Articles

  • Strategies to Reduce your Horse's Chance of Colic

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Last month I encouraged all horse owner’s to develop a preparedness plan in the event their horse colics.  This month we will discuss strategies that will hopefully minimize the chance that you will need that plan.  We will discuss feeding strategies as well as other important management techniques that will help keep your horse happy and healthy.

    Feeding your horse properly is one of the easiest ways to help prevent episodes of colic.  Remember  the digestive anatomy of the horse, with its small stomach and large hindgut for digesting forage does not often fit well with  modern management practices.   The horse is designed to forage continuously throughout the day, typically for almost 18 hours.  This provides a continuous input of material to the hindgut without overwhelming the stomach.

    1.Maximize intake of good quality forage.

    To mimic nature, ideally a horse should consume 2% of its body weight in high quality forage per day.  This allows the best match to the horse’s normal feeding strategies.  Remember high quality forage does not necessarily mean rich or high energy forages which can lead to obesity.   Simply put, high quality hays do not contain molds, potentially toxic weeds or insects, or are not excessively coarse and stemmy.  Of course, toxins and molds can easily cause digestive upsets or result in feed refusals.

    2.Avoid very coarse hay or staw as feed.

    Excessively coarse hay may be harder for the horse to masticate and may lead to impactions.

    3.Prolong feeding/chewing  time.

    If your horse needs to consume less than 2% of its body weight due to the need to maintain proper body condition, using a slow feeding hay net will help prolong the horse’s feeding time.  As we increase the amount of time the horse spends chewing, more saliva will enter the stomach and buffer the acid that is continually secreted.  As horses only salivate with oral stimulation, this increase in chew time is extremely important.  This helps to maintain a healthy stomach and avoid ulcer formation.

    4.Split up concentrate meals to smaller portions.

    If the horse needs substantial amounts of concentrates in order to maintain body condition or support athletic performance, be sure to spread feedings into smaller amounts.  High volumes of concentrate may overwhelm the horse’s ability to digest it properly in the small intestine.  When concentrates escape to the hindgut they are fermented by a type of bacteria which produces organic acids and lowers the pH of the horse’s gut.  By lowering the volume fed at one time, this will avoid fluctuations in pH of the horse’s tract and promote a healthier population of microflora.

    5.Slowly introduce new feeds.

    If new types of feeds are to be introduced to the horse’s diet, be sure to do so gradually to allow time for bacteria to adjust.   Due to the ability of bacteria to either proliferate or reduce in population with changes in substrate offered to them, a change in the horse’s diet can wreak havoc in bacterial populations. Often this is what results in the overproduction of gas, a frequent cause of colic.

    6. Maintain a consistent feeding schedule.

    If your horse does not have free choice access to hay or pasture, be sure to maintain a consistent feeding schedule.  Horses are certainly creatures of habit that do best with consistent schedules.  This will avoid periods of time with the horses’ stomach in an unnatural empty state, or overeating due to excitement of feeding.
    7.Avoid feeding horses off the ground.

    Ingestion of sand can lead to the development of impactions or colitis from irritation of the gut wall.  Routine feeding of psyllium can aid in sand removal from the hind gut.  Feeding off the ground will also limit the exposure to parasites which are a frequent cause of colic through either blockages or disruption of blood flow.

    8. Practice strategic deworming and parasite management.

    Regular parasite control is therefore key to colic prevention.  Remember from previous articles that this does not mean indiscriminate deworming of horses without knowledge of their true parasite load.  In fact, an increase in colic in young horses due to ascarid impactions may be in part due to the anthelmentic resistance occurring in these worms.   Rather, remember to follow strategic deworming practices in consultation with your veterinarian.   Follow good pasture management practices and avoid overgrazing. This will help to limit your horse’s exposure to parasites.

    9. Allow adequate water intake.

    As winter approaches, it is especially important to remember that proper water intake is vital to maintaining normal flow of digesta through the horse’s tract.  Normally horse’s drink about 8-12 gallons of water per day.  We often think about increasing a horse’s water intake when it is hot or the horse is heavily working, but fail to think about water intake in the winter.  Horse’s actually don’t like cold water, and will greatly reduce their water intake if not offered warmer water.  Providing a heated bucket or tank will encourage your horse to drink water at the same rate throughout winter.  Be sure that it isn’t sending off any stray shocks however!  That will easily lead to dehydration as the horse is too frightened to drink!  You can also increase a horse’s water intake by offering a mashed feed.  Don’t forget however not to rapidly alter his diet!

    10. Provide regular dental care.

    While all of these tips primarily refer to the feeding management of the horse, other factors can influence his risk of colic.  Providing regular teeth maintenance will allow your horse to chew his feed properly.  As mentioned previously, coarse hay or poorly chewed hay can create impactions in the horse’s tract.

    11. Exercise the horse on a consistent schedule.

    Regular exercise for stalled horses is equally key.  Horses naturally travel several miles per day while foraging. We have created a rather artificial, sedentary life style for most of our horses. It is up to us to help provide a form of regular exercise and stick to a schedule.  While this may be difficult owners, it truly is best for the horse.   In fact, some companies are working towards creating automatic feeders which force a horse to travel through its paddock to obtain its feed. Such systems also have the added benefit of prolonging feeding time as well.

    Next month we will discuss additional management strategies that will reduce your horse’s risk of colic which are linked to your horse’s lifestyle, breed or even sex!

  • Scratch Sunflower Nut Edible Treat Wreath for Chickens

    Written By Lisa Steele, Fresh Eggs Daily

    As many of you know, I enjoy adapting ideas I see online and elsewhere for the enjoyment of our chickens. I have seen several versions of birdseed wreaths for wild birds on Pinterest HERE, HERE and HERE and decided to make my own chicken version.

    My first two attempts didn't work very well - don't trust everything you read online! - and fell apart, but this, my third attempt turned out perfectly. Easy, quick, held together well and the chickens loved it!

    Here's how to make one for your girls.

    You'll need:

    Cooking spray
    Bundt Pan
    1/2 Cup cool water
    3 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
    1-1/2 Cups Boiling water
    1 Cup bacon, suet or hamburg grease, heated to liquify
    8 Cups of a mixture of scratch, sunflower seeds, cracked corn, raisins, nuts or seeds
    20 fresh or frozen cranberries
    Ribbon

    How to:

    Spray Bundt pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a measuring cup, dissolve the gelatin in the cool water and let sit for a minute. Pour the boiling water into a medium bowl and whisk in the gelatin to combine.

     

    In a large mixing bowl, combine the seeds and nuts, stir in the grease and then pour in the liquid gelatin. Mix well with a wooden spoon to be sure all the nuts and seeds are well-coated and all the liquid is absorbed.

     

    Place the cranberries in rows in the indentations in the pan (I used three in half the indentations and two in every other indentation) and then carefully spoon the seed mixture into the pan. Press down with the spoon to pack it well.

    Put the Bundt pan in the refrigerator overnight to set. The next day, take the wreath out of the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Invert and tap gently on the countertop to unmold.

     

    Tie a pretty ribbon in a bow at the top and then attach the wreath to your run fencing for your chickens or to a tree or fence to treat the wild birds.
    I did switch out the fancy ribbon for a plain one when I hung the wreath in the run.

  • Equine Vaccine Tips and Strategies

    Written By: Dr. Tom Schell

    If you own a horse, one of the most important things you can do to maintain health is vaccinations, but it can also be a costly endeavor.  Everyone seems to have a strategy or recommendation, but the question is 'what is right for your horse?'.  Well, that depends on many factors including location, exposure to other horses as well as general risk factors.  Another thing to consider is that vaccines are not without harm and over administration of vaccines can prove to be harmful in some circumstances.  Let's explore the options and recommendations.

    When viewing vaccines and establishing a protocol, we must remember that each horse is an individual and that no one perfect protocol exists.  It is also not generally necessary to implement the same protocol in every horse just because they are in the same barn.

    Here are the main points we should consider when establishing a vaccine protocol:

    • Risk factors associated with the particular horse (including housing, exposure to other horses, environment, age and geographic location)
    • Impact of the particular disease we are targeting including mortality/morbidity rate and risk of spread to other animals and species (including humans)
    • Possible negative side effects of vaccine
    • Cost implications to the owner
    Some basic considerations that we always need to remember include:
    • No vaccine is 100% effective in preventing disease
    • Vaccines are designed or intended to reduce morbidity or clinical signs of disease
    • No vaccines is 100% safe and risk free
    • Vaccines are not generally protective until 10 days or greater post administration
    • Most vaccines require an initial booster series to build an antibody titer and establish protection
    • Many vaccines come combined with many antigens

    So, now let's start with the basics in terms of equine vaccines.  In most cases, we generally have the core or basic vaccines, as defined by the AAEP.
    1. Tetanus  (annual vaccine)
    2. Rabies     (annual vaccine)
    3. Eastern/ Western encephalomyelitis (annual vaccine in spring)
    4. West Nile  (annual vaccine in spring)
    After the core vaccines, we then have what is called 'risk based' vaccines which include:  (Based on AAEP Guidelines)
    1. Influenza  (annual to biannual vaccine)
    2. Rhinopneumonitis (EHV)  (not necessary, annual or biannual dependent on situation and in pregnant mares)
    3. Potomac Horse Fever  (not necessary, annual, biannual or more frequent dependent on situation)
    4. Strangles  (not necessary, annual or biannual dependent on situation)
    5. Rotavirus  (pregnant mares at 8,9,10 months gestation)
    6. Botulism  (annual and one month prior to foaling)
    7. Anthrax  (annual vaccine)
    8. Equine Viral Arteritis  (check with state guidelines)

    In most cases, the core vaccines are vital and given to every horse.  The big question comes as to what other risk factors are involved, which determines if other vaccines are necessary.  Such risk factors include exposure to other horses such as boarding facilities, traveling and competition, but also include issues concerned with breeding operations.  We always have to remember that not every horse responds appropriately to the vaccines, meaning that some develop protective titers while others do not.  In larger facilities, it is generally easy enough to keep most if not all of the horses on the same protocol due to ease of record keeping, but also by doing this we can hopefully minimize disease prevalence and thereby protecting those other horses that may not be responding to the vaccines appropriately.  We also have to take into consideration age of the animal at the time of vaccine as older horses tend to be less predisposed to various illnesses such as EHV, which according to the AAEP is less frequently seen in those horses over the age of 5, unless we have other known risk factors included such as a breeding operation or frequent movement of animals.

    How are vaccines administered and how often?

    In most instances, vaccines are administered by intra-muscular injection, usually in the neck region, pectorals or the thigh muscle.  Some vaccines, such as Strangles, Influenza and some EHV vaccines may be administered intra-nasally. In adult horses that are unvaccinated, it is generally recommended that they receive at least a 2 injection series, spaced apart by 4-6 weeks.  In foals, vaccines are generally started around 3 months of age and given as a series of 3 injections spaced 4 weeks apart.  Pregnant mares are generally advised to receive a full 'core' vaccine series about one month prior to foaling in order to help build passive transfer for the foal.  Other vaccines such as EHV are given at specific intervals during the second and third trimester.  Most of the core vaccines, once initiated, are administered on an annual basis.

    What are the side effects to the vaccines?

    No vaccines are completely safe nor void of any risk!  That being said, most vaccines are administered without any problems but the most common side effect seen is general malaise, body aches and a slight fever 24-48 hours after administration.  Dependent on where they were given, we will often see sore necks and even swollen injection sites.  In most of these cases, the signs resolve within a couple of days with no harm to the horse.  It is generally not advised to compete or even work the horse for a couple days post vaccine due to side effects noted.  Some vaccines are more prone to developing side effects than others and in my experience, the Tetanus and Rabies vaccine are the most common.  Vaccines that are administered by the intra-nasal route commonly produce a mild sneeze or even slight clear drainage for a couple days post administration.  In more severe cases, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication may be administered to help alleviate the clinical signs.
    More serious or adverse reactions have been noted included anaphylactic reactions (some life threatening), localized infection, scar tissue deposition generalized hypersensitivities.

    Why do some horses respond differently to the vaccines?

    We have to determine what is a favorable response to a vaccine?  Ideally, it would be one void of any side effect and one that establishes a protective antibody titer.  In most instances, the horses do respond well to the vaccines and without any side effects, but determining the proper antibody titer is difficult to do in most cases.  In the ideal world, we would perform antibody titers to determine who is and who is not responding well to the vaccines, which might help us to focus on more in need horses, but this is costly.

    Given, in my experience, that 9 out of 10 horses respond with no noted side effects, the question comes as to why that 10th horse reacted negatively.  Did they have a reaction to the vaccine?  What was that reaction?  A fever, general malaise or worse?  I really begin to question things when I have vaccinated a particular horse routinely year after year, using the same vaccine brand, and yet, this horse reacts negatively.  We can speculate, but really we don't have any pinpoint answers.
    In the world of small animal veterinary medicine, we almost always perform a basic physical exam prior to the administration of vaccines.  The purpose of the physical is to pinpoint any health problems and determine if there is any fever present, which may also indicate a health concern.  In the world of equine veterinary medicine, the individual physical exam is performed but not that often, especially on larger farms due to time constraints and cost.  Often, the vaccines are administered one horse at a time while working the way down a barn isle way.  The horses are often given a quick once over looking for the obvious, but sometimes details are missed.

    We have to remember that the purpose of a vaccine is to stimulate an immune response to a specific antigen.  If a horse is sick or not feeling well, then not only would it be possible that their immune system may not respond appropriately, but we may also actually do harm to that animal. It is generally not a good idea to vaccinate a sick animal for these reasons.  We are often better to wait, let them recover and then vaccinate when it is more appropriate.

    Other reasons that a horse may not respond appropriately include concurrent diseases that may be impacting the immune response which may include things like insulin resistance and Cushing's disease.  Age also plays a role in the immune response and many older horses fail to respond appropriately for this very reason due to a failing or debilitated immune system for various reasons.

    Now, one area of interest to me is those horses that tend to develop signs of laminitis within 2-3 days post vaccination.  We all see it as a veterinarian, but the reasoning as to why it happens has yet to be determined.  Personally, I tend to feel that these horses are more predisposed to metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and even Cushing's disease, but have yet to be diagnosed.  In reality, most of these 'laminitic reactors' are the easy keepers of the group, more likely to be overweight and often have a history of laminitis.  So, what causes them to be pushed over the edge?  Again, in my opinion, it is linked to an ongoing inflammatory cascade that is occurring within that particular animal.  The vaccine can be seen as fuel added to a glowing ember, soon igniting it into a flame.  I often view those horses as ticking time bombs of inflammation, waiting for the right situation to get flared up.  Vaccines are the perfect medium to achieve this.

    General Recommendations:

    As a veterinarian and horse owner, I do believe in administering the core vaccines to every horse.  Does that mean that every horse in my practice gets those core vaccines?  The answer is 'NO'. Does that mean that I see more clinical sickness in those horses that have NOT been vaccinated?  The answer here is "NO" again.  I believe in vaccinating for those illnesses that have a high mortality rate, which includes tetanus, rabies and encephalitis.  Dependent on the situation and geographic location, these core diseases can be readily prevalent, very costly and difficult to treat and yet so easy to prevent. I also believe in risk based vaccines in the right situations, but not in all situations.

    As any horse owner can testify, there are many cases of equine infectious diseases ranging from Influenza to Rhinopneumonitis in horses that have been vaccinated properly.  Here again, we have to raise the question as to why this occurs?  First, as stated, no vaccine is 100% effective in preventing disease.  The goal with any vaccine should be to reduce clinical morbidity.  Second, we have to take into consideration the amount of stress that some of these horses are under at the time of vaccination as well as during competition.  Stress in the competitive horse has been discussed in another article, but sometimes their stress levels can impact the immune function, making them more prone to various diseases.  Sometimes, I think it is better to keep these particular horses healthy with immune supportive herbs as well as adaptogens to help counter the stress, than it is to overwhelm them with vaccines.

    If we have a horse that is turned out on pasture 24/7, they are often less prone to infectious disease development than those that are stalled constantly or in training/competition.  Again...we have to take into consideration the impact of stress.  I feel it is more important to address these horses through nutrition and herbal supplementation, keeping the immune system strong, trying to offset the impact of their current conditions.

    I believe that we really need to evaluate each horse as an individual, taking into consideration all of the factors mentioned above.  The AAEP recommends this approach to us, as veterinarians, but all too often we fail to follow these guidelines due to time constraints and other factors.  If I have a horse on a farm that never leaves and is never exposed to other horses, I am going to vaccinate them differently than one that is competing at different locations once monthly.  The risk factors are different and taking into consideration that no vaccine is completely without harm, we want to minimize risk.

    I also think we need to evaluate those horses that react negatively to vaccines more thoroughly.  If a horse has an allergic reaction to a vaccine, we need to question why.  Was it the brand of vaccine?  Was it the location where it was injected?  Was the horse sick at the time?  We need to figure out why and not just treat and move on to the next year.  We also need to investigate those horses that develop signs of lethargy or even laminitis, by looking a little deeper for underlying health concerns.  At the very least, we need to stagger vaccines by 2-3 weeks, instead of potentially overloading these particular horses with 4-5 antigens at one time.  Not only does this reduce the antigen load and immune challenge to the horse, but it may also allow us to pinpoint which vaccine is causing the reaction.

    In the end, vaccines are a vital part of maintaining equine health.  This being said, they are not without harm and consideration needs to be given to make sure they are administered appropriately, at the right time and at the right intervals, taking into consideration the many risk factors involved.  Be an astute horse owner!  Take into consideration the many variables when deciding what your horse should be vaccinated against!

    Dr. Tom Schell has over 18 years of equine medicine and surgery, as well as being head of research and development for Nouvelle Research, Inc.  Dr. Schell may be reached by email at tschelldvm@nouvelleresearch.com
    Nouvelle Research, Inc. is the developer and manufacturer of the Cur-OST line of equine anti-inflammatory products, the only equine supplement using Curcumin as the primary ingredient to reduce inflammation, enhance health and performance for over 7 years.  Our goal at Nouvelle Research, Inc. is to enhance the health of our equine companions naturally and effectively, while also providing a source of information for the horse owner.  These and other articles may be seen on our website at: http://nouvelleresearch.com/index.php/articles
    For more information about Nouvelle Research, Inc, please visit:  www.nouvelleresearch.com or call 1-800-476-4702

  • Baby, It's Cold Outside

    Written By: Walt Friedrich

    It’s a beautiful time of year, Autumn, with trees decked out in full color, warm days, chilly nights, and our horses enjoying it as much as we do. We’re also keeping an eye on the calendar, because before long we’ve got winter on our hands, when all that brisk comfort has changed to cold and wind. We’re getting ready for it; laying in firewood, making sure windows and doors seal properly, shutting off outside water supply, shaking out winter clothing, “winterizing” the stable…and, of course, preparing our horses for the cold season.

    For those of us in northern climes, it means the annual struggle with the question of whether or not to blanket. It’s odd, isn’t it, that we allow our horses to be just horses most of the time, but come cold weather, we feel the need to step in and overrule Mother Nature by blanketing them to make sure they can stay warm. Can’t blame us – we know the extent of discomfort that an icy cold wind brings in mid-January, and we bundle up for it bigtime, so let’s do the same for our beloved steeds. Right? Well, maybe -- but let me take a moment to tell you a true story about Wally. It is pertinent.

    Wally is not one to accept other people’s opinions without question. It has to make sense to Wally before he buys it, and he’s always researching one thing or another. And so he’s lived the skeptic’s life for some decades, making mostly good, well-thought-out decisions. Wally is also a horse-lover, and he keeps a few on his property. He calls them his “extended family”. Wally has always been strongly concerned over their welfare. Very early on in developing his horsekeeping methods, he agonized over whether or not to blanket, just as you and I have done. Blanketing seemed so logical because he knew well how the cold feels, and he wore a coat, so why shouldn’t his herd get the same protection? Yet highly respected horsepeople made strong arguments in favor of NOT blanketing – surely there must be something to it.

    So one winter, Wally crossed his fingers and kept the horse blankets stowed away. Their coats had come in long and thick, and if it got “bad” enough, he could still break them out. Things went well; he noticed those thick coats seemed even thicker on particularly cold days, and when he investigated, he found that all those long hairs were actually standing on end, sticking straight up! And his fingers actually felt warm when he ran them through that bristling coat. Things looked promising, so he stuck at it.

    And then one morning he woke to an outside temperature of -10 degrees F, quite cold for a northeast Pennsylvania winter morning. Wally headed to the stable, wondering if he had a herd of “horsickles” out there, waiting for some hay.

    Well, he didn’t. His herd appeared to be enjoying the “delightful” weather, and that did it for Wally – he was convinced that his gang did quite well au naturel. And then the icing on the cake: the following morning it was almost -20 F – almost unheard of in these parts – and his horses were still totally unfazed. And so the heavy blankets remain folded and stored away, haven’t been used in years, and the horses continue to enjoy the cold winters as only horses can – bareback and outside 24/7.

    What Wally discovered is the truth that it’s usually not the cold that’s their winter nemesis, it’s not even being wet – they love walking about looking like a snowman horse, and snow seems to actually help keep them warm. No, the problem is lack of shelter from the wind. Not all of us can prevent their being exposed to wind, but if we can’t, we must provide at least some respite. Anything will do – a stand of evergreens is ideal if there’s no stable or run-in shed available. We can even create a windbreak shelter by making a wall out of hay bales,  three or four bales high – they’ll have their shelter and eat it, too!

    But let’s be fair about this subject: horses are individuals, even as you and I, and some may not take winter weather as well as most others.

    Blanketing may be called for if your horse is shivering, or even just visibly uncomfortable in cold weather; older horses as well as ill horses and very young horses may appreciate a blanket despite their bodies’ natural coping abilities; if your horse is clipped, he has no protective coat, and can use all the help he can get; horses that don’t grow a sufficient winter coat are obvious candidates. Consider your options carefully, and remember that although you may need to override it, the best solution is usually the natural one.

    If you believe blanketing is truly justified and not simply the result of “humanizing” your horse, do your homework. Blanketing is not a “one size fits all” situation, and there are many specific considerations you need to evaluate. There are countless websites on the Internet, providing information to help you decide, well worth your time and your horses’ comfort for you to study.

    Beyond blanketing, there are other considerations to consider as winter approaches. For example, in winter horses do not need a cozy stall bedded with shavings –  it’s a lot of work and it won’t help; likewise, there’s no need to heat the barn – presumably inside the barn is already dry and reasonably windproof; they do not need extra grain – if you must increase their food intake, increase forage; and limiting movement is unwise – adequate movement is always best for horses no matter the conditions.

    But what they do need is plenty of free choice grass hay, and adequate water (more on this in a moment). Be sure there is unlimited, free choice, loose, unrefined salt – preferably sea salt. And a horse that has trouble keeping weight on will need additional nutritional support, but not grain.

    The other major cold-weather threat is colic. Colic refers specifically to nothing more than a pain in the belly. But the devil is in the actual cause of the pain: gas bloating sometimes hurts, but it usually makes a noisy departure leaving no tracks except for a trailing scent. An impaction, on the other hand, doesn’t go away without some help, like walking the horse for half an hour to stimulate fecal movement within the intestinal tract (terminated by, we hope, the deposit of a brown pile behind the horse). Sometimes an impaction needs still more help, commonly a vet will perform a procedure known as “tubing”, that will help clear the blockage. The most serious form of colic is hard clogging within the intestine that requires immediate surgery to correct. No matter the cause, if prompt action is not taken at the first indication of pain, the situation can develop into a serious condition.

    Probably the primary cause of a winter colic attack has to do with water. As we head into the season, the horse’s digestive system continues to need a large volume of water, but his water intake drops along with the temperature, and the colder the water, the less he’ll drink. But he’s still got to digest his food and keep it moving down his intestinal tract, so lack of sufficient water can become a serious problem –potential intestinal upset and a colic attack. Complicating matters, with little or no water-rich grass to graze, only dry stubble, the need for water multiplies even further.

    It seems as though the deck is stacked against him, and it is, but you can help prevent a colic attack  just by ensuring that his digestive system is functional and efficient. Here are the simple rules of prevention: first, use in-tank heaters to keep his water at a constant 50 degrees F; keep a reliable supply of hay (and grain, if you’re feeding it) to keep his diet constant; make no sudden changes in his diet; maintain his deworming schedule; use a prebiotic product to keep his intestinal gut garden healthy and thriving, providing consistently efficient digestion; feeding a simple mash every day is a great idea – just soaking hay cubes, or maybe beet pulp in water, adding an ounce of salt, can give him a couple extra gallons a day of water;

    Finally, a few ideas and tips to make cold weather a little easier, especially on the senior citizens:

    Spend a little quality time with him as often as you can. You are important to him -- he knows you and he relies on you.

    Get him a little regular exercise; longe or ride him for 30 minutes or so every week – it’s not much, but it will help keep his digestive system healthy, and in cold weather he’ll especially enjoy the activity.

    Be patient with him; older horses especially may stress out in cold weather. New horses joining the herd, trailer rides, illness, vaccinations and deworming are all potential stressors. Avoid those that aren’t really needed.

    Keep drinking water at a comfortable temperature.

    Supplementing protein, calcium and phosphorus will help older horses through the cold season, as will a cup of oil per day for those hard keepers. Canola, flaxseed or rice bran oil would be good choices.

    Don’t forget that daily ration of salt. Free choice loose salt is probably best, but a white salt block that’s always available is effective and easy to do.

    Keep the farrier coming on schedule – their hooves keep growing regardless of the temperature.

  • Living With It and Rocking It Out

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    First, an update on how Bandit and Chase are doing.

    Chase completed 21 radiation therapy treatments for colonic adenocarcinoma on August 23rd. He had a stellar follow-up appointment two weeks later. On September 24th he returned to his volunteer mission at the local library, where kids read to him. On October 15th, he had a CT scan to show the status of the cancer cells. There was no evidence of cancer at the original site, for which I am very grateful! We will need to carefully watch some tiny spots in Chase’s lungs and a spot on his liver, to make sure the cancer has not metastasized. The oncology vets recommended another CT scan by the end of the year.

    Ironically, Bandit completed his therapy dog certification in August so he could substitute for Chase at the library if Chase didn’t feel up to it. But Bandit was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in September, just after Chase completed his follow-up appointment. Bandit and I had been training all summer for a fall tracking test. One day he just couldn’t work, for the first time in his life, and I knew something was terribly wrong. After Bandit was diagnosed and began daily chemo meds in September, he lost a lot of weight even though he was eating twice as much as before. We have been adjusting the meds in an effort to treat the disease while allowing him to maintain his weight. This requires regular blood and urine checks and the involvement of a veterinary nutritionist. Bandit is still losing about a pound per week, and I’m still trying to find the best way to help him maintain his weight. He will be 10 years old on November 13th. His father lived to be 16 and his mother is still going strong at 14, so 10 is not that old for an Australian Cattle Dog.

    Bandit and Chase, who are brothers by fate and heart, but not blood, carry on. If you saw them you wouldn’t know they were sick, except that Chase has two bald patches on his butt, and Bandit is too thin. They jump out of bed every morning and enthusiastically greet the day. They shower me with a tremendous round of barking when I come home at the end of the day. They run, play, wrestle, go all out, and make great acrobatic leaps to catch flying squirrel frisbees. They’ve shown me how to live with a disease, truly LIVE with it, even while they may be dying from it. Attitude is everything. They are definitely making the best of every day.

        

    I decided not to continue training with Bandit due to his rapid weight loss of mostly muscle mass. Now that the meds have him feeling better, he would probably still track, but I don’t want him to lose any more weight. I’m sad that we weren’t able to take the tracking test that we trained so hard for, but I’m very glad we spent that time together. And who knows, maybe he’ll feel up to it in the spring.

    I usually say that two of my dogs were diagnosed with cancer instead of “My dogs have cancer” because it could never define either dog entirely and, at least in Chase’s case, I don’t know whether he still has it. Each of my dogs is so much more than a being with cancer. In fact, if I weren’t struggling with taking them to all the vet appointments along with working a full-time job, helping Bandit maintain his weight, and losing sleep sometimes over how to pay such astounding vet bills for not one dog, but two, we would most often carry on as usual.

    We’re all going to die from something, and none of us knows how much time we have left. The dogs don’t know that the data says they’re ‘supposed to’ have a limited amount of time. They just know when they feel well and want to get out and play ball and enjoy the day. I don’t want to impose limits on them, and I’m happy to welcome any miracles that come our way. Dogs will be dogs, and my dogs are choosing to fully live with it, even possibly while dying from it.

    I suspect that dogs are not afraid of death the way many people are. To them, and all of us, it’s an inevitable part of life and they will probably see it coming before we catch on. I remember one day in August when Chase was not feeling well after an RT treatment. Bandit went over and just sat next to him and hung out, not the usual behavior for Bandit, but I could tell he was supporting his brother.

    I’ve never called my dogs “fur babies”, which oversimplifies the relationship if you ask me. While I provide for them and they may be like my children in some ways, they are truly my teachers and mentors. They have taught me so much that I’m aware of, and no doubt I have missed many of their messages. Thus I don’t think of them as babies in fur. I think of them as friends, companions, and teachers.

    A friend told me about a person who died four days after receiving a cancer diagnosis. The guy was devastated and thought he was going to die early anyway, and in his mind gave up. I guess that’s a difference between dogs and people. The dogs know that they’ve been ill, but they live in the moment and don’t overthink or worry about the future.

    I am worn out from all the appointments at different vet clinics, from trying to raise money to pay vet bills that cost about as much as a new car, and from resisting having to choose one dog’s care over the other’s. I’m starting to resent anything that takes time away from simply enjoying time with them. One of the benefits of being spread pretty thin over the past few months is that I’ve let go of things that don’t matter. I’m spending more time with the dogs doing the simple things that are good for us: staying home and spending time together, hanging out, running and playing outside, eating healthy whole foods (including Omega Nuggets and Canine Shine), and really enjoying each other. I wish I had even more time to relax at home and be in tune with them.

     

    On Chase's October library day, it was so inspiring to see the kids read to him. The regular readers improved tremendously over the summer. I love to see kids get excited about books. When many adults don't read books any more, it's good to see a younger generation being inspired by them. One little girl who is new to the program got very excited when she learned that after reading to Chase eight times, she will get to choose her very own book to take home. I heard her tell her mom that she’ll get to take the book home and won't even have to bring it back to the library! She was so excited.

    I'm very grateful to the librarian for getting this program going and continuing to promote it. It’s fun to see the kids’ confidence in their reading improve. Chase showed his appreciation for their reading by lying on his back with all four feet in the air! (Actually, Chase the herding dog listens best that way, with his eyes closed and no visual distractions.) He finds the most appropriate way to reach each child. If they're comfortable with him leaning in, he will. If they’re not, he’ll just put his paw on their leg, or touch the bottom of his foot to the bottom of their foot.

    While developing their reading skills, the kids are learning about dogs. One little girl said that Chase is the only dog she isn't afraid of. He must sense this because he bows in front of her instead of standing over her. She wants to get a dog, and she remarked that 'having a dog is a big responsibility', something she must have been told at home. She has been inspired by Chase to read and learn about different dog breeds, and I have no doubt that one day she will be well prepared to care for her very own dog.

    One middle-aged man stopped to pet Chase. He has stopped by on Chase's library day before. I don't know if this is coincidence or whether he comes specifically to see Chase, but Chase seeks him out now to say hi. He asked why Chase had bald patches and I told him about the cancer treatment. He then asked how recently it was and seemed genuinely concerned about Chase. And Chase seemed to genuinely care about him too.  I feel like I'm a student following along on this little dog's mission, learning from him along the way. I hope he has many good years left to continue this mission of sharing love.

    No matter how much time we have left, we’re going to truly live it and rock it out. That doesn’t mean pretending nothing is wrong. That means being in tune with how each dog feels, being sensitive to each one’s needs, and making the best of each day we have left together. It’s not like I’ve decided to rock it out. It’s just their approach to life, every day… something I’ve learned from my dogs, my teachers. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

    To help pay the veterinary bills, I’m selling the rest of my inventory of Not Without My Dog Resource & Record books at a steep discount. I have a limited number of these hard cover, journal-style books with photo pages, and do not plan to produce any more. They make great Christmas gifts for the dog lovers in your life, and are $15 each, plus shipping (or contact me for discounts on quantities of 10 or more). I will sign them personally if you wish. Learn more and order online at: http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?page_id=1542
    To donate towards cancer care: http://tinyurl.com/bentleys-aglow Thank you!

  • Equine Colic: Are You Prepared?

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Most horse owners at one time or another have experienced that dreaded sight of finding their horse rolling or kicking at their belly in their pasture or stall.  After all, almost 1 million horses colic in the United States each year, or about 11 in every 100 horses. It really is not a matter of if, but when a horse in your care will colic.  But now is not the time to panic, but to act logically and calmly.  The keys?  Be prepared, and have a plan.  This month we will discuss what symptoms you may see, what to do, and how to create a firm plan of action.  Next month we will discuss several important strategies you may implement to decrease the likelihood of your ever needing this plan.

    First of all, horses can colic for a variety of reasons. As colic just means a generic abdominal pain, any discomfort in the organs associated with the gastrointestinal tract can be described as colic.  Even other organs, such as the ovaries or uterus in mares, can causepain and thus may show symptoms of colic. So what may lead you to suspect your horse may be colicking?

    My first and strongest recommendation is to know your horse. Every horse has individual quirks of behavior, appearance etc.  The key to successful outcomes in colic, or in many cases of disease or injury, is catching a change quickly.  Any change in a horse’s normal behavior or appearance should immediately trigger a thorough investigation of the horse by the owner or manager.  So what might the horse be doing differently? Colic symptoms can range from the subtle to the severe and downright alarming.  Typically the severity of the colic will mirror the severity of the symptoms, but that is not always true.  Individual horses have a greater or lesser degree of pain tolerance. It is important to know if your horse is the stoic individual that works through an injury, or the type that becomes hysterical if they stubbed their hoof on a ground pole!  Subtle signs include horses which are off feed or water, but may not yet be completely refusing to eat or drink.  A change in behavior, being more depressed, less active or having a duller appearance may be signs of colic. Horses which are restless, or perhaps laying down more than normal, or laying in an unusual position may be colicking.  Pay close attention to foals, as foals can quickly develop abdominal discomfort related to disease, diarrhea ulcers etc.  A foal lying on its back is certain to be experiencing some sort of abdominal pain.  As pain becomes more severe horses may continually look at their belly or flank, kick at their abdomen, repeatedly get up or lay down.  They may begin to roll or thrash violently and can even injure themselves.  In severe pain, horses may break out into a sweat or grind their teeth together.

    Depending on the severity of the colic, your next step is to step in and gather some information.  Obviously, if your horse is in uncontrollable pain, call the veterinarian immediately.  Otherwise, if you can safely evaluate your horse, perform a physical exam on your horse.  That will help your veterinarian know how soon they may need to arrive.  Record your horse’s heart rate, respiration rate and temperature.  It is important that you practice these techniques before you need them!  A horse’s heart rate can be detected in a number of locations, near their eye, under their jaw, on their pastern etc.  Make sure that you have a working thermometer. Now is not the time to discover a dead battery in your thermometer.  Listen to your horse’s abdomen to hear if there is the normal gurgle of healthy gut movement.  An absence of sound indicated gut motility may have ceased.  If you horse is stalled, check his manure. Is there as much as there should be?  What consistency is it? Is it drier or harder than it should be?  How much feed has the horse eaten since his last feeding?  Is his water consumption normal?  Finally, check your horse’s gum color and capillary refill time.  Pale white or blueish gums may mean the horse is severely dehydrated, or may be going into shock.    This information may be critical in making decisions that may save your horse’s life.

    Now that you have some basic information, call your veterinarian.  It is important to have the veterinarian’s phone number readily available. Think about all cases of emergencies.  What if your cell phone has no reception or has a dead battery? Does your veterinarian make emergency farm calls? Will they be able to get here quickly enough to help you?  Discuss these issues with your veterinarian before colic strikes. They may offer some helpful advice on other colleagues they may trust when they may not be able to make the call.  Therefore you may want to post several numbers of veterinarians near your horse.
    You also need to do some hard thinking about the financial reality of colic cases. Some colics can only be resolved surgically.  Are you prepared for this?  Can you financially afford colic surgery?  Realize that is possible for colic surgeries to cost nearly $10,000.  Looking into an insurance plan for your horse can help cover major medical costs.  Do your research and see which plan may be best for you and your horses.  You may also need to at least consider that the outcome of surgery may not be positive.  Discussing these scenarios with family and your veterinarian before your horseever colics is critical.    It will make this emergency scenario much easier on you and allow you to make decisions more quickly.

    If you have made the decision that surgery is a viable option for you, add more details to your plan.  Do you have ready access to a truck and trailer? If you do not own your own, you need to have numbers of individuals absolutely willing to help, and located nearby, close at hand. The last thing you want at this point in time, is knowing your horse needs to get to a clinic, but you can’t find transportation.  Finally, know where the nearest veterinary hospital with surgical capabilities is located.  How long will it take to get the horse there?  This may affect your decision on when to load your horse on the trailer. Should you wait for your veterinarian to arrive at the farm, or should the horse immediately go to the clinic. Know where the clinic is located.  Now is not the time to be looking for directions or get lost in the middle of the night.  Practice!  The more that you have mentally and physically prepared yourself for these emergencies, the better the outcome for both you and your horse!
     

  • Why Aren't Your Hens Laying Anymore


    Written By Lisa Steele, Fresh Eggs Daily

    A decrease in egg production this time of year is perfectly normal and most likely attributable to shorter days and molting hens, but it can also be something a bit more formidable.  Egg production naturally ebbs and flows in a backyard flock. Chickens are extremely routine-oriented and any change in routine can throw off their laying.

    I keep track of the eggs I collect using a spreadsheet and totaling the eggs by color/day/month. Often, when a hen stops laying, that is the first sign that something is wrong, so tracking production is not only fun and interesting, it can be very beneficial to monitor the health of your flock.

    Here are some of the more common reasons why a hen might stop laying, or lay at a reduced rate:

    1. Shorter Days - This time of year, egg production will slow due to the shorter days. A hen needs a minimum of 14 hours of daylight to stimulate the ovaries to release an egg. Therefore it takes longer to accumulate the 14 hours during the fall and winter months.  Action - You can add supplemental light in your coop to provide the additional light needed.  Read HERE about adding supplemental light.

    2. Molting - The fall is also the time when hens will generally molt. They usually stop laying all together during the molt. Click HERE for more information about molting. Action - You have to let the molting run its course, but added protein can help move it along and help your hen emerge faster and begin laying again.

    3. Broody - When a hen 'goes broody,' she stops laying eggs and starts sitting on the nest 'round the clock, trying to hatch some eggs. Hens will do so with fertile OR non-fertile eggs, even sitting on no eggs at all! The drive for broodiness is in some hens/breeds genes more than others. Action - Break the broody as quickly as possible; read more on how to do that HERE.

    4. Egg Eating - Obviously, egg eating by your chickens will result in a reduction in the eggs left for you to collect. Once one starts, other will follow. Evidence may be seen in the nests in the form of broken eggs or empty shells, but most likely your chickens will eat the entire egg, shell and all, so unless you catch one in the act, you might not realize what is happening.  Action - Click HERE to read more on egg eating and how to stop it.

    5. Predators - Not only will many predators steal and eat eggs, the mere presence of a predator lurking around your run area can stress the hens to the point that they stop laying. Snakes, weasels and rats can get through a space smaller than 1 inch. Other larger predators, such as foxes, opossums and skunks, will try and enter your coop as well if you don't have it securely locked at night. Action - Be sure that all vents on your coop are covered with 1/2-inch hardware cloth. Block any holes in the coop larger than an inch. Put predator proof locks on the coop and nesting box doors. NiteGuard solar predator lights will also keep predators at bay and away from your run at night.

    6. Egg Bound Hen - Young hens, hens who consume too much protein or are otherwise not in tip-top condition can become egg bound. This potentially fatal condition must be caught and treated immediately. Action - Click HERE for more on treating an egg bound hen.

    7. Overcrowding - Overcrowding in the run and coop can lead to pecking and other stresses that can cause your hens to stop laying. Action - Ensure that your coop provides a MINIMUM of 3-4 square feet per hen and your run provides a MINIMUM of 10 square feet per hen. Of course, size matters and bigger is better.

    8. Additions or Subtractions to the Flock - Any time you add or take away a hen, the entire pecking order of your flock is upset and (usually minor) adjustments are made. Often this can stress hens so they slow their laying. Action - Once the pecking order is restored, laying will resume. New hens might need some time to get used to their new surroundings before they start laying for you.

    9. A Change in the Nesting Area - Any change in her nesting area can throw off a hen's laying. Things such as changing out the nesting boxes for a different type, switching the type of nesting material, hanging curtains (although, in the long run, curtains can help increase production ... click HERE for more on that!) or moving your flock to a new coop can cause stress and break their routine to cause a decrease in production. Action - Try not to disturb the nesting area unless absolutely necessary.

    10. Illness/Disease - Often the first noticeable sign of illness in a chicken will be the cessation of laying. Chickens are masters at hiding symptoms in general, because weakness can cause pecking by other hens in the flock, as well as attention from predators. Action - Do regular checkups of your flock. Read HERE what to look for and how to treat if something is wrong.

    11. Extreme Heat - Hens lay best in temperatures between roughly 50-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Any deviation, higher OR lower, can cause a reduction in their lay rate. Action - Do your best to help your hens stay cool and comfortable during the summer months, especially if you live in a Southern climate. Read HERE for tips on beating the heat.

    12. Extreme Cold - Extremely cold temperatures can likewise cause laying to decline, as the hens are using all their energy to stay warm. Action - Use scratch as an evening wintertime treat. The act of digesting the grains helps keep the hens warm overnight and maintain their laying.

    13. Lack of Adequate Ventilation in the Coop - Ammonia fumes can build up in a coop that is not well-ventilated. That can cause irritation and respiratory illness in a hen. Action - Rule of thumb is that 1/5 of your total coop wall space should be vents/windows that can be opened or closed, weather dependent. Of course be sure all vents are covered with 1/2" hardware cloth to deter predators from gaining access.

    14. Poor Nutrition - Low-quality feed, a lack of feed, or inadequate calcium or protein can all reduce egg production. Action - Ensure your flock has access to a good-quality layer feed that isn't allowed to get moldy. Provide a dish of crushed eggshells or oyster shell free choice so each hen can eat what she needs. Limit treats to 10% of their diet and choose healthy treats such as greens, weeds, sunflower seeds, nuts, grains, insects and meal worms.

    15. Overfeeding - Overfeeding can lead to a drop in egg production. A diet low in protein will cause a hens' laying to slow. Action - Don't overfeed (a hen will eat roughly 1/2 of feed per day) and provide adequate protein in the form of meal worms, sunflower seeds, etc.

    16. Lack of Water - An egg is roughly 75% water. If a chicken goes without access to fresh, clean, cool water for even a few hours, that can lead to a reduction in egg production. Action - Be sure to keep plenty of water available in the run and change it regularly. Scrub out the waterers with a white vinegar/water mix regularly and add a splash of apple cider vinegar to the water a few times a week. The apple cider vinegar not only helps keep algae and bacteria at bay, it is thought to improve the taste of the water and make it more appealing to your chickens. On hot days, add frozen water bottles or ice cubes to the water, because chickens won't drink warm water on a hot day.

    17. Free Ranging - If you allow your flock to free range, there's a good chance that they are going off to lay their eggs and hiding them. A hen's natural instinct is to lay her eggs in a secluded, safe spot to keep them safe from predators. Action - Because most hens lay their eggs in the morning hours, try keeping your flock cooped or penned up until early afternoon so they will be forced to lay their eggs when you can find them.

    18. Hiding Eggs - Even in an enclosed run, hens will sometimes quit laying in the nesting boxes and instead start hiding their eggs in an effort to collect a 'clutch' to sit on and hatch. Last summer, our egg production went down, and I thought it was the heat until I found their 'stash' of 14 eggs behind a bush in the run! Action - Chickens like to find out-of-the-way places to lay their eggs, so check under and behind bushes, shrubs, anything else you have in your run they can use as cover. Sometimes you have to learn to choose your battles, and if I find our chickens starting to lay elsewhere than the coop, I will set up an outdoor nesting box or basket for them. As long as it's out of the way and they're happy, at least I know where to check for missing eggs.

    19. Age - A hen lays best during the first two to three years of her life. Her productivity will drop after that, but well-cared for, healthy hens can continue to lay for years after that. Action - Continuing to add new chicks or pullets to your flock each spring ensures a constant supply of hens at prime egg-laying age. (Note: While older hens don't lay as well, they are thought to make better mothers, so keeping them around to sit on fertile eggs is a wonderful way for them to 'earn their keep.')

    20. Stress - A stress-free hen is a good laying hen. Any stressor, such as a barking dog, traffic noise, being bullied by another hen, neighbors' children chasing them and trying to pick them up and hold them, etc., can cause a drop in production. Action - Remember, a hen is laying her egg with the ultimate goal of it hatching into a chick. She won't be happy laying in an environment she doesn't feel is safe for a chick to grow up. Try to reduce any outside stresses as much as possible.

    Before you despair and think that getting a hen to actually lay an egg is about as rare as a blue moon or you'll have to wait until the stars align and pigs fly, remember that she is programmed to lay an egg about once every 26 hours. She WANTS to lay that egg. So anything you can do to help her in that venture is going to boost productivity and make it easier on her.  Since the hens are not living in a light/temperature-consistent, confined and controlled environment like commercially raised hens, it's natural that they will respond to different stimuli (or the lack thereof) by ceasing egg production.

  • Another Train Comin'

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    First here’s an update on Chase. He completed his 21 radiation therapy (RT) treatments for colonic adenocarcinoma on August 23rd. Two weeks later, he breezed through his follow up appointment with flying colors. He lost patches of hair from his back legs, but has been feeling well and doing great. On the outside, except for the hair loss, which is normal with RT, he looks fantastic. His energy and spirit are high, and he has resumed his usual activities. The next step is to do a CT scan in October to determine whether there are still active cancer cells.

    On September 24th, Chase returned to the library where kids read to him as part of the Doggone Reading program. We were excited to be there, to see Ginny the librarian and other 'old' friends, and meet new kids and listen to them read. Chase loves going to the library! He got so excited, I had to remind him to use his indoor voice. When he recognized one little girl, he did a few play bows right in front of her, and the girl said, “Look Mom, Chase is bowing!” He did this all on his own; it wasn’t a trained trick. Chase is a pro at this volunteer 'work'.

    Just when I was beginning to feel hopeful that we have derailed Chase’s cancer train, we learned that there’s another train comin’. Just a few hours after Chase’s follow up appointment, the dog sitter texted me to tell me that Bandit didn’t seem well. Urinary problems, including foamy urine and excessive thirst and urination, that we had observed over the summer had become much worse. The onset seemed much more dramatic than a normal change accompanying aging, yet test results had been normal. Bandit seemed to be feeling well that evening, but the following morning when I took him out to go tracking, for the first time in his life he did not want to work! Something was terribly wrong.

    I took Bandit to the vet that Saturday morning. His blood work and urinalysis showed some values outside of the normal range for the first time. Yet the results didn’t seem to point to any known disease. Diabetes, Cushings Disease, and other conditions had been ruled out. Eventually, more test results and sleuthing by our vet indicated that Bandit most likely has multiple myeloma. We were referred to an oncology vet (cancer vet).

    Multiple myeloma is a different kind of cancer than the colonic adenocarcinoma diagnosed in Chase. Myeloma is systemic, found in the blood and bones, not localized in one part of the body. With Chase, we have been lucky so far, that the tumor in his colorectal area does not appear to have metastasized. So his tumor could be targeted with local radiation therapy. But for Bandit, systemic treatment is needed, and the recommended treatment is chemotherapy pills. So in mid-September, Bandit started his daily chemo pills, which he will probably need indefinitely. Most dogs do well on these pills, and the mean quoted survival time is 18 months, more than what I was first told about Chase. Still, I’m hoping for more for Bandit.

    Ironically Bandit passed the Pet Partners test in August so he could substitute for Chase at the library if needed. But now Chase is feeling better and is back at the library. When the vet was checking Bandit at different times during the summer, I remember saying several times, “Just as long as it isn’t a tumor…I don’t think I could take more than one dog having cancer.” Well, here we are, trying to make the best of it. I took off my “Everyday Holds the Possibility of a Miracle” pendant that I wore every day while Chase was in RT treatment and put it on Bandit’s collar. So now these two canine brothers, related by fate and heart, but not birth, are both wearing these pendants and are sharing our hope for a miracle.

    One gorgeous September afternoon when I was enjoying some time with the dogs in the yard, a butterfly appeared. It flew around us several times and landed on a maple branch hanging over the fence. The butterfly seemed to want my attention, so I walked over and looked at it closely. It was beautiful, yellow and brown with double sets of wings, with silver blue spots on the underside. I didn’t remember ever seeing a butterfly like that before. Later I learned that it was a Great Spangled Fritillary.

    The wind was blowing the branches around and I wanted to get a better look at the butterfly. I held the branch still and even touched the butterfly gently. It seemed fine with my touch and didn’t try to leave. After a few minutes, it flew down and landed on the ground among us, and I got a better look from a different angle. The butterfly seemed to be trying to communicate something, but I wasn’t sure of its message. I just knew that the butterfly felt magical, and that it was important to enjoy that time with my dogs on such a beautiful afternoon, when we were all feeling well and having a good day.

    A few days later, still puzzling over the butterfly’s message, I looked up the butterfly totem. Here are some messages from the butterfly, compiled from several sources.

    The butterfly is a colorful, delightful symbol of transition and growth. Butterflies bring color and joy to life, and teach us that change is positive and should be embraced. Growth and transformation does not have to traumatic; it can occur gently, sweetly, and joyfully. Butterflies remind us that life is a dance, to not take things quite so seriously, and prompt us to notice the joy in our lives. They remind us to get up and move, because dance brings the sweetness of life. They are associated with aliveness and brightness.

    Butterflies are born after a period of struggle. Without the struggle the wings would not be strong enough to allow the butterfly to take wing. Butterflies prompt us to embrace change with optimism and joy for the experience, and to go through important changes and different life cycles with grace and lightness. They are symbolic of lightness of being and elevation from the heaviness of tensions. The butterfly is a powerful creature to call on when you need support in times of transition.

    The main lesson when the butterfly comes to us as a totem is that our life is about to go through a transformation of some kind. The butterfly asks us to accept the changes in our lives as casually as she does. The butterfly unquestioningly embraces the changes of her environment and her body. This unwavering acceptance of her metamorphosis is also symbolic of faith. The butterfly beckons us to keep our faith as we undergo transitions in our lives. She understands that our toiling, fretting and anger are useless against the turning tides of nature - she asks us to recognize the same. At our journey's end we are inevitably changed - not at all the same as when we started on the path. We are to make our way in faith, accept the change that comes, and emerge from our transitions as brilliantly as the butterfly.

    Lately, a solitary doe has been hanging around in the woods behind our house. The dogs, especially Chase, look for her every time they go out in the yard. Most often, she is there. So I also looked up the deer totem to understand her message.
    The deer combines soft, gentle qualities with heart energy, strength and determination. She symbolizes gentleness, the abilities to move through life and obstacles with grace, to feel the inner child, to be sensitive and intuitive, and to be vigilant and change directions quickly. She also has a magical ability to regenerate.

    The deer helps us to know life’s mysteries, and to bring gentleness and grace into every aspect of life, even in the most challenging moments. The deer inspires us to live from the heart, and handle difficult situations smoothly with a touch of gentleness and grace.

    I have often been exhausted and frustrated from managing the logistics of caring for two dogs with cancer. So the messages of the butterfly and the deer are very pertinent. I can learn a great deal from both. One of the most difficult things about dealing with cancer is not knowing where you stand. The cancers that my dogs have been diagnosed with are inside, not easily seen. While the dogs seem to be doing great on the outside, we also need to know what’s going on inside. In October, both dogs are scheduled to have CT scans, to find out the status of the cancer. Until then, I will try to take the messages of the butterfly and the deer to heart.

    Like the butterfly and the deer, my dogs encourage me to not take the situation so seriously, to get out and play and enjoy each day, because the present moment is all that we really have. Bandit and Chase are both doing well. They leap out of bed each morning, eager to run around the yard, play ball, and enjoy this present moment. On a recent gorgeous fall afternoon here, with not a cloud in the sky, we enjoyed our daily walk on the hill. All three dogs felt great and played hard, and every time I inhaled, I felt like I was breathing in hope!

    It feels so much better to live in hope than in fear. Although our life now isn’t what I expected, my fellow creatures have taught me that we can still dance and play our way along on this journey. So I try to be less of a frustrated, worried human and dance along with them, cherishing this day.

    Great nutrition has been an essential part of Bandit’s and Chase’s cancer treatments. Both dogs look great, are energetic, and have healthy coats and skin. The traditional and holistic vets agree that Omega Nuggets and Canine Shine are great supplements for Bandit as well as for Chase. Use the code JPavlovic for 20% off your first online order at www.OmegaFields.com.

  • Goat Breeding

    Written By Janice Spaulding , founder of Goat School

    As autumn approaches the words “oh the joy of heat, rut, and breeding” can be heard on goat farms everywhere!
    A doe in heat is usually quite obvious if you have a buck around! She will exhibit all sorts of different outward appearances like moaning, groaning, yelling, flagging (tail wagging) and in every sense of the word, make a general nuisance of herself. She will often head butt the other goats, jump on them like a dog, be cranky to you, and will more often than not, have a very red butt!

    Watching a buck in rut is quite comical.  They love to display their equipment, pee all over themselves, curl their lip and make lots of really unique noises. The peeing can cause blisters and sores on their noses and very red irritated looking eyes. Don’t despair, once your girls are all bred, rut will be over and the snow and rain will clean away most of the gross, caked up yucky stuff on their faces and legs. If you are really obsessive, you can give your boy a bath. Good luck with that!

    So, you have a doe in heat and a buck in rut, what now?  The estrus cycle for a doe is 18 to 21 days! Goats are pregnant for approximately 150 days.  A great thing to note here is that if you are planning on a vacation; use one of the goat breeding charts that are readily available on line to make sure your doe won’t be giving your farm sitter an unexpected gift! These charts are great for helping you “plan ahead”.

    Most bucks are extremely gentle to the doe’s. If you have one that isn’t, get rid of him! Personality, as well as “meatiness”, fine fleece, or great dairy features are important factors in your breeding program. Our “problem personalities” go to Freezer Camp (also known as, imagine a deep voice here, “THE PROCESSOR”) rather than sold to an unsuspecting buyer.

    The bucks will whisper in the girl’s ears, kiss them and mount them several times. Record this date and watch to see if the doe comes into heat again, approximately 21 days later. Another cycle can sometimes happen.  A doe is in heat anywhere from 8 to 48 hours. Every now and then you can have a doe whose heat cycle is even shorter than 8 hours and if that short period of time occurs during the night, you can miss the cycle altogether! Coincidentally, the girls who have the longest heat cycles are usually the most vocal.

    At the very beginning of the cycle your doe may not be receptive to the buck. Later in the cycle she will go into the pen, squat and pee for him, flag him like crazy and stand for him to mount her, this is called “standing heat”.

    We put the girls in several times during their cycle, because ovulation can occur anytime during that time period!
    If the doe scrunches up during penetration, don’t worry. It just means the buck has penetrated her so deeply that he hit her cervix. This is not a problem and it doesn’t affect the outcome of the breeding. Also, this doesn’t have to happen for her to be bred.

    Some bucks and does are quite fussy about who they breed AND who they are bred with!  About 22 years ago, we had someone contact us who had one Angora doe that they wanted to have bred. We took her to be bred by one of our three Angora bucks. Well, poor “Diana” was one of the ugliest goats we had ever seen! She had one horn and it was broken, a wicked over bite and she was a bit cross eyed. Her fleece had seen its better days, it was thin and straggly.

    When we put her in with the buck, he wouldn’t even go near her! She was in raging heat. We put her in with the second buck. He looked at us like we were crazy! Wouldn’t even come close enough to sniff her! What to do???

    Finally, we put her in a small pen in the barn, got our first time little buckling (named James Bond) and decided to put him to work. He couldn’t reach Diana, but he sure was willing. Ken, my husband, had to pick him up and hold him in position so the little guy could do his thing. He was successful.

    INBREEDING – LINE BREEDING – CROSS BREEDING

    Inbreeding: breeding animals that are closely related. The genetic effect of inbreeding is that it produces animals with genetic characteristics that are more fixed. Progress towards a certain “style” can be made more rapidly through inbreeding.
    While good characteristics are fixed in fewer generations by inbreeding, bad characteristics are equally fixed, so inbreeding needs to be done very carefully with the purpose of selecting desired traits and culling out undesirable ones.

    Inbreeding can and will decrease size and vigor! It has also been found to cause loss of reproductive performance. Out crossing to another breeding line needs to be done at chosen intervals.

    Inbreeding is considered crossing mother to son, father to daughter, or full sister to full brother.

    Line breeding is inbreeding where the relationship of the goats are kept as close as possible to an individual animal. For example, breeding a superior sire to his granddaughter or breeding half brother with a half sister who has the same sire.
    Advantages to line breeding are the same as in inbreeding except you double up on selected characteristics more rapidly. Be on the look out for undesirable characteristics here also, but there will be less chance of it.

    Crossbreeding or out breeding is crossing two unrelated animals that have characteristics that you want to introduce to your flock.
    This is usually done between different blood lines or different breeds of goats. This type of breeding will produce a hybrid vigor.

    Trait                    Inbreeding    Line breeding    Out breeding
    Uniformity           good             good                  fair to good
    Fertility               poor              good                  good
    Growth               poor              good                  good
    Predictability      good             good                  fair
    Overall Vigor     poor              good                  good
    Longevity          moderate      good                   good
    Uniform kids     moderate      good                   good
    Rapid growth    poor             good                   excellent
    Characteristics and How to Use Them

    There never has been, nor will there ever be a “perfect” goat. That being said, to produce the goat for show, breeding, milk, fiber, or meat, you have to aim for that perfection!

    Breeders will breed hundreds of animals just to get the “best one”.  For most, the production of gorgeous kids is just plain luck, but often they are the product of knowledgeable breeders who are aware of the body style of the dam and buck and how to achieve the characteristics of greatness.

    If you stood all of your does side by side, are they all a cookie cutter image of each other? Then Glory Halleluiah, you’d only need one buck to meet all of your needs. But, guess what? They are all different! They all look different, act different, eat different, etc. So when it comes to a buck, you have to look for a buck that will have great qualities to improve the weak points of your does.

    You want your breeding to consistently produce good qualities that add strength to your herd, not weaknesses. If you don’t consider each and every breeding as the ultimate of importance, you are not only doing yourself a disservice but also the goat industry!

    I once read that a gentleman who used to stay mostly with a particular line of Boers, would also keep a close watch on what direction his herd was taking from time to time bring in a buck that would take some of the extreme does back to the style he liked. He was said to say that when he started to get does that were “too pretty” or “too tubular”, he would need an old style buck “to ugly the does up some”!

    Some goat owners stick with the same buck, year after year and wonder why they are not producing quality anymore. A completely different buck will certainly change things up a bit!

    A breeder should be prepared to continually educate him or herself at every opportunity. Make your breeding seasons count, and take the time to learn how to evaluate each and every animal. The future of your herd does not count on the goats in your pasture, it counts on you! Do everything you can to make your next breeding a success!

    And, please, remember how important your buck/bucks are to your herd! Initially your buck represents 50% of your herd, but with subsequent use that percentage will increase greatly.  It is well to consider keeping multiple bucks of various ages to use on your does.  Diversity in breeding is important for good outcome.

    n                      

  • Strategies to Modulate Insulin Concentrations

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Much recent research in the horse industry has centered on fluctuations in insulin concentrations under a variety of conditions and the effects on the health of the horse.  Many horse owners are aware that traditional feeding practices which rely on a larger proportion of concentrate feeding may result in prolonged insulin secretion by the pancreas.  In young horses, it is thought that prolonged elevations in insulin may lead to cartilage abnormalities, promoting epiphysitis and osteochondrosis.  High starch diets are linked to behavioral issues such as more excitable or reactive horses;  and certain typing up disorders such as polysaccharide storage myopathy and recurrent exertional rhabdomylosis. Finally, high concentrate diets can certainly contribute to the development of insulin resistance and laminitis. As a result of this information, many  current horse feeds are now designed to minimize insulin fluctuations in the horse.  These feeds are typically low in traditional cereal grains such as corn and oats, may be higher in fat and fiber, or may be processed differently.   All of these techniques are designed to either minimize or slow the absorption of glucose out of the small intestine, and thus lower the need of the pancreas to secrete insulin to regulate blood glucose.  But what if switching feeds or eliminating concentrate is simply is not enough?  Are there other options available to the horse owner which can potentially help regulate insulin and glucose in their horses?
    One of the concerns for owners of insulin resistant horses is the frequent bouts of laminitis which occur if the horse is allowed access to pasture high in fructans.   Owners of these horses need to monitor their horses grazing carefully.  In order to avoid plants with high fructan content owners are advised against allowing access to pasture during the afternoon (when photosynthesis is at its peak rate), the spring, late fall or when grasses are stressed.  Further, warm season grasses offer a lower fructan concentration than cool season species of grasses and make better grazing choices for insulin resistant horses.

    But why are fructans such a concern?

    One of the theories addressing the laminitis inducing effect of high fructan content in plants is that fructans when consumed by the horse ,create changes in the bacterial population of the hindgut.  They undergo rapid fermentation, can alter pH of the gut and may result in bacterial endotoxin release.  However, this explanation does little to explain why insulin resistant horses in particular are so sensitive to fructans.  It may be that fructans trigger an increase in insulin itself that creates alterations to the vasculature of the hoof and the accompanying painful syndrome.   Insulin, while typically thought of as having a primary role in glucose disposal, has tremendous effects on the vasculature.  Insulin can act as both a vasodilator, or a vasoconstrictor.   Insulin resistance has been repeatedly been shown to cause cardiovascular dysfunction in many other species.  However, this role has not been fully explored in the equine.

    In attempt to explore this issue, researchers conducted a trial examining changes in insulin and glucose in horses allowed access to pasture during two different eight hour periods.  Horses were allowed to graze between 7 am and 3 pm or between 12:30 pm and 10:30 pm.   In this experiment, nonstructural carbohydrate content of the grass varied from 13.5% to 19.1% from 8 am to 10 pm.  The study did find a detectable, though not large, increase in insulin, in the horses fed during the afternoon grazing period when NSC values were there highest.   While the number of horses used in the study was small, and the grazing period did overlap, this study does indicate that the concentration of insulin in the horse may be sensitive to fructan content of grasses. The horses used in this study were also not insulin resistant horses.   Insulin resistant horses  may have differed in their insulinemic response to the feeding schedules.  However, this study may offer information as to why bouts of laminitis are triggered in the insulin resistant horse exposed to the wrong type of grasses.

    While we know that insulin resistant horses need to be stringently maintained on low soluble carbohydrate diets, other horses may benefit by paying attention to how we feed them.    While simply avoiding feeding grain may be an easy solution to avoiding insulin and glucose fluctuations, some horses  may require a diet higher in concentrates to meet their energy needs.  A common sense approach is to divide the horse’s meals into several smaller meals.  This is certainly an effective strategy in lowering glucose and insulin response.  However, one approach rather than running out to the barn multiple times per day to split up your horse’s meals, is to use a feeding system designed to slow down the horse’s consumption rate.  Researchers interested in this technique attempted to slow feed intake by adding grids to feed buckets, small hard balls or soaking the feed completely in water.   Using physical obstructions to feeding did prove to be successful  in increasing total feeding time, while adding water did little to alter consumption rate.  The best technique to lower insulin response was to add bocci balls to the bucket so that the horses had to move the balls around to gain access to the feed.  This idea has been elaborated to produce commercial feeding balls, which trickle out small amounts of concentrate as the horse rolls it about.  This also provides the added benefit of increasing the mental stimulation of the horse simultaneously!

    An interesting new theory is that perhaps the stress we expose our horses to may contribute to elevated insulin levels.  Chronic stress does increase cortisol concentrations which may have inhibitory effects on insulin, thus creating a greater need for insulin secretion, or in essence an insulin resistant horse.  In humans, stress and high cortisol can result in insulin resistance and a shift in the deposition of fat in the body. Perhaps stress in horses may also be contributing to insulin resistance and why we see regional adiposity in these animals.  In an initial foray into stress evaluation in horses, researchers examined whether different feeding schedules resulted in an elevation in cortisol.  However, in this study feeding schedules were not a sufficient stressor to elicit any dramatic increase in cortisol.   It is interesting that equine researchers are starting to look in new directions to solve the puzzle of insulin resistance in the horse.  While at this time, the effect of stress on cortisol and thus insulin in the horse is just a theory, maybe it wouldn’t hurt us to avoid stressing our horses unnecessarily!

    Much about insulin resistance and developing best practices still remains unknown.

    For example, in a study in which pregnant mares were fed high concentrate diets and gained rapidly in body condition in the last trimester of pregnancy, foals from the grain fed mares were actually more sensitive to insulin and had lower resting blood glucose. This does indicate that fetal programming, or the in utero environment can have long lasting effects on the offspring, but not what management protocols may be best are unknown.  While we have learned much about insulin resistance in horses, so much remains unknown. We often have to look at studies in other species and try to extrapolate this information to our management practices.  So over all, the willingness to try new methods and incorporate new information may be our best option.  Continue to monitor grazing tightly in insulin resistant horses, get creative when feeding grain, and don’t stress your horse!

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