Omega Fields

  • Equine Carbohydrate Disorders, Part 1: Definitions and Relationship to Equine Diseases

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney
    Equine disorders related to carbohydrate consumption have received much attention by owners and researchers alike, as of late. This has resulted in almost a mistrust or fear of feeding horses carbohydrates.  But in reality, almost all of the horse’s calories come from carbohydrates – there is no way to avoid them in the horse’s diet. What one must do is understand all of the forms in which CHO (carbohydrates) are found, identify horses at risk for CHO disorders and select the appropriate feeds to keep them healthy.
    To begin, carbodydrates are simply molecules composed of carbon, hydrogen and water. Monosaccharides are single units of sugars which vary slightly in their structure.  Common monosccahrides in the horse’s diet consist of glucose, galactose, fructose, mannose, arbinose and xylose. While these monosaccharides are not normally found in their single form in plants, they are joined together to make  longer polysaccharides. However, monosaccharides are produced through  enzymatic digestion by the horse.  Disaccahrides, then, are just two sugar units linked together. Common disaccharides include lactose (found in mare’s milk and is formed by glucose and galactose linked together) and maltose (two glucose units linked together).
    Figure 1. Glucose and galactose. The two structures only differ by the location of the hydroxyl group on the left side of the structure.
    Oligosaccharides are longer chains of a variety of monosaccharides linked together, typically between three and ten sugar units.  The primary oligosaccharides in the horse's diet are stachyose, raffinose and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS).  FOS have received attention in animal nutrition as a way to supply pre-biotics to the animal. Pre-biotics are often oligosaccharides which are resistant to digestion in the foregut of the horse but are digested by bacteria in the hindgut. These supply a source of nutrition which supports the growth of beneficial bacteria and perhaps reduces the population of disease causing – or "pathogenic" – bacteria. In fact they are looked at as an alternative to feeding antibiotics in livestock. FOS are believed to alter the pH of the colon to a more favorable environment for the most productive bacteria. Mannose specific oligosaccharides are also thought to reduce the adherence of pathogenic bacteria to the epithelium of the gut wall. In yearling horses, feeding FOS reduced fecal pH and increased the production of volatile fatty acids from the hind gut. FOS supplementation also decreased the incidence of diarrhea when fed to foals. It has also been shown to have a protective effect on the development of foal diarrhea when fed to their dams. However, it is not known if that was an indirect effect passed through the milk, or if the foals simply ingested some of their dams' feed containing the supplement. While feeding oligosaccharides does not appear to have an immune boosting effect that has been suggested in other species, it does appear to have beneficial effects on gut health in the equine. Horses receiving FOS and challenged with a large barley meal had less lactobacilli in their colon compared to controls. Thus FOS may help prevent GI disturbances due to diet changes or CHO overload.
    Fructooligosaccharides also belong to the category of carbohydrates labeled as fructans.  Fructans are polysaccharides which have multiple fructose units. Inulin is also classified  as a  fructan. Many horse owners have heard of fructans as a risk factor for pasture associated laminitis. A sudden increase in fructans in the diet can alter the microbial population in the hindgut which may then subsequently lead to the development of laminitis. Fructan concentrations in grasses vary with both season and time of day.  Fructans and other starch concentrations are highest in the spring, lowest in the summer and intermediate in the fall. During the day, the process of photosynthesis results in the highest concentrations of fructans in the afternoon with sometimes half or less in the morning or evening hours.
    Other CHO include longer chains of sugar units and are known as polysaccharides. Most commonly we think of starches and fibers as the common polysaccharides in the equine diet. Starch occurs in either linear form known as amylose or branched form, amylopectin.  It is composed of only glucose linked by bonds that can be enzymatically digested by the horse. In contrast, cellulose is also a straight chain of glucose but is linked by a different type of bond , a beta bond, which must be broken by microbes. Fermentation of this fiber fraction results in formation of volatile fatty acids which are metabolized by the horse to produce energy. Pectin and hemicelluloses are also common polysaccharides found in the equine diet.
    Figure 2. Amylose is a chain of glucose units linked by alpha bond.
    Figure 3. Cellulose is a similar chain of glucose units, but linked by beta bonds instead, making it indigestible by mammals.
    Those CHO linked with alpha bonds can be digested in the foregut, allowing the monosaccharides to be absorbed intact. In contrast, cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectin, raffinose and stachyose, which contain beta bonds, will all need to undergo microbial fermentation to provide energy to the horse.   Hemicellulose, compared to cellulose, is a mixture of arabinose, xylose, glucose , mannose and galactose. Pectin is made up of beta linked galacturonic acid, arabinose and galactose. Pectin and hemi-cellolose are more rapidly fermented than cellulose and increase the digestibility of the feed if present in a greater proportion.
    Now that we know what different types of carbohydrates exist in the horse’s diet, let’s look more closely at some differences that occur in forages. Typically, forages should always make up the bulk of the horse’s diet. They are made up of structural CHO which make up the cell wall as well as some indigestible lignin.  The plant cell wall is made of cellulose, hemicelluloses and pectin. Forages also have non-structural CHO or NSC in the cell content, though certainly not as much as concentrates. The NSC is a mixture of monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, etc.) and disaccharides as well as starch and fructans.
    If we compare common forages, cool season grasses are made up of primarily cellulose, then hemi-celluose and the fairly small amounts of pectin. Cool season grasses include Kentucky Bluegrass, orchard grass, fescues and ryegrass.  Legumes, which are typically high in digestible energy are relatively higher in pectin. Legumes would include alfalfa, clover, lespedeza and peanuts. Warm season grasses grow and mature more rapidly and have much more cell wall/kg DM and thus much more fiber. Warm season grasses include Bermuda grass, switchgrasses, and bluestem. Therefore warm season grasses at a later stage of maturity may be ideal for horses with carbohydrate sensitivities. In general, there is a higher proportion of cell content in a younger, or more immature plant. This makes grasses or hays harvested at an earlier stage more digestible.
    Interestingly, the storage form of CHO in legumes and warm season grasses is primarily starch, while cool season grasses prefer to store energy in the form of fructans with much less starch. There is also a limit to how much starch the chloroplasts of warm season grasses and legumes can contain, yet there is no limit to fructan accumulation. Fructan also accumulates more to the base of the plant and more so in the stem than in the leaf. Cool temperatures and droughts (which typically don’t go together) may also increase the fructan production by the plant. Anything that promotes photosynthesis but retards growth ends up increasing NSC (lots of light with cool temperatures).   Therefore, be especially careful to observe growing conditions, especially if the horses are consuming cool season grasses and have carbohydrate sensitivities.

  • Wild Bill, Rudolph Valentino and Mr. Fugley

    Written By Barbara O'Brien

    This fellow's name is Wild Bill. He gets that name as he has quite the way with the ladies. He is a white Leghorn Rooster. He would like to think that he is top dog, but he is not. 

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    That honor goes to his fellow. Mr. Fugley. We don't know what he is. His mother hatched him out and his dad could have been any number of roosters we had at the time. Poor Mr, Fugly, He may not be much to look at, but the ladies love him and he is ruler of the roost. Even the dogs leave him alone.

    A few more of Wild Bill. He spends a lot of time talking the big talk but is nowhere to be seen when Mr. Fugley comes around.

    This is Rudolph Valentino, he is named after the famous Latin

    lover from Hollywood’s early years. Quite the handsome fellow don’t you think?

     He is even brave enough to take on the cats.

     

     

     

     

     

    But this is what happens when he sees Mr. Fugley.

    Now this is what the roosters spend so much time fussing over.

    Girls.  Girls.  Girls.
     

    This is one of the ladies they spend so much time fighting over. Her name is Grace. All of the speckled hens like her are named Grace.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    All of the red ones are named Ruth.

     

     All the white ones are named Gladys.
     
     And all the ducks are named Richard. Don't laugh, It just makes thing easier.

     

     

     

    And here is why we keep Mr. Bill, Rudolph Valentino and Mr. Fugley around at all. They keep the hens happy. Happy hens make more eggs and more eggs make a happy me!

     

  • Reiki and the Zen of Motor Vehicle Maintenance

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    In mid-July I was on my way to a meeting in the city. It was the first meeting since the interview for my part-time summer job and I didn’t want to be late. I was driving on a country road, on my way to the interstate. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a light flash, and then disappear. It flashed again, insisting that I “Check Gages”! Now! Uh oh. The oil pressure gage read “0”, like a flat-lined heart monitor. This couldn’t be good. Briefly I thought about driving home, and considered going back. But my engineer brain told me that, like a body without blood, a truck without oil won’t live long.
    I pulled over right away, realizing that I wouldn’t get far without oil pressure. Plus, if my truck needed to be towed, I was already closer than home to the repair place. As I pulled over to the side of the frontage road, smoke rose up in front of the windshield. I turned off the key, grabbed my laptop and notes, and jumped out. I wondered if the truck would catch fire, but the smoke seemed to come from the hot oil dripping on the parts below. I bent over to discover a growing puddle of oil leaking onto the pavement between the front tires. I looked back to see a trail of oil drops behind the truck. I prepared to issue last rites.
    My cell phone had one battery bar left and the charger was at home. I called the Car Guy. With almost 233,000 miles on the truck, I knew his number by heart. He arranged for a tow truck to meet me. I didn’t have cell phone numbers for the people who I was to meet at a restaurant, but I was able to reach the department administrator. She connected me to one of the people from the meeting, who offered to pick me up at the car repair place and give me a ride.
    I had to wait about 45 minutes for the tow truck. The chi appeared to be draining from my truck and I didn’t have a specific back up plan. Normally I would sit and stew. But I thought about the almost 233,000 miles we’d driven together, all the wonderful memories, and felt grateful. I was going to miss my old GMC Sonoma. I decided to lay my hands on the hood and administer Reiki (pronounced “Ray-key”, a Japanese form of energy healing), to channel positive energy and encourage healing. I know this sounds funny, but it couldn’t hurt, might even help, and it was better for me than stomping and cursing.
    In the Reiki frame of mind, I noticed that it wasn’t a bad day to be stuck on the side of the road. It wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t raining, the birds were singing, and it was a rather pleasant day. I suddenly had the time to notice.
    While I had my hands on the hood, a handsome man on a Harley pulled over. He asked if I had help on the way, and I nodded. He noticed the growing puddle of oil under my truck and mentioned possible solutions. He told me he’d replaced the engine in his Blazer and about how much it had cost. He got me thinking about possible solutions other than junking the truck. I told him that the truck had already given me almost 233,000 miles and that it wasn’t a bad day to be stuck on the side of the road. He pointed out the vegetable garden beyond the trees and noted that I could watch the gardeners. Knowing that I was ok, he said goodbye and rode off. Then I wondered, “Who was that handsome man on the Harley?” Perhaps he was a guardian angel.
    The tow truck arrived. The driver let me charge my phone while we rode to the repair place. I met the Car Guy’s new Australian Shepherd puppy, left the truck there and caught my ride to the meeting. I hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst. I figured I would have to arrange new transportation ASAP and my mind began working to solve the problem.
    The restaurant where we were scheduled to meet was closed (for good), so we ended up meeting in a restaurant back by the car repair place. We decided to make it our new meeting place!
    When I called the Car Guy to check on my truck, he told me that, amazingly enough, the tube that routed the oil to the oil cooler had corroded through and he thought he could fix the truck by replacing the part that same afternoon! After the meeting, I learned that when he installed the new part, he discovered that a second part, the oil cooler, was also cracked and leaking. He was able to find the second part at a place about 45 minutes away, and it was rush hour. His wife, who usually makes the part runs, was busy, so he sent his son, who also works in the shop. When his son got to the parts place, he realized they were about to sell him the wrong part. Luckily, they had the right part in stock and he returned with that.
    While I waited, I got out my laptop and worked for a couple more hours. Then I played with the puppy again. They replaced both parts for less than $500, a blessing considering that a few hours earlier I’d thought I’d need a new vehicle, or at least a new engine.
    At the repair shop, they were amazed that I was able to pull over and turn the truck off before it lost all of its oil. In fact, it still contained a quart of oil when it arrived at the shop. They had never seen anything like it. But then, they had probably never seen anyone lay hands on a truck either!
    The day included so many near misses that could have gone one way or the other, but went my way. There was the flashing oil pressure light, that I was able to read the second time. I was just a mile or two short of being on the interstate, where I wouldn’t have been able to pull over and shut off the truck right away. My cell phone had just enough juice for me to call for help and call people about the meeting. I was able to reach people about the meeting and get a ride. The man on the Harley stopped and gave me positive things to think about and possible solutions for the truck, and showed me the gardeners. The truck still had oil when it arrived at the shop. They were able to fix it by replacing two parts the very same day. The son went to get the second part, not the wife, who would have returned with the wrong part.
    We found a new restaurant for our meetings. When I was delayed, my neighbor was able to let my dogs out. She said I was lucky to catch her at home because she was leaving for a trip the next morning. I finished some work and even got to play with a puppy while I waited for the second part to be replaced. I drove home that evening in my own truck, for under $500. This had seemed highly unlikely earlier in the day.
    The day was full of near misses, with a good outcome, considering. So tell me… Does Reiki help machines, and who was that handsome man on the Harley anyway? Some have said he was my guardian angel, and I won’t argue with that!
    You may be thinking, what does any of this have to do with dogs? My dogs have taught me that all we really have is this present moment, and we’d best enjoy it. Enjoy the day and try not to worry about money. My dogs led me to learn Reiki, which may not have helped the truck, but it certainly helped the way I handled the situation. All these things that I’ve learned from my dogs helped me to be positive in a stressful situation. And when I thought of all the amazing places my truck has taken me and the wonderful times I’ve had, most of them involved my dogs. I was overwhelmed with gratefulness!

    That’s how a day that started out fine, veered toward disaster, but then seemed to be a miracle a few hours and $500 later. I ended the day as usual, safely back home, on a walk with my dogs. It was a pleasant evening. We took the time to notice, and we enjoyed every moment.

  • Minimizing the Stress of Weaning

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    The fall season is here and with it often comes the time for weaning our foals. Many successful weaning strategies exist but it is important for the manager to choose the optimal one for their facilities and management style. These decisions are important and can affect the growth, well being and even the future behavior of your foal.
    When is it appropriate to wean?
    Foals can be weaned at any age provided their proper nutrition and socialization skills are ensured. Foals whose dam’s may die at birth are obviously “weaned” from their dam at an extremely young age. While it is preferable to find a willing nurse mare, and it is even possible to induce lactation in a non-pregnant mare, many owners choose to put the foal on a liquid diet of formula designed to match the mare’s own milk.  Specialized milk replacer, goat’s milk and supplemented cow’s milk can all be used successfully.  Prior to doing so, it is important to ensure that the foal has received adequate amounts of high quality colostrum, as the proteins found in the milk replacer may block the later absorption of immunoglobins from colostrum. Colostrum content quickly decreases in post-partum mares and should have been harvested within the first three hours post parturition of the donor mare.
    Orphaned foals must be fed frequently , initially from a bottle, but can then be taught to drink from a pail, similar to calves. Initially the foal should be fed at 5-10% of its body weight in the first day, and then increase to 20-25% of its body weight by day 10. Solid feeds can be introduced early, as the foal would typically begin to ingest feed in imitation of its dam after only one week of being born. Milk replacer pellets are available, and can help supplement the foals’ initial liquid diet.   Foals can be weaned from this liquid diet by 10-12 weeks of age. Most importantly, some sort of companion should be found for the foal. Often orphan foals develop undesirable behaviors as they have no guidance from a mature horse as to what constitutes appropriate social behavior. Typically, orphaned foals view humans as their peers, which may result in some rather inappropriate rough play!
    With the exception of extremely early loss of the dam for a variety of reasons (death, injury, sales, etc.) most managers choose to wean foals between three and six months of age. In the feral state, foals typically are self weaned by 35 weeks of age or between eight and nine months. At five months all foals spend 50-70% of their day consuming solid feed, compared to about 2% of the day suckling. Mare’s milk production also begins to drop off by three months of age, at which time foals are consuming a high percentage of natural feeds through grazing, hay or concentrates.  It is advantageous to introduce the foal to the feeds it will be consuming post-weaning to ensure an easier and more stress-free transition. This will also help prevent fluctuations in growth rates that may place the foal at risk for developing developmental disorders.
    After insuring that the proper diet is being fed (see previously related articles concerning protein, energy and minerals for growth), the management system used is important to consider. Foals weaned in isolation (such as confined in a box stall) show more incidences of stereotypies (such as weaving, cribbing and wood chewing) and are more vigilant (less time standing relaxed) than foals weaned in pairs. Foals weaned in stalls also show more abnormal behaviors such as stall licking, kicking, rearing and pawing than weanlings weaned in a paddock. Even horses stabled for the first time as two year olds exhibited much less aberrant behavior and were more relaxed when stalled in pairs versus singularly.
    Therefore the ideal management system would wean the foals with a counter-part, rather than in isolation. For example, at our facility we wean the foals by removing the dams, with foals remaining in the same pasture and with the same herd mates with which they have been raised. This results in very little stress (at least as exhibited by vocalizations and seeking of their dam) which is frequently resolved within two days post weaning.   Even in this system we wean in pairs, whether or not this actually relieves stress for the weanling. If raising only one foal, it is advisable to seek out an older quiet pasture mate, or even to find another youngster to raise with it. Many horse owners find themselves in a similar situation and may be willing to board another weanling or send theirs as a companion.
    Alternative strategies include gradual weaning, in which the mare and foal are separated, but are allowed all behaviors except nursing. Typically this is done over a fence that the foal simply cannot nurse through. After one week, the mare is removed completely. Foals weaned in this manner, exhibit less stress and have lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) than foals which are weaned abruptly. However, these foals are no different than abruptly-weaned foals after two weeks. The advantages to this system may simply be a lessened possibility for injury or disease.
    Weaning stress may also make the foal more susceptible to diseases. Because of this, be sure that the foal is in good health prior to weaning (we typically have vaccinated the foal and ensured a high immune status prior to weaning) and there are no undo stressors. For instance, plan the time of weaning for when the climate is not too adverse (either too hot or too cold/wet).   Because the mare and foal may show high stress and try to re-unite, check that the facilities used for weaning are extremely safe. Expect that maiden or younger mares may exhibit a longer period of time in which they still call for or seek out their foals. Halter breaking is not advisable right at the time of weaning either, as the foal is already stressed and more reactive. Ideally foals are handled from birth, which can lessen the stress of procedures often introduced at this time (vaccinations, deworming, farrier care, etc).
    Care of the mare is simple, with usually a decrease in ration quality or quantity from that received as a lactating mare. Although her udder will fill initially, it is important to not milk the mare, as this will only further stimulate lactation. The udder should become soft within a week of weaning.   She can then be returned to her pre-foal life, whether that is as a riding horse, a gestating mare, or simply a mare of leisure.

    By thinking through the weaning system and the safety and nutritional needs of both mare and foal, the stress of “growing up” for the foal can be greatly minimized.

  • All the Cows are Cool and the Women are Beautiful

    Written By Barbara O'Brien
    Making movies is a little bit like making magic.  It may look real on film but, of course, it is all an illusion. I was reminded of this a few weeks back when a good part of the country including western Wisconsin, where I live, was in the grips of a dangerous heat wave.  Temperatures soared and heat indexes were at 115º F plus.
    As I sat working in my home office, sweat dripping off my brow in spite of the two fans positioned on either side of me, I was reminded of when I was working on a feature film called Here on Earth.  It starred a young Chris Kline, and equally young Josh Hartnett, and a lovely young actress named Lee Lee Sobieski.  We had been contracted to provide a herd of dairy cows to give reality and atmosphere to the dairy farm location.
    We dutifully hauled the six Holstein cows to the set every morningHolstein Heifer by Barbara O'Brien and once they were unloaded, cleaned up and made comfortable we waited around for their inclusion in a scene.
    Movie work is a classic case of hurry up and wait which means everyone must show up at 6:00 am because they just might change the shooting schedule in which case you better be ready when the first assistant director runs up to you, walkie-talkie in hand, and says breathlessly, “The director would like to use the cows now.”
    This in itself is not so bad, but shooting happened to be taking place in a record heat wave not unlike the one we all just experienced.
    We had a place in the shade, and plenty of water for the cows so they were ok when we were not working but once we moved into the lower level of the barn it was stifling hot and we felt the cows were at risk.
    I mentioned this to the first assistant director who expressed our concerns to the director.  The order was then given, “Cool the cows!” and a large plastic duct was pushed through a window and cool, clean conditioned air began to pour into the barn.  It was heavenly if you were a cow.  But if you were a trainer or just about anyone else, you had to stay back out of frame and almost die as the barn heated up even more because of the monstrously huge movie lights and close pressed bodies of the crew.
    The actors were treated well, also.  The crew had broken for lunch in a large event tent, which offered shade, but there was still no breeze and the heat and humidity was oppressive.  I was watching as everyone moved as slowly as possible to avoid any extra exertion when I noticed Lee Lee Sobieski exiting her trailer.  She looked liked an angel just stepped down from the clouds as she approached – every hair on her head in place, her makeup perfect and completely sweat free, as if she was immune to the weather.  She came with her plate and sat at our table, which was unusual, as animal trainers are pretty low on the film crew totem pole. She happened to be an animal lover and wanted to know more about the cows.  So we enjoyed a brief, if hot, lunch break with her.  Then she floated back to her air-conditioned trailer and we went back to the cows.
    In my next life, I am either going to be a beautiful young actress or a beautiful young acting cow.  In either case, I will be cool.

  • Cayenne's Story

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic
    Cayenne turned four years old on June 17th – at least that’s our best guess. The youngest dog here at my home in Minnesota, she occupies the bottom of our small pack. She’s the blond dog in the middle in the photo.
     
    Jenny, Chase, Cayenne, and Bandit
    Photo by L.S. Originals of Fridley, Minnesota
    Cay has come a very long way since I first heard about her litter four years ago. When I checked the Australian Cattle Dog Rescue, Inc. (ACDRI) hotline messages in July of 2007, I heard a message from a woman in Tennessee. Debbie Foster (an appropriate name!) of the Henderson County Humane Society was caring for a litter of seven very young puppies that had been rescued from the wilderness. They had apparently been dumped, with no mama dog around, and had been found by a local man, a recluse who had taken them to Debbie. She nursed the pups through an almost fatal bout of coccidia and contacted ACDRI for help finding them homes because she thought they were Australian Cattle Dog mixes.
    I learned that Debbie and her family were the Henderson County Humane Society, doing as much as they could with very little. When ACDRI wasn’t willing to help, I worked with Debbie to find safe places for the puppies. One pup was adopted in Tennessee. In the fall of 2007, three went to Sue Cameron-Day of Meet the Pack ACD Rescue in Ontario and three of them came to Homeward Bound Rescue here in Minnesota. I thought my job was done. Little did I know that one of those puppies was going to choose me!
    I followed the pups’ progress from afar. Months later, Katie of Homeward Bound asked me if I would foster “Zulu”. She was being fostered with a group of other dogs and was so intimidated at adoption events that it was hard to find her a home. She needed more human interaction and one-on-one time with a person. I had two dogs already and was very hesitant about bringing home another dog. I eventually agreed to foster Zulu if she got along with my other dogs. My schedule wouldn’t allow me to take her to all the adoption events, but Katie wasn’t concerned about that.
    Puppy “Zulu”, a.k.a. Cayenne
    When I first brought Zulu home in April of 2008, two of us had to pry her from the back of the travel crate. She had been swimming in a pond at the foster home and had probably peed on herself during the car ride. Poor girl; she was a mess. She smelled so awful that I had to give her a bath before she could live in my house. She wasn’t comfortable with me or the bathtub, but she gradually began to relax with my gentle massage and kind words.
    I quickly realized that Zulu got along with other dogs, but wasn’t comfortable with people. She hadn’t had a bad experience with people – she seemed to have had almost no experience with people. She must have spent a lot of time huddled in the back of a crate. Her feet splayed like stars, indicating that she had spent most of her time hiding and hadn’t gotten enough exercise. She wobbled on an under-developed rear end. Her hocks were so flimsy, they almost bent backwards.
    She hadn’t learned much from her mother either. Canine etiquette was beyond her. She lacked social skills and was clumsy around the other dogs, crashing into them and barking hysterically when they defended themselves. Sometimes she didn’t have a clue.
    She had skin allergies and a nervous habit of scratching and licking herself, creating bald patches on her side and rear end. What was I going to do with this poor girl? I had worked with a dog who was fine with people, but terrified of other dogs. I hadn’t worked with a dog who was fine with other dogs, but terrified of people. I had a lot to learn!
    Bandit, Chase and I began the long process of letting Zulu get used to us. For the longest time, she hid out and avoided eye contact. She was afraid of the dark and didn’t want to go outside for the last potty break before bed, even when I turned the yard lights on and went out with her. At first, we didn’t do any formal training, other than letting her follow the other dogs’ example for the house rules, and teaching her to walk on a leash with me. I just wanted her to learn how to be a dog and be comfortable in her own skin.
    On June 3, 2008, I wrote in my blog:
    Cay came when I called her today! She was hungry and saw me give a treat to Chase! Chase comes on a whistle and Bandit comes when called by name. Without formal training, Cay has picked up on the whistle. Now when I whistle, she races Chase to get to me first.
    Cay still doesn’t like to go out in the dark early in the morning or late at night, even with the porch and yard lights on. I have to put a leash on her in the evening to take her out in the yard. I think her fear of the dark is left over from being dumped in the wilderness with her littermates. Who knows what was out there in the dark. I’ve found that rescued dogs come with different fears and anxieties and we don’t always know what caused them. I’ve never had a dog before that I knew to be afraid of the dark.
    Somehow everyone decided that this dog belonged with me.  I was the last to know.
    Cay rode along when my other dogs went to herd sheep and cattle. There she met new people who gave her praise and treats, and she saw different kinds of animals. She climbed hills and went on walks every day with my other dogs and me, running and playing in a big fenced field. Her muscles developed and her coat took on a healthy sheen. After months with us she looked me in the eye one day and, for the first time, I noticed the depth of her gorgeous dark brown eyes. I realized then that she had never looked directly back at me before, but had always turned her head away. Now she was looking back and she had the most beautiful dark brown eyes I had ever seen.
    Somehow everyone decided that this dog belonged with me. I was the last to know. I really resisted keeping a third dog. She was needy, unstable, hard on the other dogs and made our lives more complicated. But then I noticed that the people who inquired about her seemed to be needy, unstable, and complicated – the last thing she needed. When I saw her making gradual progress, I didn’t want to disrupt her life again. And so she is still here.
    Cayenne, August 2008
    I began to call her Cayenne, because her darker highlights are the color of cayenne pepper. Plus I knew there was some spice inside her somewhere – we just had to find it.
    Maybe Cay felt my change in commitment. She began to come out of her shell more, revealing a depth that had been masked by skittish behavior, furtive glances, and a hunched posture. She was beginning to let me in.
    As Cay became comfortable in our home and in her own skin, she learned to be a happy, confident dog. Beginning about six months after she came to live with us, she and I completed three levels of obedience classes. She learned to go for a ride in the truck with me, without the other dogs. During the first class, we worked mostly on getting her used to strange dogs, sounds, and movements all around her. She wasn’t comfortable with anything happening behind her and spun around if she heard activity there. But she was very biddable and wanted to please me. By the end of the third class she was doing all of the exercises faithfully. Although she had been developmentally delayed since she was a pup, I discovered that she was a very smart dog when she overcame her fears.
    Cay decided one night that she wanted to sleep spread out on the dog bed, not curled up in the back of her crate. So I left the crate door open and she slept stretched out on the dog bed all night, taking up plenty of space. This was quite an accomplishment for a girl who used to curl up in the back of her crate whenever she was scared or tired. She was learning to TAKE UP SPACE, a big step! She was happy to be “outside of the box”!
    One day I let Cay try sheep herding. She was interested and excited that she could move the sheep by turning her body. She was so confident in herself that day that when we got home, she jumped up on my bed for the first time ever! I guess she thought her new accomplishment had earned her that privilege.

    Cay had come a long way and had developed enough muscle to stabilize her back end. But almost two years after she joined our family, she still had nervous energy and habits. I looked for an activity that she and I could do together, separate from the other dogs, to build her confidence and our relationship and help her expel her nervous energy without scratching and licking herself. I decided to enroll her in an agility class, even though I didn’t think she could maneuver all of the obstacles due to her poor rear structure.


    Last August at the Dog Days of Stockholm (in Stockholm, Wisconsin), I received samples of Omega Fields’ Omega Canine Shine® supplement and Omega Nuggets™ treats. Adding these Omega-3-rich, flax-based products to Cay’s diet healed her skin and coat. The hair grew back over her bald patches and her coat became soft and silky.

    I was amazed with Cay’s progress as she quickly mastered the agility obstacles. First she had to get to know all the people and dogs in the class. Then she followed my lead as I guided her through the obstacles. One week, two guests came to observe the class. Cay was so distracted by the strangers that she had to be introduced to them before she was able to run the obstacle course.
    I was an experienced handler, having trained and trialed other dogs in agility. Cay learned to do the tunnel, low jumps, and even the contact obstacles that challenged her. In the beginning though, she didn’t think she could jump up on the pause table. I realized this was due to her weak back end, but I also knew she could jump that high because she had jumped up on my bed at home. I worked with Cay and my other dogs at home, having the others jump on the table first, then giving her the opportunity. With a lot of convincing and some special treats, Cay learned that she could, indeed, jump up on the table. The next time we went to class, she completed all the obstacles in an agility course. On the last day of class, Cay was the only dog in the class to run two perfect courses with two clean runs. That’s quite an accomplishment for an abandoned puppy who almost didn’t survive, and was afraid of her own shadow, isn’t it? Agility taught Cay and me that together we can conquer any obstacle. Great job Cay! You have come a long way.
    The agility instructor asked me if Cay was a Carolina Dog. I wasn’t familiar with the breed, but I learned that Carolina Dogs run feral in southern regions of the country and are becoming a recognized breed. I realized then that Cay’s litter may have been feral, which would explain a lot. Cay looks much like a Carolina Dog, but her littermate sister looks more like a red Australian Cattle Dog. Perhaps they’re a mix of the two breeds.
     
    Cay with Hot Spot on Side, May 2009
    As she turned three years old, Cay continued to suffer from skin problems apparently caused by allergies, a weak immune system, and a nervous habit of licking and biting herself whenever she was nervous or intimidated. Seasonal allergies intensified her itching problems. As I worked to solve Cay’s skin problems, I learned more about canine nutrition, food allergies and contact allergies. I fed her a limited ingredient diet, herbal supplements to help cool her skin, and other supplements to help support her skin, coat and immune system.

    Cay at the Minnesota Valley Humane Society Woofer & Hoofer Walk, June 2010
    Photo by Allen Anderson
    Last August at the Dog Days of Stockholm (in Stockholm, Wisconsin), I received samples of Omega Fields’ Omega Canine Shine® supplement and Omega Nuggets™ treats. Adding these Omega-3-rich, flax-based products to Cay’s diet healed her skin and coat. The hair grew back over her bald patches and her coat became soft and silky.
    Omega Fields products transformed Cay’s skin and coat to a new level of vitality. That’s why you’ll see me handing out samples of Omega Nuggets and Omega Canine Shine at the Dog Days of Stockholm (www.dogdaysofstockholm.com) on August 6th this year. Please join me for a celebration of the dogs in our lives, and to support local rescue organizations like Braveheart Rescue, Inc. (www.braveheartrescueinc.com) who give dogs like Cayenne an opportunity for a happy life. I’ll speak about the dogs in our lives and emergency preparedness for your family and pets, sign my books to help support Braveheart Rescue, Inc., and hand out Omega Fields samples for your dogs. If it’s not too hot, you may even get to meet Cay!

    Cayenne
    I’m amazed by all that my dogs have taught me! We make the world a better place, even if helping only one animal at a time. And they make the world a better place by turning us into better people. Cayenne taught me that a dog who’s afraid of her own shadow can eventually bond to a person. With time and patience and love this scaredy dog learned to smile and be happy, to run up to a person to be petted. She’s wiggly and joyful now, and seeks attention from my friends. Cayenne taught me to be patient and that the waiting is worthwhile. She loves me now, and fully participates in life. That is one of my greatest accomplishments, ever.
    See you on August 6th at the Dog Days of Stockholm!

  • Lipid Nutrition: Part 4, Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney
    In previous articles we have discussed the many benefits of feeding fats to horses. Typically these fats in feeds are vegetable oils, or even occasionally animal fats. We have not yet discussed specifically the type of fat in the diet. However, researchers in human and animal medicine have much information supporting the idea that specific types of fatty acids can provide numerous health benefits. This month we look at the science behind Omega-3 fatty acids and begin the process of understanding the terminology used.
    Omega-3 fatty acids
    So what makes Omega-3 (or “n-3”) fatty acids so unique? Quite simply, it’s just the location of the double bonds which occur between the carbons in the fatty acid chain. The location of these bonds are what provide these fatty acids with their naming system.  Omega-3 fatty acids have the last double bond placed three carbons from the methyl end of the carbon chain, which is the opposite end from the attachment to the glycerol backbone in a triglyceride. Compare this to the Omega-6 fatty acids (or “n-6”), which have their last double bond six carbons in from the methyl end. This simple change in location of a double bond can have tremendous impact on the metabolism of these fats in the body.
    Essential fatty acids
    Previously we mentioned that horses must ingest certain fatty acids in their diet as they do not have the capability of synthesizing them in great enough quantities. These include linoleic acid and linolenic acid. Both of these fatty acids are 18 carbons long but differ in the number and placement of the double bonds.  Linolenic acid has three double bonds with the last one placed three carbons from the methyl end.  Thus, it is an Omega-3 fatty acid.  Linoleic acid has two double bonds, with the last double bond six carbons from the methyl end and is an Omega-6 fatty acid. These two fatty acids represent the essential fatty acids that horses must consume. These fatty acids do occur in forages and concentrates such as corn and oats, just in smaller quantities than we think about in more fat rich feedstuffs. Typically there will be more Omega-3 fatty acids in forages, especially pasture grasses, while grains will contain more Omega-6 fatty acids.
                  Linoleic Acid Molecular Diagram               Linolenic Acid Molecular Diagram
    The horse, as well as humans, must consume these fatty acids as we both lack the necessary enzymes to build these structures on our own. However, we do possess the enzymes needed to elongate these fatty acids to more complex fatty acid structures.  These elongation enzymes are shared by both linoleic and linolenic acid in their metabolic pathway. Their products in turn can be used to synthesize a whole host of biologically active compounds.  Linolenic acid can be elongated to eicosapentanoic acid or EPA, a twenty carbon fatty acid with five double bonds, and docosahexaenoic acid or DHA, a 22 carbon fatty acid with 6 double bonds, as well as others. Both EPA and DHA are Omega-3 fatty acids, due to their origin from an Omega-3 fatty acid. Linoleic acid is elongated to arachidonic acid, a twenty carbon fatty acid chain with four double bonds which is, of course, an n-6 fatty acid.   These fatty acids can be used to synthesize eicosanoids, which are biologically active lipids.
    Eicosanoids have hormone-like activity which is typically mediated locally within a tissue. These include prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes.   These compounds differ by their structure and perform a host of activities within the body. All of these compounds are necessary for normal bodily function, but an imbalance can contribute to a disease state. Prostaglandins can effect smooth muscle contraction, vasodilation, inflammation, pain, and fever, as well as gastric acid and mucus secretion. Leukotrienes are released during the inflammatory process and can contribute to inflammation and bronchoconstriction. While their role may be to aid in healing the damaged tissue, overproduction of leukotrienes can contribute to asthma or allergic reactions. Finally, thromboxanes cause the aggregation of platelets and constriction of blood vessels. Again, all of these compounds are part of normal bodily function, but their potent effects can contribute to the diseased state.
    So how do Omega-3 fatty acids fit into this story of thromboxanes and leukotrienes? When animals ingest greater quantities of Omega-3 fatty acids, these fatty acids can displace arachadonic acid in the cell membrane. Thus, there is less arachadonic acid available to be released and formed into eicosanoids.   Increased linolenic acid also decreases the amount of linoleic acid which is elongated simply due to a competition for the same enzymes. The elongation products of linolenic acid and subsequently EPA may also directly counter act some of the inflammatory products of arachadonic acid metabolism. Thus increased consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids may aid in decreasing inflammation in the diseased state.
    Feeding Omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful for horses which may have chronic pain or inflammation. Traditionally horsemen have used NSAIDS, or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory DrugS, to manage pain and inflammation. When we provide NSAIDS these compounds act by blocking the activity of enzymes which cause the release of inflammatory agents.  However, NSAIDS are not specific and block the activity of both cox-1 and cox-2. These enzymes are essential in the conversion of arachidonic acid to progstaglandins.  Cyclo-oxygenase 1 unfortunately is also intimately involved with the formation of thromboxane in platelets and in gastromucosal integrity. It is the inhibition of cox-1 which leads to the formation of ulcers in horses which have long term NSAID administration. However, many specific cox-2 inhibitors have been produced (Celebrex® and Vioxx®).
    Sources of Omega-3s for horses
    Compared to humans, it may be harder to increase the consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids in horses, but not impossible. Typically the greatest concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids is found in marine fish. Certainly fish oils have been fed to horses, but there may be limits in the acceptability of fish oil by the horse. Flaxseed, however, is also an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, has a slightly sweet, nutty, whole-grain flavor and aroma, and is readily accepted by horses. Many flax products are now offered to the horse owner.  Increasing consumption of fresh grass will also boost the Omega-3s in your horses’ diet.
    Next month we continue to look at Omega-3 fatty acids in the horse’s diet and examine some of the available literature concerning their effects in the horse.

  • 2nd Annual Dog Days of Stockholm

    Mark your calendars and hightail it to the second annual Dog Days of Stockholm on Friday and Saturday, August 5-6, 2011 in beautiful Stockholm, Wisconsin! This family-friendly, dog-friendly community festival on the banks of Lake Pepin in western Wisconsin provides great fun for dogs and dog lovers alike. Stockholm is a short drive from the Rochester, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Eau Claire areas.
     
    On Friday night, party outdoors on the grounds of the historic Old School House. Enjoy wine, cheese, pie, and music under the stars from 7 to 9:30 pm (admission $5). Steve Meyer & The Blues Dogs Band will rock out live boogie rock and oldies. All ages are welcome. Put in your bids for Saturday’s Silent Auction and buy your second Annual Dog Days T-shirts. When you’re away from the big city lights, you really can see the stars!
     
    On Saturday, Pat Kessler of WCCO-TV fame is back as master of ceremonies for the Festival in Village Park (10 am to 5 pm, admission $5 for ages 16 and up, FREE parking). Enter your dog in the Best Smile, Best Dog Trick, Dog-Person Lookalike, and other contests. Watch agility demonstrations and see a Border collie herd ducks. Visit vendors offering people food, dog supplies and services, animal communication, and pet treats for sale.
     
    Meet author Jenny Pavlovic, who will speak about disaster preparedness for your family and pets and sign her award-winning books, 8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog and the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book. Omega Fields® will provide free Omega Nuggets treat samples in your gift bags and you can sign up at Jenny’s booth for a chance to win a free pound of Omega Canine Shine®, a wonderful flaxseed based supplement for your dog!
     
     All proceeds of the festival (less expenses) will be donated to local animal rescue organizations.  Please bring an unoped can or bag of quality pet food to donate.  Meet representatives of local dog rescue groups and their rescued dogs in need of permanent homes.  Nearly all of the dogs shown last year were adopted - let's get more dogs adopted this year!
    Also at Dog Days of Stockholm...
     
    ·         Animal Actor Trainer, noted lifestyle photographer, and Omega Fields Spokesperson Barbara O’Brien of the Animal Connection will teach us how to get good photos of our dogs!
     
    ·         Animal communicator Sage Lewis will tell why our pets act the way they do!
     
    ·         A working dog will demonstrate police dog and search & rescue moves!
     
    ·         Other fun demonstrations will include: dog agility, dog Frisbee, groomers, dog tricks, even a dog rap artist!
     
     
    For more information please go to http://www.dogdaysofstockholm.com, or contact: Mary Anne Collins-Svoboda at 715-442-2237 or 715-495-3504 (Cell) or info@dogdaysofstockholm.com.
     
    If you would like to show your wares at a vendor booth, find more information at http://dogdaysofstockholm.com/vendors/html
     
    Stockholm, Wisconsin, population 99, is about 75 miles from Minneapolis/St. Paul, 50 miles from Eau Claire, WI and 60 miles from Rochester, MN. Stockholm and the nearby communities of Maiden Rock and Pepin (the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder) are a fun mix of artists of all disciplines, traditional farm families, funky galleries, bed ‘n breakfasts, restaurants, and local shops.

  • A Wolf at Every Door

    Written By Barbara O'Brien

    Early in my career as a trainer of animal actors I had the chance to work with a wolf on a TV commercial. A hot shot director flew in from Chicago. I located a wolf owner through another animal trainer, and Steve, a man with many years of experience in handling wildlife for film, brought two beautiful wolves. The set was an abandoned farmhouse out in the middle of a recently vacated cow pasture. We did the filming at night. The wolf’s job was to run up to the door and scratch at it as if trying to get in. My job was to entice the wolf.
    Steve and my helper, my husband Kevin, met at the back of Steve’s SUV and opened the hatch. Inside there was a large dog crate. Inside the crate was a wolf who initially pulled back and then came forward to check us out. Steve opened the crate and took the wolf’s heavy lead in his hands. He gently coaxed the wolf out. The wolf was a beautiful animal and much larger than I had expected. His head and jaws were powerful enough to cause serious damage if he was so inclined. His coat was silver gray and glinted under the temporary lights the crew had set up at base camp. The wolf, his head held low, eyed us suspiciously.
    “He likes woman better than men,” Steve said. “You need to get low and speak to him quietly to show you are not a threat.” Steve then stooped and talked to the wolf in a sweet singsong voice, all the while stroking his head and back. I lowered myself and did the same. The wolf came forward and licked my hand. I was amazed to see such strength and power quietly submissive under my hand.
    Steve told us that this wolf had been handled from birth. Although it appeared tame it was nowhere near tame. If provoked, the wolf could attack out of fear. If startled, the wolf might run off the set into the countryside.
    There were the usual delays on the set. Spending a lot of time standing around and waiting is the not-so-glamorous part of show business. Finally, the producer came over to us and explained what he wanted the wolf to do. It’s funny how the instructions I receive on the set always involve more or different work than what I agreed to initially. In my initial conversation with the TV people, the wolf was to stand next to the farmhouse door, jump up, and scratch at the door. Now they wanted the wolf to be placed some distance away from the door, to run up to the door, and then scratch at it. For all of this the wolf would need to be off-leash with no handler visible on camera. Then the camera would pan to the side past the wolf to the open field that bordered the cow pasture.
    I was skeptical. To my surprise, Steve agreed that he could get the wolf to do it. My husband Kevin was stashed out in the field beyond the farmhouse set. If the wolf was startled or frightened, he would most likely run for the field. 
    I stood inside the farmhouse door with my hands full of strips of raw chicken. My plan was that the wolf would smell me and my chicken inside the door and then he would jump up on the outside of the door in hopes of getting some chicken. We did a few practice runs, off-leash. The wolf did not run away and he came to the door as hoped, but he didn’t jump up on the door and scratch at it. I guess my strips of raw chicken were not sufficiently enticing.
    Steve put the wolf back on his heavy leash and we discussed what to try next. The wolf then pulled Steve to the side of the house where he began to scratch and dig at the ground. 
    Meanwhile, the director, well known for displays of temper, was growing impatient. His assistant, walkie-talkie in hand, repeatedly came up to us to say nervously, “We really have to get this shot now. We really do.” Steve, having been in the business longer than I, took this in stride. He said the wolf would do the shot when he was ready and not a moment sooner.
    The wolf continued to dig for a bit longer and happily pulled a dark slimy object from the ground. I could smell it before I saw it. Steve laughed and said, “This will work.” With his gloved hand, he handed me the putrid object. “What is this?” I asked, quickly pulling on my own leather gloves. “It's a dead raccoon,” he said. “Long dead.” Long dead was right. Its decomposing flesh barely clung to its long skeleton. It was a disgusting object but the wolf wanted it badly.
    The nervous assistant popped up again, keeping a safe distance from the wolf, and said again, “We have to get this shot now.”
    Carrying the raccoon carcass, I resumed my position behind the door. Steve took the wolf some 25 yards away from the farmhouse door. Inside the dark farmhouse, I could see a grip (one of the fellows that do all the electrical for the lights on the set) standing just outside a window to my right. “Be careful,” he warned. “There is no floor behind you. The cattle broke it all up by using the house as a barn.” I had only a small ledge to stand on. If I moved backwards off it, I would fall into a basement full of cow manure. It was dark inside the house but I didn’t need to be able to see to know that lots of cows had only recently left this house. I clung to the frame of the door, clutching the rotting raccoon.
    The assistant whispered “Action!” to me, signaling that the wolf had been released. I held on to the frame of the door and held up the rotting raccoon. I could hear and feel the wolf slam against the door feet first as he scratched and pawed and tried to get to the dead raccoon. Steve was able to collect the wolf and gave him some raw chicken as a reward for being caught. Of course, the director wanted as many takes as the wolf could do and so we did it few more times. Each time I held on to the door frame for dear life so as not to fall backwards into the cow manure. My eyes began to burn from the smell of the raccoon and the manure. I wondered if my chosen career was so fun after all.
    Then I heard the director bellow from his seat on the crane: “Who the [insert very bad word here] are you!” I heard my husband’s startled voice call a reply from across the field, “Uh…I’m here…for the wolf.” The director yelled, “Get the [insert another very bad word] out of my shot.” Although I couldn’t see his face, I was sure poor Kevin scrambled out of the field vowing never to work on a commercial with me again.
    We did one more take and Steve decided that the wolf had had enough. We were done. The director was none too happy about this, but I deferred to Steve’s expertise. This was his wolf and he knew its limits. “You don’t want us to be chasing this wolf all over the countryside, do you?” he said to the producer. I envisioned a large wolf running down the nearby road surprising the drivers on their early morning commute.

    Kevin joined us and moved to give me a congratulatory hug. “What is that smell?” he said, recoiling. “Oh, just a rotting raccoon carcass,” I said blithely, as I tossed a pair of good leather gloves into the trash bin.

  • Lipid Nutrition: Part 3, Benefit of Fats - Aid for Tying Up

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Last month we discussed the potential performance-enhancing benefits of feeding fats to exercising horses. These included a lowering of the thermal load on the horse, increasing its aerobic capacity, and perhaps even increasing their anaerobic energy stores in the form of muscle glycogen. Clearly, feeding fat has many advantages for the average horse.  Fat can even be used as a nutritional management technique for horses that may suffer from repeated bouts of tying up. This month we will examine two particular types of muscle disorders which may actually benefit from the addition of fat to the diet.
    Tying up in horses is usually seen as stiffness in the back or hindquarters, reluctance to move, cramping of the muscles or muscle fasciculation’s, profuse sweating, and may be accompanied by head nodding or pawing. The horse is extremely uncomfortable and should not be forced to continue to exercise.
    Tying up syndrome may have a multitude of causes. Horses may tie up due to electrolyte imbalances from prolonged exercise or sweating, or even if they have HYPP. However, some horses may chronically tie up, usually after they have been given a period of rest. Traditionally this syndrome was referred to as Monday morning sickness or Azoturia. It was seen in work horses which would experience muscle cramping soon after beginning work following a weekend of rest. However, now we know much more about this disease, its underlying causes, and its treatment.
    Horses which tie up chronically typically fit into separate breed types. In Thoroughbreds, this is commonly seen when the horse is already fit, and may be under a period of stress. It also occurs following time off or rest. Thoroughbreds typically have a syndrome referred to as “recurrent exertional rhabdomylosis, ” or RER. This disease is also seen in Arabians and Standardbreds, but less frequently than in Thoroughbreds. The underlying cause in these horses is that the calcium channels in the muscle do not work properly.  The release of Ca results in muscle contractions following nerve stimulation. However, in these horses, the threshold of muscle contraction is due less to the abnormalities in the calcium channels.
    Another disorder which is frequently seen in stock horse breeds and draft horses is related to storage of muscle glycogen. This disease, characterized by abnormal accumulations of glycogen in the muscle, is referred to as “polysaccharide storage myopathy,” or PSSM. Owners may initially not even know their horses have this disease, as the average age of first clinical symptoms is 6 years, with a range from 1 year of age to 12 years. Horses with PSSM have increased insulin sensitivity, combined with an abnormally high rate of activity of the enzyme which produces glycogen. When presented with glucose from nonstructural carbohydrates in the diet, these horses rapidly clear glucose from their blood and store it in the muscle. Due to their abnormal metabolism, they also seem to be unable to properly mobilize their own lipid stores. Ironically it is during aerobic exercise that these horses experience clinical symptoms, usually within 20 minutes of the beginning of exercise.
    Dietary management
    Although PSSM and RER horses have different disorders which lead to their tying up, they do share similarities in their management. Confinement without exercise should be avoided in these horses. If they do need time off, turn out is a must. However, if your horse merely stands at the gate waiting to come back in, alternative strategies should be developed. This could include lunging or providing a more active buddy which will encourage your horse to move around.
    The diet of the horses should be changed, with more stringent requirements for the PSSM horse. Grass hays should be used with a low content of non-structural carbohydrates, ideally under 12% of the diet for the PSSM horse. For RER horses, a goal for the overall diet should be less than 20% of their caloric intake as non-structural carbohydrate.   Traditional horse grains should be avoided, especially those containing molasses. Rather, they should be replaced with low starch, high fat concentrates, or, even, just add vegetable oil to their grain.  Frequently the PSSM horses, which are usually easy keepers, can meet their digestible energy requirements by forage alone, but more heavily exercising horses may need fat to supply their calories. In addition, clinical signs of PSSM may not resolve unless fat is added to the diet.
    Why does fat help?
    For the horse with PSSM, adding fat to the diet gives the horse an available source of long chain fatty acids that can be metabolized during exercise. Remember that these horses do not seem to be as able to mobilize their own lipid stores due to abnormal feedback from glucose metabolism. In addition, feeding fat may help these horses adapt to using fat for fuel during aerobic exercise and help to prevent episodes of tying up. However, caution must be used with these horses to avoid obesity. While RER horses don’t have a glycogen disorder or have an inability to efficiently use fat, addition of fat to the diet of these horses also appears to be helpful. Presumably this may be due to the calming effect of fat in the diet, which may make these horses less reactive. As their tying up bouts are frequently associated with times of stress (when the horse is nervous or excited) it may just be a shift in behavior which helps prevent their tying up.
    Bottom Line
    If your horse suffers from one of these diseases, it can be managed with diet and exercise. Avoid diets high in nonstructural carbohydrates, supplement the diet with fat, and be sure to balance properly for minerals and vitamins. Do not neglect these horses in their stall – regular exercise is key! With careful management, your horse can lead a normal, pain free life.

    Next month: The benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids in the horse’s diet.

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