Omega Fields

  • Show Me the Way:Adventures in Tracking Training

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    The task was to teach each dog to touch a glove held in my hand, then to touch the glove on the floor, then to cross the room and touch the glove on the floor. The idea was to teach the dog to indicate when s/he had found the glove (or “article”) when out tracking in the great outdoors. In tracking practice or competition, another person would have left a track with articles (gloves, socks, bandannas, or similar) with their scent for the dog to find along the way. I would be following the dog on a long line, but in a test I wouldn’t know the locations of the articles, so the dog would have to sniff out each article and clearly indicate it to me without backtracking.

    I collected a glove, some treats, and a clicker and started the training with Bandit. First a note about clicker training, which is misunderstood by many. A clicker can be held in one hand and pressed to make a loud, distinct “click”. The point of using it for operative conditioning is to mark the exact time the dog does what you want. A clicker is very useful when the dog is working away from you, and in other situations when you want to mark the exact moment that the correct behavior is offered, even when you’re not able to give the dog a treat immediately. I had already done the groundwork needed for my dogs to associate the clicker with the reward that would soon follow. All three of them know very well that the “click” means a treat is on the way.

    Bandit, who is the oldest of my three dogs and has had the most training in different areas, had the biggest challenge. He needed to unlearn previous habits engrained in his bag of tricks, and he has a great imagination. Surely just going to the glove and touching it wasn’t all that I wanted. I remembered that when we trained in obedience utility exercises years ago, Bandit had learned to retrieve a glove. So he didn’t want to just touch the glove, he wanted to bring it back to me. But out on a track, I wouldn’t want him to turn around, I would want him to indicate the article to me, but continue facing in the right direction to keep following the track. So I decided to click Bandit just as he was about to touch the glove. Huh? He paused to think, and I rewarded him just as he touched the glove. Bingo! Marking the desired behavior at just the right time worked!


    Part of the exercise involved placing the glove on the floor across the room from me and having the dog go over to touch (“indicate”) it. Bandit went over to the glove, touched it, then turned around and sat down. While sitting or lying down to indicate the glove would be good, turning around was a problem that could move Bandit off the track. I realized that now he was offering behavior that he had been trained to do for a “go out”, another utility exercise that he learned a few years ago. So although I will eventually want him to indicate the article properly with me farther away, I moved up behind him and treated him before he had a chance to turn around. Then he was consistently going to the glove, with me quick to follow. Once he touched the glove, I was right there to reward him, to prevent him from turning. We’ll continue working on Bandit indicating the article without turning around as I begin to maintain the distance again.

    Chase got the simple touch part correct before the others because he had just enough experience without too much extraneous training to confuse him. He’s also very intuitive; I think that when I have the right picture in my mind, he reads it. First he reminded me that I hadn’t picked up my dirty socks. He touched the glove and was rewarded, then went over and touched my sock on the floor! He soon realized that he wouldn’t get rewarded for touching just anything on the floor and he went back to consistently touching the glove.


    Cayenne has always seemed developmentally delayed, especially socially. Cay and her littermates were rescued as small pups in the Tennessee wilderness and she didn’t learn all that she needed from her mother. I couldn’t even touch her when she first came here, but she has come a long way in the past few years. Now when I work one-on-one with Cay and minimize distractions, she learns very well and is amazingly bright. She was familiar with the clicker, but hadn’t had as much training as the other two dogs. Still, she responded well. At first I had to put a treat in the glove to get her interested. I sort of tricked her into offering the desired behavior: when she “accidentally” touched the glove, I clicked immediately to reinforce the behavior. She caught on immediately, and being the food-motivated child that she is, she quickly learned to touch the glove for the reward.

    Cay actually achieved the ultimate desired behavior on accident, before the other two dogs. I hadn’t attempted to train it yet, but she did it naturally and I rewarded her. Once she became obsessed with touching the glove, she would lie down next to it. When she did this, I clicked her right away because the next step in teaching article indication was to have the dog sit or lie down by the glove after touching it. Cay responded well and began consistently touching the glove and lying down. I would not have predicted that she would achieve this behavior first, but I know that all three dogs will achieve it with more training.
    Those are some of our adventures in tracking so far. Yes, we’ve done some tracking outside, but as I’m writing this it’s mid-April and we just had another snow and ice storm here in Minnesota. Over the coming months we’ll continue tracking outdoors, and I’ll continue feeding my dogs Omega Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets to keep them healthy and happy and support their endurance. I just hope I can keep up!

  • Vitamin C

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Previously, we have discussed two important fat soluble vitamins which serve an important anti-oxidant function in the horse, vitamin A and E.  We will continue to discuss anti-oxidants as we transition to the water soluble vitamins essential to the health and well-being of the horse.  As humans, we are probably very familiar with vitamin C or ascorbic acid/ascorbate, as it is a commonly supplemented vitamin.  After all, who hasn’t reached for an orange in order to get their share of this important vitamin (Despite the fact there are many more nutrionally dense sources of vitamin C!)?  People often turn to vitamin C during times of stress or illness, especially the common cold, to try and fight off pathogens.  But what does vitamin C do in the horse, and should you be supplementing it?

    Typically, most individuals are familiar with vitamin C’s role as an anti-oxidant, but it also serves as a co-factor for a host of enzymes.  Specifically, vitamin C is necessary for the formation of collagen, which appears throughout the body in connective tissue of tendons, ligaments, blood vessels etc.  Vitamin C also is necessary for the synthesis of carnitine (the molecule which allows fatty acids to be transferred into the mitochondria for oxidation) as well as tyrosine and other neurotransmitters.  Vitamin C supplementation, along with other anti-oxidants, has actually been shown to improve cognitive disfunction in aging dogs.

    Vitamin C is synthesized in horses, but not in man, guinea pigs or a variety of other species.  Therefore in humans, vitamin C is a dietary necessity, but it is not required  in the diet of the average horse.  The horse is capable of converting glucose through a variety of enzymatic reactions into ascorbic acid. This synthesis is adequate in most scenarios.  So when might vitamin C be beneficial to the horse?   Presumably when there is a need for greater amounts of anti-oxidants in the body.
    We have discussed the role of anti-oxidants before.  The body uses oxygen as the final electron acceptor in the electron transport chain during the capture of energy in the form of ATP.  Normally this process produces a harmless, and even useful byproduct – water.  However, a small proportion of these reactions does not go according to plan, but instead creates a harmful molecules known as reactive oxygen species or ROS.  In actuality, the formation of free radicals is a normal part of metabolism and serves as cell signaling systems.  In fact, the creation of free radicals stimulates the adaptive response seen with athletic training.  Therefore, we should not aim to eliminate their presence entirely.  However, in excess, these free radicals can do immense damage to the body as they damage DNA, cell membranes etc.  Reactive oxygen species have been implicated in carcinogenesis, aging, cognitive function etc.  Ascorbate aids in the anti-oxidant cascade by regenerating the reduced form of vitamin E and other anti-oxidants.

    Horses which are intensely exercised will naturally produce a greater number of reactive oxygen species due to the increased rate of metabolism.  It is not uncommon for those individuals involved in more strenuous equine sports (endurance rides, three day eventing etc.) to routinely supplement their horses with anti-oxidants.  In studies which have examined the use of vitamin C in horses, there appears to be a difference in response relative to the intensity of the work being performed.  In polo ponies, plasma ascorbic acid was higher in ponies which were considered to be more intensely working than the lighter worked ponies, despite both groups receiving supplemental vitamin C.  Similarly, endurance horses supplemented with vitamin C had a higher plasma ascorbic acid level at the beginning of the race compared to the control horses, but the difference between plasma vitamin C levels  between the two groups grew smaller throughout the race.   The unsupplemented horses actually increased their plasma ascorbic acid levels throughout the race, presumably through the mobilization of body stores.  This differed in previous studies which showed a decrease in plasma ascorbic acid in more intensely worked horses.  This drop in ascorbic acid has also been reported in heavily raced sled dogs. Thus it may be the level of exercise which is important. Certainly this makes sense as the level of effort increases, the metabolic rate must increase and the greater percentage of ROS will be produced.   Although lacking in concrete data, it appears that additional vitamin C may be beneficial for heavily exercised horses.

    Exercise is not the only form of stress which horses may experience.  Plasma vitamin C levels have been seen to be lower in horses following surgeries, traumatic wounds, strangles and episodes of exercised induced pulmonary hemorrhage.  Horses with recurrent airway obstruction also have had lower plasma ascorbic acid levels, and supplementation appears to be helpful in creating better exercise tolerance and reduced airway inflammation.  Supplementation of vitamin C also appears to help aged horses enhance their immune system and improves their response to vaccinations.  Horses do appear to tolerate large doses of vitamin C quite well, horses received 20 g /d of ascorbic acid for 8 months with no measureable negative response.  However, it has been shown that horses decrease their own natural synthesis of vitamin C when supplemented.  Therefore, when the supplement is removed, horses will have a lower plasma concentration of vitamin C compared to normal.  Therefore, prolonged supplementation may be ill advised.  Overall, like all vitamins previously discussed, supplementation of vitamin C should not be done without careful consideration of whether or not the horse would truly benefit from supplementation.

  • On the Right Track

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    “The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”
    ~ Eden Philpotts

    Have you ever gotten down on the floor on all fours to view the world the way your dog sees it? While you might get a better idea of what your dog sees from that vantage point, your dog isn’t really looking as much as she is smelling, or “viewing” the world through her nose.

    You know what I mean if your dog has ever obsessed about a piece of kibble that rolled under the stove, or a crumb that dropped between the sofa cushions. You didn’t even know it was there, but your dog stood vigil and pawed or whined until you fished the tiny tidbit out. Or even worse, your dog scratched relentlessly at the stove or the sofa, trying to fish the morsel out herself. Cattle dogs are notorious for their persistence. My dog Bandit is no exception when he’s trying to rescue a stray crumb.

    A dog’s sense of smell is up to 10 million times more sensitive than a human’s. Dogs have 25 to 60 times the number of scent glands that humans have, and more brain space dedicated to their noses. They can smell in parts per trillion, which is like detecting one drop of water out of 20 Olympic swimming pools. It’s no wonder that dogs are following their noses!

     

    The Bark magazine has published fun nose games that you can play with your dog, which are especially useful on days when you’re housebound: http://www.thebark.com/content/k9-nose-work-1. Dog lovers may also train their dogs to follow a scent to compete in tracking events. Of course, dogs already know how to follow scents with their noses, but the object of these events is for the dog and person to work as a team. The dog must follow the scent track that the person has asked the dog to follow, and not get sidetracked by a deer or rabbit that crossed the trail.

     

    It’s interesting to see a dog follow a track laid by a person on snow. While it’s easy for a person to focus on the footprints in the snow, the dog will follow the scent, not the footprints that are much more obvious to those of us who dominantly use our vision. The footprint trail is easier for us to “see” on snow in winter, but the dog doesn’t perceive, or “see”, it that way and still relies on her nose.

    Dogs are known for their ability to track down a suspect, find a missing person in the wilderness, detect drugs and bombs, sniff out termites and bedbugs, and even foretell when a person will have a seizure. Researchers have worked to develop electronic noses, or “E-noses”, to mimic how a dog uses its scent receptors to smell. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, designed a sensor that uses mechanical engineering and chemistry principles to reproduce the canine scent receptors. The sensor feeds information into a computer database, which identifies the molecule that was captured. This device was designed to have the same level of sensitivity as a dog’s nose and was developed to be consistent even when a dog might get tired or distracted. Still, dog noses are the gold standard.

    Some of the most inspirational work employing dog noses is in the early detection of cancer. You may recognize animal behaviorist and dog trainer Dina Zaphiris from Animal Planet or the Bonnie Hunt Show. But did you know that her research has shown that dogs are 98% accurate at predicting early stage cancer? Dina’s website, www.dogsdetectcancer.org, references studies on canine olfactory detection of bladder, lung, breast, prostate, ovarian, and colorectal cancers (http://www.dogsdetectcancer.org/category/studies).

    Dina works at the InSitu Foundation, the only early detection non-profit group backed by the National Institutes of Health. InSitu’s mission is to save lives with the early detection of cancer through Canine Scent Detection. InSitu trains dogs to detect cancer in humans at its earliest stages, identifying and treating cancer before it becomes life-threatening. Published reports have documented that dogs can detect (sniff) cancer in people at an accuracy rate of 98%, which is more accurate than present day cancer-detection diagnostic medical equipment. Dogs can detect cancer much earlier than modern day machines, thus allowing preventative measures to be applied earlier in a patient’s life. InSitu develops groundbreaking canine techniques in early detection that will lead to saving lives.

    At Dina’s website, Australian Shepherd Stewie demonstrates her technique for detecting cancer among healthy and disease controls (http://www.dogsdetectcancer.org/video). And if you scroll down to the short and very compelling video at the bottom of this page, http://www.dogsdetectcancer.org/, you will learn what drives Dina and Stewie to do this work. Dina’s mother discovered her cancer too late, and cancer took her before she was ready.

    We have all been affected by cancer in one form or another. At the InSitu Foundation, dogs and people work together to master new early detection techniques to save lives. To contact the InSitu Foundation, learn more about early detection of cancer, and support their efforts to provide Canine Scent Detection for early cancer screening, go to http://www.dogsdetectcancer.org/contact/.

    The next time your dog obsesses over a piece of kibble that rolled under the stove, be grateful for the power of that amazing nose, and think about how our dogs perceive the world differently.

    With the arrival of spring, most of us are more active with our dogs. I’ll be out tracking and herding with my guys. Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets help me keep them in top condition.

  • Vitamin K

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    This month we will wrap up our discussion of the fat soluble vitamins with a vitamin that is not discussed all that often in regards to horses, vitamin K.  Vitamin K is actually a family of fat soluble vitamins from both plant and animal origins. Vitamin K in the diet occurs in the form of phylloquinone,  which is found in plants.  Phylloquinone can be converted to menaquinone via intestinal bacteria, or by other tissues within the animal.  Menaquinone is the active form of the vitamin for animals.  Most people recognize vitamin K’s role in blood clotting, but it is also a part of bone metabolism, vascular health, and even brain metabolism.

    Vitamin K acts to cause the carboxylation of glutamate (an amino acid) in proteins.  This carboxylation reaction allows proteins to bind to Ca.  This is a key part of the cascade of events which occur during blood clotting.  Vitamin K deficiency is typically seen as a decreased ability to clot blood, or internal hemorrhaging.  Vitamin K is also important for the action of osteocalcin, which is a hormone needed for bone metabolism.  It is thought that supplementing vitamin K may help with osteoporosis in the elderly. Luckily in horses, deficiencies of vitamin K from consuming a nutritionally inadequate diet have not been reported.  The amount of phylloquinones present in green forages combined with the menaquinone production in the body leave little reason for supplementation.  If supplementation is desired, both phylloquinones and menaquinones have wide safety margins.  However, menadione has been linked with toxicity issues when given at manufacturer’s recommendations.  Typically vitamin K would only need to be administered to horse’s if they are on a therapeutic regimen of warfarin, an anti-clotting drug.

    However, it is possible for horses to become vitamin K deficient by consuming substances which interfere with vitamin K.  Dicoumarol is a substance which is an antagonist of vitamin K, and blocks the blood clotting cascade.   Coumarin is the original chemical which is converted to dicoumarol by fungi. Clovers naturally contain a high content of coumarin, which in and of itself has no ability to affect coagulation. It is only through the action of fungi which transforms coumarin to dicourmarol.  Thus, moldy sweet clover hays are to be avoided.  Unfortunately the mold may not always be visually detectable.  Luckily, this syndrome, often referred to as sweet clover poisoning, rarely occurs on pasture.  It is important when creating clover hay that adequate drying time is achieved, which decreases the likelihood of molding.  However, this is often difficult when drying clovers due to their coarser stem.  Crimping may help decrease drying time and help to avoid molding.  Large round bales, especially the outer layer of hay, tend to be much higher in mold content.  Overall, sweet clover poisoning is seen much more commonly in cattle than it is in horses, but is not unheard of.  Unfortunately, as dicoumarol poisoning results in internal bleeding, it is often hard to detect in animal which has been exposed.  Stiffness of gait may be an indicator due to bleeding within the muscle.  Unfortunately it is often death that results in diagnosis.  As it is almost impossible to determine visually if sweet clover hay contains dicoumarol it is often recommended to be avoided.  If not, sweet clover hay can be fed intermittently with a high quality alfalfa which is high in vitamin K.   Feeding sweet clover hay for a period of no more than 7-10 days is recommended. No animals which may soon undergo surgery or parturition should be given sweet clover hay for the period of four weeks prior.  Overall, it may just be easier to forego sweet clover hay altogether.

    Next month we will begin discussion of the many water soluble vitamins, their functions, and requirements by the horse.

  • Turkeys Join the Poultry Revolution

    Contact:
    Alee Marsh
    alee.marsh@storey.com
    413.346.2116
    Turkeys Join the Poultry Revolution

    In the 12 years since the original edition of Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys was published, the backyard poultry movement has undergone a revolution. There’s been a surge in small-scale poultry farming in response to consumer demand for the best flavors, new organic standards, the lifting of local ordinances, locavore activism, and a deep enthusiasm for heritage breeds.

    Turkeys are at the center of this revolution. Don Schrider’s all-new edition of Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys includes detailed information on everything today’s turkey farmer needs to know: the characteristics of various heritage breeds, humane raising practices, buildings and equipment, pastured feeding methods, protection from predators, incubation and breeding, organic certification standards, on-farm processing guidelines, backyard raising techniques, and the most up-to-date medical and care procedures. Marketing information, profiles of turkey farmers, and detailed illustrations complete this comprehensive reference book.

    This important new edition is a highly valuable addition to Storey’s best-selling series. With over 1.9 million copies in print, the Storey’s Guide to Raising series is the most trusted source of essential animal husbandry information. With this new edition of Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys, the next generation of turkey farmers has all the information required to raise birds — naturally and profitably.

    Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys helps bring the American Poultry Association Standard Bred turkeys back from the brink of extinction and restore their presence on the family farm. Without everyone’s efforts, these birds will become simply a memory. With the wonderful help of a book like this, these magnificent varieties of turkeys, which are of great value to agriculture, have the best possible chance of survival.
    — Frank R. Reese, Jr., Good Shepherd Poultry

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR          
    Don Schrider is a poultry aficionado and has written on the topic for many publications, including Mother Earth News, Backyard Poultry, Chickens, Countryside and Small Stock Journal, and Poultry Press. He is a master breeder of Brown Leghorn and Buckeye chickens and has worked with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy on various projects.  

    Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys, 3rd Edition
    Don Schrider
    Storey Publishing, February 2013
    Illustrations throughout, 320 pages, 6" x 9"
    $19.95 paper, ISBN 978-1-61212-149-9
    $29.95 hardcover, ISBN 978-1-61212-150-5

  • Bull's Eye! Lessons I Have Learned about Roosters from John Quincy

    Written By Lisa Steele, Fresh Eggs Daily

    We have been keeping chickens for several years, but have always bought sexed chicks so we have never had any roosters.  Then this past spring, we hatched our own brood and out of 17 chicks, ten ended up being roosters.  We obviously couldn't keep them all - the neighbors would have organized a lynch mob to protest all the crowing and our hens would have had something to say about it too - but I fortunately was able to find good homes for all but an Olive Egger named John Quincy Adams.


    In the  ten months we have had him, I have learned a lot about roosters and how they interact with the rest of the flock.  Here are some of the lessons I have learned:

     

    1.  You don't need a rooster to get eggs. I actually already knew that, but it bears emphasizing because it's an oft-asked question on our Facebook page.  Hens happily lay eggs without a rooster in residence. The only difference is that the eggs won't be fertile. But fertile or not, they look and taste the same, contain the same nutritional content and both are fine for eating.  The only difference is the 'bulls-eye' on the yolk of a fertilized egg which is the rooster's DNA material. An unfertilized egg will have only a tiny white pinhead dot which is the hen's DNA material.  A blood spot on the yolk does NOT indicate fertility, it's merely a broken blood vessel.  I had never seen the bull's eye in an egg in person before and it's pretty neat - and unmistakable.

    2.  The rooster is not always at the top of the pecking order.  Our alpha hen, Orange Chicken, and a few others have made it clear that they aren't going to give up their place in the pecking order. So John Quincy is somewhere in the upper middle - and even sleeps a few rungs down on the roost each night.

     

    3.  Roosters don't only crow in the morning....they crow all afternoon and into the evening too. I have heard that some roosters even crow in the dark! Fortunately John Quincy only crows during daylight hours. But the notion of hearing a roosters crow at sunup and then not again for the rest of the day is hogwash.  He crows pretty much all day long.

     

    4. Roosters really do work to protect the flock.  When I let the hens out into the pasture, John Quincy roams the perimeter very vigilantly and sounds an alarm if he senses danger.  A hawk swooping by recently caused him to round up the hens and herd them under a bush where they stayed while he ran into the middle of the pasture, as if offering himself up to the hawk. Fortunately the hawk decided it was no match for me, our dog plus John Quincy and moved on. Then JQ gave the girls the 'all clear' signal once he had determined it was safe to emerge.  I still won't free range our flock unsupervised, despite his presence, because many a rooster has lost his life protecting hens and that's not a sacrifice I am willing to let the little guy take.  He is no match for a determined hawk, fox or dog.

     

    5.  Roosters are gorgeously regal. I think a hen with glossy feathers, bright legs and feet and shiny eyes is beautiful.  But roosters take the cake. With their long tail feathers, proud erect poses and air of authority, a well-cared for rooster is a sight to behold.

     

    6. Roosters can be mean.  But so can hens.  And the rooster isn't being mean for the sake of being mean. He takes his job seriously, and at times, even you are a threat to his flock.  Having hand-raised my roosters, I think they trusted and accepted me a lot more than they would had I acquired them as pullets, but there have been a few times when John Quincy has pecked me or gone at me, spurs first.  The latest was when I was trying to squirt saline into one of our hen's eyes. She was blinking and I wanted to rinse out any dust. She was squawking and putting up a fuss and John Quincy came right over and basically attacked me. But in his mind, I was hurting one of 'his' girls.

     

    7.  Roosters will protect the smaller and weaker members of the flock. John Quincy will routinely break up squabbles between the hens.  He steps right in whether two hens are fighting over a treat or space under a bush.  He also pecks any hens who pick on our smaller, younger pullets, who have taken to hanging around him for 'protection'.  Like a typical man, he can't stand female 'drama' and makes sure there isn't any in our  his run.

    8.  Roosters delight in finding 'treasures' and calling the hens over. I had heard about this but never seen it first hand. When they are out free ranging or I toss treats in their yard, John Quincy will make a high pitched, excited sound and then pick up a treat and drop it at the feet of the hen who he wants to have it.  It's very sweet.

     

    9.  Roosters don't need as much food as hens and won't touch free-choice crushed oyster- or egg-shell. Because they lay eggs, hens expend a lot of energy and nutrients and therefore have a higher calorie requirement than roosters or non-laying hens. Layers also need supplemental calcium to ensure strong egg shells.  The calcium should always be served free-choice in a separate bowl and not mixed into the feed so each hen can eat what she needs, and the roosters and non-layers won't eat any of it. If they ingest too much calcium, it can lead to kidney damage, and somehow they know that.

     

    10. Roosters often flap their wings before crowing to push oxygen into their lungs. Because they have very small lungs and a complicated respiratory system, and because crowing takes a lot of lung power, often a rooster will flap his wings just prior to crowing to push as much oxygen into his lungs as possible so his crowing will be as long - and as loud - as possible  Now aren't you glad they have learned to do that!

  • Reading Books, Touching Hearts

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Last month I wrote about Godwinks, and I’ve written about my dog Chase many times. You may have read the story of how Chase and I came together in the book 8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog. The short version is that I met Sarah while caring for rescued animals in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. We stayed in contact after we returned home to Virginia and Minnesota. God winked one day when “Fred” caught my eye as I viewed Sarah’s rescue website, www.lostfantasystables.com. Despite his unhappy expression, the little guy was cute. He had the sable coloring and white ruff of a collie, with red and white speckles on his chest and legs. I felt an immediate connection.

    Sarah rescued “Fred” from a man who was going to shoot him for chasing sheep. Fred had a strong herding instinct and was probably just trying to keep the place organized. But the man, in a rage, stuffed him into a tiny chicken crate and threatened to shoot him. When Sarah intervened and saved the terrified little guy, she held him on her lap for a long time before he stopped shaking. He knew the fate he had just escaped.

    Seeing that Fred was described as a “red heeler mix” and wanting to support Sarah’s rescue efforts in an impoverished area of rural Virginia, I followed up. My Australian Cattle Dog Bandit, who had recently lost his best dog pal and playmate, needed a new friend. Sarah and I determined that Chase would likely be a good fit for my family. With much planning and the help of many volunteers who transported him, Fred made the long journey from Virginia to Minnesota over Memorial weekend in 2006. He enjoyed the adventure and his series of chauffeurs commented on what a handsome and loving dog he was. He arrived with a beautiful greeting card chronicling his journey and wishing him a happy new life, signed by Sarah and everyone who had met him along the way.

    I called him Fred for a while. I could say fun things like, “It’s time for bed Fred!” But eventually he became “Chase”, claiming the name. After living with and observing him for a while, I decided that he’s most likely a Smooth Coated Collie - Australian Cattle Dog mix. He is long in body with the thick undercoat, narrow ears and muzzle, and beautiful coloring of a smooth coated collie. He has a collie’s shrieky bark and likes to patrol perimeters like a collie. But he is stockier and lower to the ground like a cattle dog. He has a dose of cattle dog chutzpah and cattle dog speckles on his legs, belly, and running down his chin like spilled milk.

    Chase settled in pretty well here, becoming fast friends with Bandit. One morning, I was puzzled when Chase wouldn’t go into the garage with me. I later learned that the violent man used to throw him in the garage by himself for hours. Chase apparently didn’t want to go in with me because he thought I was going to leave him there… alone… for hours, the worst kind of punishment for him.

    Bandit and Chase enjoyed playing ball, running in the woods and fields, and bobbing for fallen apples in the kiddie pool. Chase and I went to obedience and agility classes, learned to track together, and enjoyed herding sheep and ducks. No matter what, Chase always gave love.

    Early on, Chase appeared to have some flashbacks to the violence he’d been subjected to before being rescued, but he knows he’s safe now and seems to have fully recovered. By the end of the day, his back is usually sore and stiff, probably from being stuffed into that tiny chicken crate back in Virginia.

    Chase taught me that another man’s trash could be my treasure. He is the sweetest, handsomest, most sensitive dog who used to worry about making a mistake, because he knew that the “mistake” of acting on his herding instinct could have cost him his life. He trusts me now and we have learned to work together to herd sheep and ducks so he can express this wonderful talent without fearing for his life. He taught me that you can start over again and recover from abuse and violence to be who you were meant to be.

    Chase has created some interesting jobs for himself. Herding dogs are especially alert to anything that’s out of order because they’re used to watching over their flock. Chase likes to notify me when anything is different. He lets me know when the garbage truck and snowplow are coming long before I hear them. He lets out a special bark when the feral cat is around. When we go outside, Chase patrols the perimeter as a collie will. He follows his nose, which tells him what other creatures have passed through. He spots birds way up in the sky and has alerted me to a bald eagle soaring high above.

    In spite of his past, Chase is very loving and friendly. He loves to meet people and wants to connect with everyone. If we’re in a room full of people, like at a book signing, he’s bothered if he doesn’t get to greet each person individually. He’d probably make a fantastic greeter at Wal-Mart! After his difficult beginning in life, he may be trying to make up for lost time on the love front.

    Chase intuitively picks up on any unrest among animals or people. He reads people’s moods and seems to know just what they need. At home, he goes into the bathroom and puts his front feet up on the stool, waiting for a hug. I used to think he did this because he wanted attention. I slowly came to realize that he does this when he senses that I need a hug. He’s thinking about me and is much wiser than most people realize.

    I’ve felt for a long time that part of Chase’s calling in life is to be a therapy dog. Last spring we completed Delta Pet Partners training (Chase: Why Dog is Love, http://www.omegafields.com/blog/chase-why-dog-is-love/). I looked into starting a reading dog program at our local library, which has suffered from budget cuts, but I got sidetracked.

    God winked again when I received an e-mail message from a local librarian who was determined to start a “Dog Gone Reading” program. Now Chase and I volunteer at our small local library for two hours per month. Kids read to Chase, developing their reading abilities in a supportive environment. Chase listens intently while each child reads him a story. He enjoys any story, is great company and isn’t judgmental. While reading out loud to Chase, kids build confidence and gain a friend. Kids who don’t have pets at home get to connect with a dog. Chase, who doesn’t have a kid at home, gets to bond with kids and fulfill his purpose to give love. The kids get to know the local library and all that it offers. Chase and I teach them how to approach a dog, to pet him gently, and to be kind and respectful to animals. Chase is a natural! He knows how important it is to be kind.

    Chase, now about 7 ½ years old, has been waiting for years for me to give him this opportunity to reach his potential. I’m so excited that he’s fulfilling his purpose of sharing love, helping kids develop their reading abilities, and supporting our local library. As an author who loves to read, I don’t want the joy of reading real books to be lost. I want kids to know the pleasure of reading from a printed book held in their hands.

     

    I’m very grateful to Sarah for saving Chase’s life and for the long journey that brought him home to Minnesota. I’m also grateful to Omega Fields for providing the Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets that boost Chase’s good health and make his coat so soft, shiny and wonderful to snuggle up to.

    Chase already knows the important stuff. He knows how to forgive and how to give love. His heart is wide open; he is an open book.

    Learn more about:

    Delta Pet Partners: http://www.petpartners.org/

    The National Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) Program: http://www.therapyanimals.org/R.E.A.D.html

    R.E.A.D. Dogs Minnesota: http://www.readdogsmn.org/

    The Washington County (Minnesota) Dog Gone Reading Program: http://www.co.washington.mn.us/DocumentCenter/View/2711

  • Vitamin E

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    We have already discussed two of the fat soluble vitamins in a horse’s diet. This month we continue with a closer look at vitamin E, a vitamin which is commonly supplemented to horses for a variety of reasons.  It is often used for aging horses, horses which have muscle disorders and horses which undergo strenuous exercise.  But how do you know if your own horse needs more vitamin E in its diet?

    First, let’s explore the role of vitamin E in your horse’s body.  Vitamin E occurs in a variety of forms (both tocopherols and tocotrienols).  Of these, there are then four subgroups, α, γ, β and δ. While γ is the most common in the natural diet, the alpha form is the most potent in activity, the most supplemented and the subject of most studies.   In their natural diet, horses receive the most vitamin E as γ tocopherol from growing forages or harvested forage that was cut at an immature state.  As the plant ages, vitamin E decreases in content.  Vitamin E concentration also decays over time in harvested forages, as much as 50% over one month.  Therefore, older hays which have been stored for some time will have little activity.  If you also feed non-processed concentrates  to your horse (such as oats, barley, corn etc.) they will also be low in vitamin E. However, most commercial equine feeds will be supplemented vitamin E, usually as α tocopherol acetate.   It can be provided as either natural α tocopherol or synthetic, with natural forms having 36% more biological activity than synthetic.  The natural form has been shown to increase plasma α tocopherol concenrations greater than its synthetic counterpart but both are effective supplements.

    (This is the structure of alpha tocopherol.)

    Despite its form, vitamin E’s function is most frequently thought of as an anti-oxidant.  Vitamin E can work to eliminate free radicals which are formed through the incomplete oxidation of oxygen or other molecules.  During normal metabolism some amount of free radicals are always formed.  However, stress, work, aging, poor nutrition etc can increase the amount of free radicals in the body.  These are essentially molecules which are missing an electron, making  them highly reactive.   This is an unstable condition and the free radical can remove electrons from other cell components, such as lipids, cell membranes etc.  Vitamin E, along with other anti-oxidants donates an electron to the free radical, thus stabilizing it and preventing further damage.  One oxidized, vitamin E itself must be reduced back to its active form.  This is usually accomplished through the action of other anti-oxidants in the body such as ascorbic acid or glutathione peroxidase.  As the cells of the immune system have a high amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids which are quite susceptible to damage by free radicals, vitamin E plays a vital role in the optimization of the immune system.  Furthermore, vitamin E plays a role in reproduction, gene transcription and platelet aggregation.

    (Traditional concentrates such as just corn and oats may be relatively low in vitamin E content.)

    Currently, vitamin E is recommended to be fed to maintenance horses and breeding horses at 1 IU/kg of body weight (not sure if your horse is a maintenance horse, see Energy Requirements).  Growing horses  and lactating mares are suggested to need more vitamin E in their diet, at double the rate of maintenance horses or 2 IU/kg body weight.  Vitamin E intake for the working horse may need to be a bit higher.  While the current recommendation for working horses is 1.8 IU/kg body weight for moderate work and 2 IU per kg body weight for heavy work, many research studies have provided Vitamin E at higher levels.  Supplementation rates from 150-250 IU/kg DM, 300 IU /kg DM or even as high as 11.1 IU kg/body weight (in a simulated endurance race) have been found to be necessary to maintain blood and muscle concentration of vitamin E in more rigorously exercised horses.  To make these values seem more familiar, if we assume we are feeding a 500 kg horse 2% of its body weight, than the range of vitamin E would be between 1500 – 5500 IU of vitamin E per day in these studies.

    Therefore, Vitamin E is often part of the suggested management protocols for horses which are heavily exercising or may have muscle disorders. In fact, in a study looking at endurance horses and supplementation of Vitamin E, the authors were unable to create a control group as no riders were willing to not supplement their horses!  However,i t has been difficult to prove the effectiveness of supplementation for the enhancement of the horse’s health.  In exercised horses receiving 300 IU/kg DM of vitamin E compared to 80 IU/kg DM, or no supplementation of vitamin E, the higher rate of supplementation did increase the muscle concentration of vitamin E.  However, it did not affect the indicators of oxidative stress in the muscle following a submaximal exercise test.  Perhaps a difference would have been observed with a more aggressive exercise regimen.  More recently, horses supplemented at a rate of 3000 IU per day of vitamin E compared to 80 IU/kg DM, underwent a training protocol.  The anti-oxidant capacity of all the horses increased following training, which is a natural adaptation to exercise.  There were no differences in reduced or oxidized glutathione peroxidase at rest, or total glutathione peroxidase.  However after a standard exercise test, the horses receiving 3000 IU vitamin E did have more reduced gluthathione peroxidase, suggesting a greater anti-oxidant capacity. Horses exercised to fatigue following 8 weeks of supplementation of 3000 IU of vitamin E had less muscle oxidation as measured by myofibril carbonylation( a measure of protein oxidation).

    (Heavily exercised horses may need more vitamin E in their diet than maintenance horses or lightly worked horses.)
    Determining if your horse has a vitamin E deficiency may not be as straight forward as taking a blood sample.  It has been shown that the concentration of vitamin E in the horse’s blood  varies irrespective of diet.  In one study, the variation within an individual horse in a 72 hr period would have shown the same horse as more than adequate in vitamin E, to marginal as well as deficient.  Therefore, it may be more important to look at your feeding regimen and the feedstuffs your horse consumes to determine whether or not they may have a deficiency.  The diet your horse is on may also affect his vitamin E needs.  Vitamin E is protective against the peroxidation of lipids in the body, especially the polyunsaturated fatty acids.  Horses which consume diets higher in PUFAs, which is certainly recommended in many cases, may increase the need for anti-oxidants in the body to prevent lipid perodixation.  Thankfully, many sources of PUFAs may be higher in vitamin E content.

    If your horse is older, they may also be a candidate for vitamin E supplementation.  As horses’ age, their body systems may not function at the same level seen in their younger years.  As in people, the immune system of our aged horses may begin to fail.  When horses over 20 years of age were vaccinated for influenza, they were unable to mount the same immune response as their younger counterparts.  Therefore, older horses may be prime candidates for supplements which are known to complement the immune system.  In older horses fed vitamin E at 15 IU/kg of body weight, the bacterial killing ability of specific immune cells was increased, along with an increase in some, but not all, of the specific types of immunoglobins (or antibody).  However, in this study, the horses were previously on a marginally deficient amount of vitamin E. Therefore, it is not known whether it was the correction of the deficiency or the over supplementation that yielded positive effects.
    Horses are fairly tolerant of relatively high amounts of vitamin E in the diet.  The upper range of vitamin E intake has been set at 1,000 IU/kg of DM. To think of this in more common terms, we will do a brief example using an 1100 lb horse that consumes 2% of its body weight.  Thus this horse would typically consume 22 lbs of feed per day.  We will convert this to kg to look at our total amount of vitamin E the horse should ever safely consume.  22 lbs of feed is equivalent to 10 kg of feed. Thus, the upper range of safe intake of vitamin E is 10,000 IU per day for a 500 kg horse.

    However, vitamin E should not be used without caution.  In human medicine supplementation of vitamin E has not always yielded positive results, and if fact can actually enhance the disease state.  In humans undergoing heavy exercise, vitamin E supplementation actually decreased some of the positive adaptations to exercise.  In addition, heavy supplementation has been actually linked to mortality. As always, supplementation is never the answer for a properly balanced diet.   Overzealous  supplementation may actually work against your horse’s health!  But if your horse is older, more heavily worked or has added poly-unsaturated fatty acids in its diet, you might want to examine your diet for its Vitamin E content.

    Next month we will finish our discussion of the fat soluble vitamins with vitamin K.

  • Omega Fields Launches National Television Spot on RFD-TV

     

    Newton, Wisconsin – On February 13, 2013, Omega Fields®, Inc. announced that it will air its first ever national TV commercial on RFD-TV through its partnership with Parelli Natural Horsemanship®www.parelli.com. On Parelli’s weekly RFD-TV show, Omega Fields will air a 30-second commercial featuring its award-winning stabilized flax-based horse supplement, Omega Horseshine®. This ad will air twice per week for the next 12 months during the Parelli program.

    Sean F. Moriarty, President of Omega Fields, Inc., said, “This is a great milestone for our company and we are really pleased to be partnered with the Parellis during their innovative and entertaining programs.”  This first commercial will air during the program "A Special Parelli Presentation – 2012 Performance Summit, Part 1 with Pat and Linda Parelli.”

    Be sure to tune in to the Parelli Natural Horsemanship RFD-TV programs.  The shows will air on consecutive Wednesdays at 9pm CST and Mondays at 5am CST beginning January 10th featuring Omega Field’s Omega Horseshine® commercial.

    About Omega Fields
    Omega Fields® is recognized as a minority-owned business. Its mission is to offer the finest quality, most nutritious products at fair prices, and to provide outstanding customer service. Omega Fields wants its customers to have exceptional experiences with their products, staff, websites and retailers.

    Omega Fields is the first manufacturer in the animal health industry to use human-grade, non-GMO stabilized ground flaxseed, rich in fiber and antioxidants, and containing the optimum ratio of the full spectrum of Omega 3, 6, and 9 Fatty Acids for equine, goat, canine, poultry and human nutrition. The innovative use of flaxseed milled with a unique stabilization technology ensures long shelf life and superior quality for Omega Fields’ products.

    For further information, contact Allison Kuhl, Omega Fields Director of Business Development at 920-550-4061, ext. 119; email Allison@omegafields.comAllison; or visit www.OmegaFields.com or www.FLAX.com.

  • Omega Grande Receives Good HorseKeeping Product Approval

    We used Grande on our 24-year-old retired roping horse, which has severe arthritis and periodic cases of diarrhea.  Previously he had been on a total senior product supplement, as well as a mobility supplement.  After 30 days of being on Grande I was able to discontinue any additional supplements – except for a teaspoon of aspirin daily.  Bay has had a great winter, so far.  He has been alert, sound, and riding better then ever.  I am a true believer in the power of Omegas in keeping these older horses healthy and sound.  Like my show mare that I put on Horseshine after testing it last fall, Bay will be on Grande for the rest of his life!

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