large strongyles are Strongylus vulgaris, Strongylus edentus, and Strongylus equinus. Small strongyles actually have about 50 different species. Strongyles are also the most damaging of the parasites that horses will encounter. Similar to the ascarid, the females lay eggs which are shed in the feces. Unlike ascarids, they hatch into infective larvae that the horse ingests. The larvae molts three times before it is ready to infect the horse. The larvae actually crawl up the blades of grass in the dew. The larvae can crawl up or down multiple times waiting for a host, or even burrow into the ground when the weather isn’t favorable. Unfortunately for the horse owner, these parasites are extremely hardy and can persist through the winter.
    The characteristics of the large and small strogyles life cycle make them particularly damaging. Large stronglye’s life cycle involves two stages where they migrate through the arterioles and arteries which supply blood to the intestine. Unfortunately, wherever these larvae burrow through the intestinal wall to migrate, all of them will return to one single location, the cranial mesenteric artery. Here they congregate and can cause immense damage. They can cause hemorrhaging, blood clots, or even rupture. The blood clots themselves can break free and travel further down through the blood supply to where they block blood flow and create a thromboembolic colic and even death. Oddly, enough lameness can also result from blood clots traveling to the legs as well.
    Small strongyles have an additional strategy to help them survive. As they pass through the horse’s intestinal wall, the horse’s immune system is also trying to wage war against the larvae. However, the larvae are too big and travel too fast to be eliminated. The final migration of the larvae and complete maturation is actually held in check by the presence of adult strongyles in the lumen of the intestine. Essentially the adults provide feedback to the larvae that there is no room at the inn. When the larvae get that message and slow their migration, they become encysted within the intestinal wall by the immune cells. Here they can lie in wait for several years to take their turn at being the adult worms in the intestine. The horrifying reality is that when the adults die of either natural causes or by our purge deworming of the horse, the encysted larvae “wake up” and emerge to replace the newly vacated intestine. Within 6-8 weeks they will have matured and begin laying their own eggs to begin the cycle anew. Again, it is the pattern of traveling through the tissue that can cause a great deal of damage to the horse.
    Relative to those bad boys, the rest of the worms which typically invade horses are mild in nature. The other major parasite classes which trouble horse owners are pinworms, stomach bots and tapeworms. Pinworms have a very simple life style compared to ascarids and strongyles. Adult females have a rather interesting feature, however. Not content to just shed her eggs into the feces, she actually deposits the eggs on the horse’s anus. This causes irritation to the horse who then scratches on anything available in the environment, effectively dispersing them. The horse then incidentally ingests the eggs, which hatch in the intestine where the larvae mature. Thankfully, these worms do little damage to the horse because their life cycle does not involve migrating through sensitive tissues. However, they can cause great irritation to the horse and robust itching of the tail head.
    Tapeworms in horses can also cause reduced nutrition and potential blockages due to the preferred location in the horse’s gastrointestinal tract. The main species of tapeworm which inhabits the horse fixes at the ileocecal junction, or where the terminus of the small intestine joins into the cecum. A heavy parasite load can result in blockages, thickening of the ileocecal valve or even intusussecption, when the intestine rolls over itself due to regular peristaltic action. The tapeworm also has a separate host for part of its life cycle. While the adult parasite resides in the horse, the eggs of the tapeworm are actually ingested by a type of mite, which the horse then later ingests while grazing. There does not appear to be any age related immunity to tapeworms, as they are found in all ages of horses.
    Finally, stomach bots are frequently seen in horses as well. The stomach bot, or Gasterophilus, also has subspecies, which include the horse bot fly, the throat latch bot, and the nose bot fly. The adult fly form can actually fly for several miles in search of a suitable subject on which to lay its eggs. The female hovers near the horse and deposits single eggs on one hair at a time. The eggs actually hatch into larvae within 7-10 days of being deposited. They then wait to emerge until the horse licks or scratches at the eggs. The larvae then enter the mouth and bury themselves in the gums, tongue or lining of the mouth where they hang out for a month. As they mature to later stages of larvae, they move into the stomach where they attach to the non-glandular or upper part of the stomach. The larvae live in the horse’s stomach for 9-12 months, before they and pass out into the feces. This typically occurs in late winter to early spring. There the larvae pupate and remain in the feces for several months. The flies then emerge in late summer or early fall, find mates and renew their life cycle. The damage the bots cause to the horse can occur in the mouth where they cause great irritation and even form pus pockets or cause the teeth to loosen. Large numbers of larvae in the stomach can cause blockages and erosion of the stomach lining. They, like all internal parasites, can result in reduced nutrition being delivered to the horse. An important heads up to horsemen:  when handling horses with bot fly eggs on their hair, use caution. While rare, the larvae are capable of burrowing into human skin, and if one rubs their eye after handling bot eggs, they larvae can actually invade the eye. I’m quite sure the last thing anyone wants is a bot larvae living in your eye!
    Next month we will use what we know about these parasites to develop management strategies to reduce their ability to infect our horses. After that, we will discuss strategic methods in using anthelmentics in order to reduce our reliance on medications and reduce the spread of resistance in parasites which invade our horses.

  • Decoding Hay Assays

    Written By Walt Friedrich

    Carbohydrates -- such simple things, yet they can seem so complicated. Since our horse is a hayburner, his hay is the first place we look when we want to know what kinds of carbs and how much of each he’s getting. So we have a hay sample assayed – a simple, inexpensive procedure – to get a picture of what the hay contains.
    But then, when we look at the numbers on the assay report, we find it’s a real struggle to dope out what they all mean. It may not even mention the word, “carbohydrate”. For example, the carbohydrate portion of a typical hay assay report looks something like this:
                                                                       Dry Matter              As Sampled              Basis                                                                          Basis
    % Acid Detergent Fiber                        33.7                          37.1
    % Neutral Detergent Fiber                  54.6                          60.1
    % Lignin                                                  4.7                             5.2
    % NFC                                                    15.1                           16.7
    % WSC                                                     5.9                            6.5
    % ESC                                                      4.2                            4.7
    % Starch                                                    .7                               .8
    Ouch!
    We assume the answers are there, but it’s pretty complex. We have a challenge on our hands.
    Let’s try to simplify things a little here, to at least get you started.
    The types of carbohydrates, and where they are digested
    While there is much information on an assay report, we’ll be discussing only carbohydrates, leaving the rest of it for another time. Lest we confuse you, in general, when we speak of carbohydrates as regards our horses’ diets, we’re actually talking about various forms of sugar, and we’ll occasionally be interchanging the terms here.Understanding the assay report is not rocket science. For our purposes, here's how simple it actually is: carbohydrates can be divided into those which are easy-to-digest and those not-so-easy-to-digest. The assay tells us how much of each type the sample contains. We’ll get to why it’s important in a moment.

    Easily digested carbohydrates (simple sugars) are assimilated in our horse’s small intestine -- early in the digestive system. Harder-to-digest carbs (more complex sugars) need to reach his large intestine, where he gets some digestive help from the billions of permanent-resident microbes living there, symbiotically. They get paid for their efforts by partaking of the feed itself.
    Got it? To understand it, all we need to concern ourselves with are simple and complex sugars, and where in the digestive tract they are assimilated. The assay report tells us about the former, and nutritionists have told us the latter.
    Sugars are vital, but sometimes can be dangerous
    Consider a healthy horse with a properly functioning digestive system: as long as he gets regular exercise we don’t have to worry much about his diet, provided it’s appropriate and he’s healthy. As with you and me, an appropriate diet and enough exercise leads to good health.
    But we know that we need to be picky about hay if our horse is laminitic or prone to it, or is insulin-resistant, either condition potentially leading to founder. And, of course, if our horse is healthy to begin with, we want a well-balanced hay, one which won’t contribute to the onset of such problems. Sugar is at the heart of these conditions, and the assay tells us what we need to know to prevent them.
    What are the carbs on the assay, and which are most important?
    It contains a lot of numbers, but we are interested only in those that report carbohydrate content, and fortunately for us, most labs group all carbohydrate-related readings together on the report. There are only a handful; here they are, again:
    Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF)
    Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF)
    Lignin
    Non-Fiber Carbohydrates (NFC)
    Ethanol-soluble carbs (ESC)
    Water-soluble carbs (WSC)
    Starch
    And better yet, for our purposes we can reduce it to just three: WSC, ESC and starch! So let’s concentrate on them.
    Reading the assay: can we put it into plain English?
    WSC (their dissolving in water has nothing to do with how they’re used in the body) reports both simple sugars and a more complex form of sugar called fructan. The reading tells us the total amount of those sugars as a percentage of the entire sample.
    ESC (again, how they dissolve has nothing to do with how they’re used in the body) measures only carbs that dissolve in ethanol. Those are also simple sugars, along with just a trace  of fructan.
    Starch reading shows just simple sugars.
    That’s it, and you can see that all three are measures of simple sugars, while just one also contains a complex sugar.
    The significance of the numbers
    The sum of these three numbers – WSC, ESC and Starch -- gives us total sugar percentage in the hay sample, which is a figure of merit to guide us in determining if we want the hay in the first place. A total greater than 12% generally indicates too much sugar for sedentary horses, and for an IR horse, the preferred number is 10% maximum.
    If the number for WSC is low, it means that there is relatively little fructan to reach the large intestine –good news for laminitic horses. (Why? Coming up.)
    And if the numbers for ESC and starch are low, it means that simple sugars are low and will not evoke a strong glycemic response. That’s very good for IR horses (also coming up). In addition, since ESC and starch are also very low in fructan to begin with, there will be very little getting into the hind gut, very good for laminitic horses. Conclusion: low ESC and starch percentages are good news for both IR and laminitic horses.
    Thus, in a nutshell, always look for hay with low WSC, especially if your horse is laminitic. If your horse is IR, look for hay with low numbers for all three – WSC, ESC and starch – and keep the total sugars below 12%.
    The dangers of ignoring the numbers
    But what if we don’t? What’s the downside? Let’s look at what happens. First, the large intestine and its friendly inhabitants are designed to handle fibrous matter, including complex sugars. They don’t handle simple sugars well at all – simple sugars are toxic to those microbes, and overloads of simple sugars – as well as complex sugars -- can result in massive die-offs of their population. One result of that carnage can be a colic attack. Another will be assimilation of those dead microbes into the blood stream. They are toxic to the horse, and seem to make a beeline for the laminae. Once there, they block those millions of microscopic blood vessels that feed the laminar cells, resulting in another massive cell die-off, this time in the hooves. That is laminitis.
    A word of caution – excessive fructan can wreak as much havoc in the gut microbe population as an excess of simple sugars, and since the only measurement that includes fructan is WSC, it’s important that we not feed a hay with a high WSC reading – either or both simple sugars and fructan can be too high for the horse, with dangerous consequences.
    Many of us unknowingly exacerbate the potential problem by something so simple as feeding our horse grain first, then follow it up with a batch of hay. If there must be grain in the horse’s feed, it needs to be digested and assimilated in the small intestine. Grain is high in simple sugars, and we’ve already seen what it can do in the large intestine. If enough grain goes in first, followed up by a load of hay, it gets pushed back, largely undigested, into the large intestine. Hay in the gut? Fine, that’s where we want it. Grain in the gut? Potentially serious colic or laminitis problems. Best to feed the hay first, grain last.
    Pretty scary stuff, this. But we can mitigate the danger: while colic, insulin resistance and laminitis are dangers developing in part from an excess of sugars in the hay, with an assay report at your elbow, you can tell up front how safe your hay is for your horse.
    What are the other carbohydrate-related entries on the assay?
    For completeness’s sake, let’s define the other carb-related entries on the assay and whether or not they impact the amount of digestible carbohydrate in the sample:
    Acid Detergent Fiber: a measure of the least digestible carbs. If you want to feed low-sugar hay, a relatively high ADF reading will be helpful.
    Neutral Detergent Fiber: also a measure of un- or least-digestible carbs in the sample. Again, the higher the NDF percentage, the lower the percentage of digestible sugars.
    Lignin: an indigestible component in plant cell walls that gives the plant rigidity and strength.
    NFC: a rough mathematical estimate of non-fiber carbohydrate energy sources.
    These contribute virtually no sugars to the diet, and in this context can be ignored.
    Prevention of carbohydrate-related problems
    Beyond attempting to clarify how to use the assay report, our focus, here, has been the impact of WSC, ESC and starch on IR and laminitic horses. But truth be told, it’s far, far better for your horse (and you) to PREVENT laminitis and IR in the first place. We can most assuredly use the assay report to help with that.
    Since most domestic horses are not in heavy work and thus can’t work off sugar-provided energy very efficiently, we had best pay close attention to their diets in general. Many of us routinely feed grain to our horses, often because “it’s the way it’s always been done”. A strong argument can be made that many pasture-ornament horses, including those that get ridden lightly and only occasionally, can do quite well and quite safely on a forage-only diet – little or no grain at all -- as long as the minerals are balanced. Since grains in general are rich in sugars, feeding it every day along with high-sugar hay can easily cause the problems we’ve just described. A much better choice would be to choose your grain carefully, if you must feed it, then feed low-sugar hay plus selected supplements to ensure he gets good mineral balance. Take the time and trouble to get an assay of the hay you’re about to buy, and study WSC, ESC and Starch – use those numbers to gauge whether or not you really want that particular hay. Anyone who’s been there can tell you that they’d much rather have done a little homework first than suffer the agony – with their horses – of dealing with IR or laminitis later.
    This report discussed only the matter of sugars in hay, and how to get useful information from the assay report. But you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t interested in feeding your horse properly, and so at this point, let me urge you to take it a step further and discuss your horse’s feed requirements with your vet or with an equine nutritionist. Everyone’s situation is unique, and some professional input makes it more likely that you’ll end up with the best diet for your horse. By all means, do ask every question that occurs to you – you’ll become your own “expert”, and your horse will be the lucky beneficiary.
    How to buy good hay
    An assay report is just a small sample test of a large batch of bales. We assume reasonable uniformity in the makeup of all the hay in that batch – could be a great many bales. But one assay report alone is useless if your hay comes from different sources each time you buy – you’d need an assay from each source. Ideally, you’ll find a hay source that you can buy as needed throughout the year, and the assay will be pertinent for all. You should talk to your “hay guy”, if he’s actually the “grower”, about the uniformity of his fields, and before you buy, ask permission to take a sample to submit for assay. Tell him you’ll give him a copy of the report – he may appreciate that very much, especially if it’s particularly good hay.

  • Of Power Outages and Baby Chicks

    Written By Don Schrider

    This summer of 2012 has turned hot and we on the east coast have been hit hard with storms that have taken the power out for many days at a time. The chickens are surviving this handsomely, needing no electricity as long as they have food, shelter, and water.
    As I try to sleep, windows open, a faint breeze stirring the hot, humid air, I reflect on just how well my chickens are taking the heat. My pens are airy, letting the air move and whisking away body heat. The roosts have plenty of airspace all around them. My chickens live in a wooded part of the yard; they love the shade the trees provide. My hanging feeders are under roof, protecting them from the rains, and holding enough food for a few days. I use plenty of water containers, providing a three or more day supply – which proved very advantageous once the power went out and the well pump had no electricity with which to operate.
    Each morning I am awakened by a chorus of crowing – each rooster being sure he is the first to sing in the new day. The chickens begin their day scratching around in search of some breakfast. The majority of the day is spent satisfying both their hunger and their curiosity – exploring, scratching, running to see what another chicken has found. The hens quietly withdraw to the privacy of their nest, and then publicly announce, with a loud BAH-KA, that they have laid an egg. During the middle of the day, even in this heat, some of the chickens take the time to sunbathe. They lay on their sides, with one leg and one wing stretched out, basking in the warm golden sunlight. As I arrive to collect eggs and feed treats, they follow me around and hungrily peck up the corn and leftovers I provide for them. As dusk arrives they begin to take their individual places upon the roosts, settling in for the night.
    Even without electricity my chickens are safe. I use a solar charger to power their electronet fence. I have a solar light in their yard to discourage predators. And my partner, Roxy, my chicken guard dog, patrols the property day and night driving away such dangerous creatures as deer, neighbors, hawks, and sneaky nighttime visitors like raccoons and possums.
    For the chickens, nothing has changed. The loss of power goes unnoticed. Life is as enjoyable today as it was yesterday. This is due to the fact that electricity is not a large part of their experience and care, and to the fact that both pens and food and water systems are designed to be safe, comfortable, and to provide days of nutrition without the need for power.
    Now is a good time for you to take a look at your pens and the care you are giving your chickens this summer. Do they have shade? And is the shaded area large enough for all the birds? Is it open enough to allow breezes to blow through. Do you have multiple waterers set out so that every chicken get a drink without being driven away by a bossy hen or rooster? Are the waterers large enough to provide several days of water if needed? Are the roosts roomy? Do you have plenty of feed stored in airtight containers? Is your fence strong and in good repair?
    Are you feeding a diet with extra vitamins and a good level of nutrition? Remember, chickens eat less in the heat, so be sure you are using a good quality feed and supplement with Omega Ultra Egg – its vitamins and nutrition helping to ensure both good eggs and healthy chickens during the summer heat.
    This summer is also a time for miracles. Each year I like to let a hen or two sit and hatch out a clutch of eggs. This year I had a Light Brown Leghorn sit on a small clutch of her own eggs – four to be exact. Twenty-one days later, she brought off a clutch of three healthy chicks. One of the interesting things about this, is that momma retained most of the redness of her comb during her broody stage. This can be credited to the extra nutrition she received from supplementing her laying mash with Omega Ultra Egg.
    Momma hen is fiercely protective of her clutch and an all around attentive mother. She clucks to her chicks, drawing them to tasty food morsels. She warms them, letting them nuzzle under her breast feathers. Sometimes a bold chick decides to leap up on momma’s back to get a better view of the world. And woe betide the foolish human that picks one of her chicks up – momma is there in an instant, attacking with wings, beak, and feet, then retreating, spinning, and returning to attack again. A broody hen seems to have the courage of an army; even roosters avoid a hen when she is protecting her young.
    If you decide to brood your own chicks, there are a few tips to keep in mind. Once a hen begins to go broody, she will spend most of the day on the nest. She will cluck and raise her feathers as she walks or if you disturb her nesting. You will notice she is missing many feathers on her breast, allowing the warmth of her body to warm the eggs, and later the chicks. She will begin to spend nights on the nesting box once she is fully committed.
    Other hens will want to join her on the nest to lay their eggs. This will cause many eggs to be broken. It will also mean that the eggs she is sitting on will be at unequal stages of growth. For best results, move the hen to a secluded nesting site at night. Take care to disturb her as little as possible. Make sure the new site is secure, can contain day-old chicks, and preferably a little dark and private. Provide momma with good food and water, even though she will consume little of each. And after twenty-one days she will turn a batch of fertile eggs into a brood of healthy chicks.
    Hens differ in their mothering ability. Some young hens will not sit the full three weeks it takes to hatch a clutch. Some hens make poor mothers – caring little for their chicks, even killing some or all of them. A fair number of hens can tell their chicks from those of other hens and may do harm to strange chicks. I have even had a hen that knew the chicks she hatched were the wrong color (were another breed) and refused them. Most hens are good to excellent mothers. A few are great mothers and will raise any chick offered to them. For the few that are bad mothers, often you can remove the chicks and raise them in a brooder.
    I like to keep the hen alone with her chicks for the first few days. Often I will decide to integrate them with the flock after a week or so. I do this by placing them in a wire pen, within the yard of the flock – so that the other hens and rooster can get used to seeing them. After about two weeks, I will let momma and brood run out in the yard with the other hens while I am around to watch – a few little squabbles may happen as momma decides another hen has gotten too close to the babies. But if everything goes well, on the second day I will let the brood join the flock.
    As the chicks grow and feather out, they will first join mom on the roost. Later, momma will decide that they no longer need her protection and they are abandoned to care for themselves as members of the flock.
    With some good planning and proper nutrition, like that found in Omega Ultra Egg, your chickens can survive summer and power outages and can even raise a brood on chicks.
    Happy chicken keeping.
    Don Schrider
    Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

  • Spirit Dogs of Bimini

    Written by Jenny Pavlovic

    In May I traveled to Bimini to swim with wild dolphins (dolphins willing, of course!). The trip was led by animal communicator Mary Getten, and included amazing people with powerful connections to dolphins and other animals. We swam with intriguing and playful dolphins. I was overjoyed, but not surprised, by the spiritual experience with the dolphins. What I didn’t anticipate was a deeply spiritual experience with three stray dogs. I call them the spirit dogs of Bimini.
    Every afternoon we went out on a boat to snorkel, explore the sea, and seek time with the dolphins. In the evenings we had workshops on dolphins and animal communication. In the mornings we had free time to meditate, do yoga, walk the beach, kayak, or receive energy work or massages.
    One morning after experiencing energy work, I was still thinking about what I had learned. I didn’t know that an animal communication workshop had already begun, because the workshop schedule had been changed due to the weather. I was late and was still trying to clear my head. I decided to go for a short walk into town, although I wasn’t certain that I should walk into town alone.
    I had been in Bimini for a few days and missed my animals at home. I was thinking about them as I walked, when a yellow dog and a red dog appeared beside me. I strongly felt the presence of my yellow dog and two red dogs at home. When the dogs got ahead of me, they stopped, looked back and waited. When they strayed off, they looked up for me and galloped back to my side. They were escorting me, like four-legged guardian angels, like my dogs back home.
    The two dogs stayed with me as I walked through town. Their playful spirits seemed as though they were on a mission to protect me, keep me company, and make me happy. When I entered a shop, they waited outside. I commented to the proprietress that they were waiting for me, thinking she would say that they follow and wait for everyone, but she didn’t. She seemed to think this was special.
    When I left the shop to walk back to Wild Quest, the two dogs were right there with me. When I turned around as they followed me, I noticed that a third dog, another red dog, had joined us. Now I was walking with a yellow dog and two red dogs, just like at home. Looking down at them, I imagined surroundings of field and forest instead of sand and sea, and felt right at home. Curious. Or was it?
    We had been studying animal communication and telepathy, and I wondered if my dogs at home had sent these spirit dogs to take care of me. They certainly made me smile and feel safe. That’s why I call them the “Spirit dogs of Bimini”. They brought the spirits of Bandit, Chase, and Cayenne to me. Although their lives in Bimini are probably much more difficult, they gave me a sense of play and comfort.
    When I reached the gate, I thanked the dogs for the walk and their company, then said goodbye. I closed the gate and decided to join the animal communication workshop after all. I climbed the outside stairs to the second floor classroom and took a seat with my back to the door. Momentarily, people were pointing to the doorway behind me. The yellow dog had found his way inside the fence and followed me upstairs! He was clearly on a mission to find me because others had tried to get him to leave and he wouldn’t go. I understood his need to find me and told them the story.
    The people at Wild Quest thought this incident was strange. This dog hadn’t come inside the fence before and they didn’t understand why he wouldn’t go. I had to get up and go downstairs and out the gate to convince the dog to leave. Once I got up, he followed me right out. I assured him that I was okay, gave him my love, thanked him again and asked him to go back into town to help an older ailing dog I’d seen there. I thought maybe he needed another mission to send him on his way.
    It’s curious that the only yellow and red dogs that I saw in town joined me on my walk. Or is it? Animal communicator Mary Getten said that the dogs were feeling my love for dogs and were attracted to my spirit. I believe they were also connected to my dogs at home and were somehow sent. Although their lives were no doubt very different, they carried the spirits of my dogs, and for the short time that we spent together, I felt those spirits.
    We are just beginning to understand the complexity of dolphins. Perhaps dogs know more than we think too.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Note: Two of the three Bimini spirit dogs appeared to be well fed. The third was way too thin, yet appeared to belong to someone and responded when the man called. Although the dogs had a glint in their eyes and playful spirits, their coats were dull. Some of the dogs that I saw were clearly underfed and had sad eyes. I gave them my love and wished I’d had some Omega Canine Shine® and Omega Nuggets™, two great food supplements from Omega Fields®, to share with them.   

     

     

     

     

    Here in the U.S., some dogs get poor nutrition because people don’t know better. The dogs are fed kibble without enough nutrients. Omega Fields products added to the diet give dogs the missing nutrients they need, resulting in healthy skin and coats.

  • Obesity in Horses: II, Balancing Diet and Exercise

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    In Part I of this series, we talked not only about the difficulty in removing extra pounds from our equine companions, but also the health benefits that our horse will gain from doing so. Our strategies included seeking a more mature grass hay with a lower caloric density and reducing the amount of forage offered to the horse.   The horse will probably need to be confined to a dry lot, but fed in a way to minimize boredom related to reduced  feeding time. This month’s article will look more closely at the diet of our horse, to ensure that we are reducing the calories the horse receives, but are still feeding a balanced diet that provides sufficient amounts of our other nutrients.
    We will continue to use the example of our 1300 lb horse who was at a body condition score of 8 and a goal weight of 1165 lbs. The maintenance requirement for the 1165 lb horse was 17.7 Mcal per day. We decided to feed the horse at a rate of 1.5% of its target weight in order to achieve the desired weight loss. That would mean our horse would consume 17.5 lbs of feed per day. Now, because we specifically chose a lower calorie hay which is more mature, it probably is lower in other nutrients as well. In order to ensure that your horse’s amino acids, vitamin and mineral needs are met, one should look for a low calorie supplement. Fortunately many reputable feed companies produce feeds that are designed for the easy keeper. Typically these feeds will be much higher in crude protein, minerals and vitamins and are designed so that you only need to feed one to two pounds per day. This ensures that your horse will not suffer from deficiencies while we achieve the desired weight loss.
    Additionally, we can accelerate the horse’s weight loss by instituting a regular exercise program. Now, assuming our horse was at a body condition score of 8, it probably wasn’t on a consistent exercise program earlier. The key in implementing an appropriate exercise program is to realize that the horse is relatively unfit and we should begin exercise carefully. Ideally the horse should be ridden or worked five to six days per week.   If this is not possible, try to institute an exercise program at least every other day. Begin with intermittent periods of walking and trotting, and slowly increase the duration of the trotting periods. You should notice that the horse is able to recover its heart rate and respiration rate more quickly during the walking recovery periods as it becomes more fit. Then you can increase the intensity of its exercise program.
    Now let’s take a look at how much exercise your horse needs for increased energy expenditure. For every 45 minutes the horse spends walking per day, it will expend an additional one Mcal/d of net energy.  But what exactly is net energy? To this point in time, we have always discussed the energy needs of the horse in terms of dietary energy or DE. Dietary energy refers to the energy available in the feed once the digestibility of the feed is taken into account. When we determine how much to feed our horse, it is always based on the DE concentration of the diet compared to the horse’s DE requirements. Net energy is more specific about the flow of energy through the horse’s body. Net energy refers to the amount of energy needed to support exercise, growth, lactation, etc. after other energy losses to the horse have been accounted for. These other energy losses include the energy lost from gas production, urine, the work of digestion and the heat lost from the digestion and fermentation of the feed. The energy that is left over after all of these losses is what is available for the animal to use for other purposes.
    The efficiency of conversion of dietary energy to net energy of a horse in light-to-moderate exercise is only about 40%. Therefore, if the horse expends 1 Mcal of net energy, he actually used 2.5 Mcal of DE.  Even regular trail riding will greatly help the horse with our weight loss goals, but increasing the exercise intensity will increase the calorie expenditure even more. If we use the horse’s heart rate as a guide, we can determine how much exercise they need to perform to represent significant calorie expenditure. Let’s say we would like to increase our horse’s energy expenditure to 20% over his maintenance energy requirements. Our goal for our original horse, then, is to use an additional 3.5 Mcal every day.   Our horse’s typical heart rate when he is walking is usually around 60 bpm while trotting will elevate the horse’s heart rate to around 90 bpm. This relates to 24 kcal/min and 56 kcal/min of net energy respectively for walking and trotting.    If we convert that to Mcal of DE, our horse is consuming .06 Mcal /min or .14 Mcal of DE/min. To achieve an energy expenditure of 3.5 Mcal, that would mean we would walk our horse for almost an hour a day, or about a half hour of trotting.  However, these are heart rates of horses which already are fit. For the obese horses we are discussing, the heart rates are usually higher, thus less time will need to be devoted initially to exercising these guys. Good news for them! Heart rates for an unfit horse trotting have been recorded at 120 to 140 bpm! This would correspond to about 0.25 Mcal of DE per minute. Thus only about 15 minutes per day would achieve our increase in energy expenditure of 20%. Remember, this would be 15 minutes total of trotting with intervals of walking. As the horse begins to become more fit and its heart rate lowers, he will tolerate more exercise and will need to increase the amount of time he works to continue using the same amount of calories.
    Alternatively, once our horse is fit, we can also add bouts of cantering or loping to his exercise program.   A horse which is cantering typically has a heart rate between 110 and 130 beats per minute and utilizes about .25 Mcal of DE/min. If we add 10-20 minutes of cantering to our exercise program, the duration the horse needs to be ridden to achieve our target energy expenditure would be about 45 minutes per day, which is probably more realistic for most horse owners. This would include a mix of walking, trotting and loping. Combining this regular exercise program with our restricted diet will help your horse add years to his life.
    Good luck with your weight loss goals.

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