Articles

  • Coming Home

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    For most of my adult life, I’ve come home at the end of a long work day to a house with energetic dogs. Their need to get out and play has kept me from becoming a couch potato. When I say that I have to get home to let the dogs out, it’s not a complaint. I look forward to it, because there’s not much that I enjoy more than getting out with the dogs. Knowing that they’ve been confined all day and need to get outside to run and play and take in all the smells of nature makes me think the couch can wait. I’m grateful for the gentle breezes, the smell of freshly mown grass, beautiful fields of daisies, majestic bald eagles, spectacular fireflies, amazing northern lights, and crisp clear stars that I have discovered once the dogs lured me outside.
    In June I was fortunate to return to Bimini to swim with wild dolphins. You may recall that last year I wrote about the spirit dogs of Bimini (http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?p=2632). These three dogs joined me on a walk down the road, reminding me of my three dogs back home. They were even the same colors as my guys, and walking with them felt very much like being on a walk with my three at home, just when I was missing them the most.

    When I walked back to Wild Quest, where I was staying, I left the dogs outside the gate, complying with the rules. But somehow one dog got inside and followed me. When I entered the second floor classroom, all eyes were looking behind me. I turned to see that the blond dog had circumvented the security and was right on my tail. I think the rule about not letting stray dogs in was not because the people there don’t love animals; they most certainly do. The joy of playing with wild dolphins is not so different than the joy of playing with dogs. But there were so many stray dogs in Bimini that they just could not allow them all to come in. So the blond dog was escorted out.

    But I was excited this year to learn that Wild Quest had “adopted” a stray dog, “Buddha Buddy”, a black and white dog who looks like a border collie-terrier mix. He showed up earlier this spring and a visitor from the States decided to adopt him and take him home to Colorado. The staff at Wild Quest are taking care of him while his journey is arranged. It was fun to see that Buddy has taken to Amlas, who was so adamant last year about keeping stray dogs outside the fence. He follows her everywhere and she appears to be quite fond of him too!

    While nothing seemed to be missing from Wild Quest last year, coming “home” to Buddy this year made it easier to leave a day on the water with the dolphins. As the boat approached the dock, we saw Buddy waiting for us. We all looked for him and called out to him, excited to see him. His tail subtly flipped up and thumped back down, once. Then, with some encouragement, he began to howl, making us laugh and then howl back. There were people waiting on the dock for us too, but something about seeing Buddy the dog there lightened our spirits. Coming “home” was like coming home at home!
    When I was meditating outside early one morning, Buddy approached and placed his head under my hand. Since my eyes were closed, I didn’t see him coming and was delighted to feel his head there and tell him good morning. Later in the week, when two of us took out a kayak for an early morning paddle, Buddy swam out and tried to climb in. We had to escort him back to shore, but again I was happy to see him. He will make someone a fine, true companion.

    Buddy’s life must have changed a lot since he appeared at Wild Quest, from the life of a stray with nobody, to having eight regular caretakers and meeting several new friends every week. I hope he’ll have a bright future in Colorado. I was excited to learn from Wild Quest about a program to help the stray dogs of Bimini. Learn more about it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Stray-Dogs-of-Bimini/128258473969736?fref=ts.
    At the end of the trip, coming home was as exciting as ever. Although I was very tired, I was still overjoyed to be greeted by my three dogs and my cat. Several of my friends have lost their pets to old age recently and I know my guys will not be here forever. So I cherish every moment and miss them a lot when I’m gone. There is nothing more precious than coming home… coming home to their love and excitement!

    I feed my dogs Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets to build healthy and strong immune systems, good endurance, and beautiful, soft coats. Enter discount code JPavlovic to receive a 20% discount on your first online Omega Fields order.

  • Equine Research: Protein

    Written By Dr. Kristina Hiney

    This month I will begin a new series which tries to summarize some of the new information which has been gathered in equine nutrition.  I will be grouping similar topics together and trying to summarize how this information might be relevant to you and your horse.  We will discuss if this new information means you should change what you have been doing, or you can feel reassured that you are right on track!  And remember not all information may be relevant for your horse.  There is no need to feed your mature gelding who is trail ridden on the weekend like an endurance horse preparing for a 100 mile ride!

    This month we will focus on some new information on protein nutrition in the horse.  Certainly this is the time of year when many of us are busy procuring our hay supplies for the upcoming year.  Often we want the very best for our horses, and typically look for high quality alfalfa hays.  But is that necessary, especially in a year where the weather does not cooperate and hay selection may be more limited?  In a study using mature idle geldings, the digestibility and usefulness of protein from a variety of hays was tested.   Horses were fed diets of either  mixed grass hay alone, the mixed hay with increasing amounts of oats, or alfalfa hay that was either early bloom, mid bloom or late bloom.  As the maturity of alfalfa hay increases, typically its protein content decreases.   Therefore, many horsemen prefer earlier bloom alfalfa.  But is this necessary? In this particular study the horses were also fed at just 1.6% of their body weight as fed, which is typically a little lower than most people feed.  Thus these horses might have been fed at a lower rate than the average horseman would feed.    As expected, the protein intake of the horses increased as they were fed the alfalfa hay, with increased protein intake the earlier the stage of maturity. The digestibility of the protein in the diet also increased when fed straight alfalfa compared with the mixed hay, and digestibility was greater with less mature alfalfa.  That does reconfirm our knowledge that forages of later maturity are indeed less digestible.  However, the nitrogen retention between the groups of horses was not different.  Nitrogen retention refers to how much nitrogen remains in the horse’s body.  So if the horse’s nitrogen intake (which is reflective of protein intake) was higher, but the nitrogen did not remain in the horse’s body, where did it go?  The extra nitrogen was actually excreted in the urine.  You may remember from our earlier series on protein nutrition that excess protein consumed cannot be stored in the horse’s body. Instead, the nitrogen is removed from the amino acid, and the remainder of it can be used for energy or stored as fat.  Overall, for mature idle horses, there is no need to feed these higher “octane” hays, as it all that extra protein just ended up back on the ground!  There was no value to the horse in these high protein hays.

    However, what if you are not feeding a mature, idle horse, but instead are feeding mares and foals?  Their protein requirements are undoubtedly quite higher.  But it is not just protein quantity we must consider, but also the amino acid profile of the diet.  You may remember from previous articles that equine nutritionists have only described the requirements for lysine in the horse.  This is in stark contrast to other species in which the complete amino acid requirements have been well defined for  both growth and lactation. In other species, lysine is also known to be the first limiting amino acid, followed by threonine and methionine.   It is presumed that this may be true in horses as well.   In a study looking at pregnant mares, their subsequent foals and the mare’s themselves during lactation, researchers posed the question if plasma amino acid concentrations would differ after eating.   Theoretically, plasma amino acids which increase the least after eating immediately following a fast indicates the limiting amino acids.  In the weanlings, the amino acids which increased the least were methionine and lysine, for lactating mares it was methionine and for pregnant mares on this particular diet the amino acid which increased the least was leucine, one of the branched chain amino acids.  This study supports the idea that methionine may be the second limiting amino acid for nursing mares and weanlings, but leucine may also need to be considered.  However, this study did not provide information on how much of these amino acids may actually be needed in the diet, but stresses the need for additional studies.

    The final study we will look at did try and examine the question of methionine needs in growing horses.   In a study which looked at the growth rate and plasma metabolites of weanling horses fed differing amounts of methionine, growth rate did not change with addition of methionine. However, weanlings were only fed the diet for 56 d which way not have been long enough to observe differences.    Addition of methionine did result in a decrease in plasma urea nitrogen.  But what exactly does that mean?   Remember that any extra amino acids must be catabolized and the amine group is removed as urea. The urea is synthesized in the liver, but excreted by the kidney.  Urea circulates though the blood prior to its removal.  An increase in plasma urea N indicates an increase in amino acid catabolism, which takes place if protein synthesis is limited by the availability of amino acids.  If we assume that an increase in methionine in the diet allowed more protein synthesis to occur, this would result in more N retention, and less amino acid catabolism.  In this study, the authors did not observe a linear decrease in plasma urea nitrogen as  methionine was increased beyond 0 .2% of the concentrate. In this example, the weanlings were fed at a rate of 1.25% of their body weight in concentrate, or about 8.4 g of methionine.  You may have noticed that many feed companies now include the levels of methionine in their product.  Using this study as an indicator of methionine requirements, at least for weanling horses would indicate that methionine should at least be at the level of .2% of the concentrate if fed in comparable amounts. If less concentrate is fed, than the concentration of methionine should be higher.

    To summarize what we can take from these three studies, we have reaffirmed that mature idle horses don’t really need high protein hays. While their protein may be more digestible, those amino acids remain largely wasted.  For horses with higher protein needs, it may be time for us to turn our attention to more than just protein quantity, but quality as well.  Hopefully soon we will have better knowledge on exact amino acid requirements, but at least we are now somewhat closer to knowing about methionine!

  • 10 Tips for Healthier Chickens

    Written By Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick®

    All backyard chicken-keepers have an interest in keeping their pet chickens healthy and happy and making minor adjustments to various aspects of their care can have a significant impact on their health and longevity. There are a number of small steps that can be taken to promote the health of backyard chickens.

    1. Provide the correct feed: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/11/feeding-chickens-at-different-ages.html
    As basic as it sounds, chickens must be fed properly to perform optimally and to be healthy. Even though our great grandparents may have fed their flocks cracked corn or scratch, advances in science and the work of poultry nutritionists reveals that backyard chickens require much more nutritionally to live long, healthy lives, while producing maximally nutritious eggs. Chickens at different stages of development require different feed formulations. While the feed manufacturer's recommendations for their products should always be followed, generally speaking, day old chicks through eight weeks old should be provided with starter feed. Adolescent chickens up to 18 weeks of age should be fed a grower or a flock-raiser type ration and laying hens http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/01/how-hen-makes-egg-egg-oddities.html
    should be fed layer ration no earlier than 18 weeks of age or the the appearance of their first egg. Layer feed contains calcium that laying hens need for eggshell production but can be detrimental to younger birds.

    While layer feed contains added calcium, an additional source of calcium, such as oyster shells or crushed eggshells, should be made available in a separate dish, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/05/my-pvc-chicken-feeder-diy-instructions.html
    apart from the feed.

    2. Limit Treats: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/chicken-treats-guide-dont-love-your.html
    The ingredients in commercially prepared chicken feed are carefully calculated by poultry nutritionists to ensure that a chicken’s daily vitamin, mineral and protein requirements are met. Supplemental foods (treats/snacks) http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/chicken-treats-guide-dont-love-your.html
    replace a portion of those essential dietary elements to some degree. Excessive treats, even healthy ones, can cause any of the following: obesity, malformed eggs, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/01/how-hen-makes-egg-egg-oddities.html
    habitual laying of multiple-yolked eggs, vent prolapse, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/04/prolapse-vent-causes-treatment-graphic.html
    protein deficiencies, feather-picking, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2013/03/chicken-feather-loss-cannibalism-causes.html
    fatty liver syndrome, egg binding, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/chicken-egg-binding-causes-symptoms.html
    reduced egg production, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/12/decrease-in-egg-production-causes.html
    increased risk of heat stroke http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/04/beat-heat-how-to-help-chickens-survive.html
    and heart problems. No more than ten percent of a flock's daily dietary intake should consist of treats.

    Common sense should be the guide in treat selection. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/chicken-treats-guide-dont-love-your.html
    The types of foods we require to maximize our own health are the foods we should consider when spoiling our chickens: high protein, whole grains, low salt, low sugar, fruits and vegetables. Dairy products are an exception to this general rule because birds are not equipped with the enzymes necessary to properly digest milk sugars. Some yogurt on occasion is fine and does contain beneficial bacterial cultures, but too much dairy can cause digestive upset and diarrhea. Opt for probiotics specially formulated for poultry http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2013/02/probiotics-natural-choice-for-healthy.html
    in lieu of yogurt for good gut health. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/02/whats-scoop-on-chicken-poop-digestive.html

    Healthy Treats for Chickens
    Scrambled Eggs- it may seem ironic to feed chickens eggs, but eggs are an outstanding source of protein, vitamin A, vitamin E and beta carotene.2  Chickens will not develop a raw, egg-eating habit http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/10/egg-eating-chickens-how-to-break-habit.html
    as a result of eating scrambled eggs.  During a molt, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/12/molting-what-is-it-and-how-to-manage-it.html
    eggs are one of the best sources of protein to feed a chicken.

    Pumpkins are packed with antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E, minerals including copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus, dietary fiber and protein in the seeds. Pumpkin seeds contain 30 grams of protein per 100 grams of seeds.1  When  pumpkins are in season, I make my flock "Peeps' Pumpkin Pie," http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/10/chickens-pumpkin-seeds-and-worm
    for a nutritionally power-packed treat. Unsupported claims propose feeding pumpkin seeds to chickens as a “natural dewormer," however, there is no scientific evidence anywhere to suggest that pumpkin seeds are capable of deworming or reducing worm loads in chickens. As such, I do not rely on pumpkin seeds as a preventative measure or as a treatment option in my flock. I give my chickens pumpkins and pumpkin seeds simply because they're nutritious and they enjoy them.

     

    Meal worms are a good source of protein, reportedly containing 49% http://www.exoticnutrition.com/limein.html
    to 51%. http://www.happyhentreats.com/Products.html
    They can be purchased live or dried and can also be farmed very easily at home. During a molt, http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/12/molting-what-is-it-and-how-to-manage-it.html
    meal worms are an especially smart snack choice.

    Homemade Flock Block Substitute- http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/10/flock-block-substitute-recipe-healthy.html
    Flock Block is a commercially available treat for chickens that is intended to entertain them and fulfill their natural pecking instincts.They can be purchased at feed stores for approximately $13. I have purchased the product once or twice, but have always thought I could make a similar treat myself. I made my own treat block recently and am much happier knowing that my homemade Flock Block Substitute http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/10/flock-block-substitute-recipe-healthy.html
    is a healthy, fresh, nutritious treat for my flock. The recipe includes Omega Ultra Egg, which increases Omega-3 levels in eggs, improves laying rates and chickens' health and lends naturally occurring amino acids to the recipe, which serve as important building blocks of the protein in feathers and eggs.

    A note about scratch. Scratch is affectionately referred to as ‘chicken crack’ for a reason; chickens love it, can’t get enough of it and it’s not the best choice for them. Scratch typically consists of cracked corn and a mixture of grains, which tends to lack an appreciable amount of protein, vitamins and minerals. Scratch should be thought of as chicken candy and only given in small amounts occasionally. *Scratch should not be mixed into the flock’s feed.*

     

    3. Clean Water: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/the-advantages-of-poultry-nipples.html
    Provide clean, fresh water to chickens at all times. Again, this sounds like common sense, but most backyard chickens drink from waterers harboring fecal matter, bacteria and other organisms that can make them sick. The solution to dirty water is employing poultry nipple waterers. "Nobody who is raising chickens professionally has used cups, bell drinkers or troughs in the past 25 years. ... Nipples have been used successfully on literally billions of chickens. The professional farmers across North America have made nipple drinkers the standard for all chickens. ... The disease reduction is so striking that there is no doubt which [system] is better." http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/the-advantages-of-poultry-nipples.html

    4. Apple Cider Vinegar in drinking water:
    Adding apple cider vinegar http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/make-raw-apple-cider-vinegar-acv-with.html
    with the mother to the drinking water of chickens can improve their gut health by changing the pH of the water, making it inhospitable to many organisms. "Acidifying water alters the gut’s bacteria, slowing the growth of nasty bacteria, and giving a boost to good bacteria. Acid also helps control coccidiosis and Clostridium bacteria, which can cause a fatal disease called necrotic enteritis." http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/make-raw-apple-cider-vinegar-acv-with.html
    One to two tablespoons per gallon of water is the suggested amount of vinegar.

    5. Clean Living Quarters
    A cleaner coop is a healthier coop. Chickens have sensitive respiratory systems which are easily irritated by mold and ammonia from accumulated droppings. Clean coops are less likely to house external parasites such as mites and poultry lice. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/poultry-lice-and-mites-identification.html
    For five ways to keep a cleaner coop with less effort, click here. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/10/5-tips-for-cleaner-coop-with-less-effort.html

    6. Dry Bedding:
    A wet environment created by accumulated droppings or spilled water, provides a breeding ground for coccidia and other harmful organisms to flourish. Coccidiosis http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/12/coccidiosis-what-backyard-chicken.html
    is an intestinal disease that can rapidly kill chickens if it goes undetected or untreated. Three ways to ensure the driest environment possible are:
    by employing a droppings board http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/04/droppings-boards-because-poop-happens.html
    and removing droppings from it daily
    by using sand as coop litter/bedding http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/09/chicken-coop-bedding-sand-litter.html
    and as ground cover in the run
    by keeping waterfowl and chickens in different yards (Less moisture results in fewer opportunities for organisms to grow that can make chickens sick.)
    Many diseases and illnesses are easily kept at bay by keeping living conditions dry.

    7. Observe Droppings:
    The first sign of a potential health problem often will be found in a chicken's droppings. Knowing which droppings are normal and which are abnormal http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/02/whats-scoop-on-chicken-poop-digestive.html
    is an extremely useful tool in assessing  chickens' health. Installing a droppings board underneath the roost provides a regular opportunity to observe abnormalities unobscured by shavings or other bedding material. Keeping a well-stocked first aid kit http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/01/chicken-sick-bay-first-aid-kit-be.html
    handy to treat some of the more common illness and disease early is highly recommended.

    8. Break up Broody Hens: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/05/broody-breaker-when-hens-mood-to-hatch.html
    A broody hen is one that is inspired to sit on a collection of eggs until she hatches chicks. Whether she is sitting on a clutch of fertile eggs or an empty nest, she will sit and wait for chicks to hatch indefinitely. In the 21 days normally required to hatch eggs, a broody leaves her nest briefly once or twice daily to eat, drink and relieve herself, neglecting her own health for the good of her anticipated chicks. Her comb will lose color, feathers lose sheen and she will lose a noticeable amount of weight. She can tolerate this drastic change in 21 day stints, but protracted periods of broodiness are unhealthy for her. She becomes vulnerable to external parasites, malnourished and emaciated.  Broody hens that will not be permitted to hatch chicks, either due to the unavailability of fertile eggs or the preference of the chicken-keeper, she should be broken/broken-up http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/05/broody-breaker-when-hens-mood-to-hatch.html
    as soon as possible to return them to their regular routines.

    9. No Supplemental Light for Youngsters: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/09/supplemental-light-in-coop-why-how.html
    Providing supplemental lighting when natural daylight hours decrease to 13 hours or less is a safe and common practice undertaken to keep hens producing eggs in the autumn and winter months. However, adolescent chickens should not be exposed to supplemental lighting as it can cause them to reach sexual maturity too soon, resulting in egg-laying before their bodies are properly equipped. Egg-binding http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/chicken-egg-binding-causes-symptoms.html
    and prolapsed uterus http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/04/prolapse-vent-causes-treatment-graphic.html
    are two of the possible consequences of premature egg-laying.

    10. Provide Dust Bathing Areas:
    A dust bath http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2013/01/chicken-dust-baths-ultimate-spa.html
    is the chicken equivalent of a daily shower. Chickens dig shallow spots in dirt, sand, or even flower pots to work into their skin and feathers to aid in skin and feather maintenance and parasite control. A dust bath can be as simple as a dry patch of dirt in the backyard or a shallow bucket filled with sand. No additives or supplements are necessary to accomplish the objective. According to Gail Damerow http://www.utc.edu/Academic/TennesseeWriters/authors/damerow.gail.html
    in The Chicken Encyclopedia, :    http://bit.ly/10iY4Pt
    adding diatomaceous earth (DE) wood ashes or lime-and-sulfur garden powder to their dust bath is hazardous to their respiratory health http://shagbarkbantams.com/de.htm

    and should be avoided unless they are "seriously infested" with parasites. Even in that case, she writes, "the benefit may outweigh the danger of TEMPORARILY adding such materials" (p. 93, emphasis added).

    For an extensive list of healthy treats for chickens, visit my blog here. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/chicken-treats-guide-dont-love-your.html

    The treat trail. They will follow me anywhere for treats!
    JOIN ME ON FACEBOOK! http://www.facebook.com/Egg.Carton.Labels.by.ADozenGirlz

    Further reading:
    1 http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/pumpkin.html
    2 http://www.motherearthnews.com/eggs.aspx#ixzz2AcKccLNq
    http://www.poultryhelp.com/toxicplants.html

  • The Little Girl Who Jumps Up and Down

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic (and Chase)

    There is nothing quite like the feeling of seeing a little girl jump up and down when your dog enters the library. Her joyful enthusiasm makes you smile. She read a story to your dog last month and wants to read to him again. She doesn't have a dog at home. Your dog knows just how to be calm while she jumps, then snuggle in next to her on the quilt and give her his undivided attention while she reads a story to him. She’s just learning to read and gets frustrated easily by new words. She’s been teased and bullied on the playground at school. You want so much to build her confidence, to let her know how beautiful and smart and wonderful she is. That when we encounter something unfamiliar, like a new word, we can discover it like a treasure.

    You’re grateful to your dog for everything about him that makes this little girl jump up and down. You knew the library visits would be about helping her learn to read. But now you’d like to think that you and your dog can also be an antidote to bullying, a couple of true friends in a world that sometimes feels very unkind. You hope that fifteen minutes per month of your friendship and undivided attention can not only build her confidence in her reading, but also make a positive difference in her life. And of course, help her learn to love and be kind to dogs.

    You call your mom, a retired teacher who specialized in reading, and ask her how to help the little girl with her stumbling blocks and frustration. You become closer to your mom. You’re amazed at how much she knows, and grateful that she instilled in you a love of reading, a love for books so deep that you not only read them, you write them too. You don’t have children of your own, and you realize that you love to sit and listen to kids read.

    As you watch the little girl’s confidence grow, you hope she will always have the enthusiasm that she shows for your dog, and for reading. Your dog is very intuitive; he knows just what she needs.  He led you into this work, and you realize that he knows just what you need too. You wonder who’s getting the most out of your visits, the little girl, your dog, or you.
    The fifteen minutes go by quickly and the next child is waiting, with book in hand. It’s time to say goodbye, until next time. All three of you, the little girl, your dog, and you, eagerly anticipate your next visit and the story you’ll share. During the month between, you often think of the little girl out there in the big world, and look for books she will like to read. You wonder if your dog thinks about her too.

    ~~~~~~
    Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets keep Chase healthy and give him a soft and shiny pettable coat that the kids like to snuggle up to.

  • B Vitamins

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    This month we will conclude our discussion of vitamins with the B vitamins. There are many vitamins that are traditionally referred to as the B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxal phosphate, panthothenic acid and cobalamin.  You may even associate them with their “numbers” so to speak: B1, B2 etc. These are all water soluble vitamins which can be synthesized by the microbial population of the hindgut of the horse.  In many circumstances this microbial synthesis of vitamins is adequate to support normal physiological functions in the horse.  However, under some conditions, supplementation of these vitamins becomes necessary. Unfortunately relatively little is actually known about the true requirements of the horse for many of these vitamins.  We will primarily focus on the vitamins which have the most information available; thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and biotin.


    We will begin our discussion of the significant B vitamins with thiamin, one of the most commonly supplemented B vitamins.  Thiamin is a vitamin which is required in many reactions which support energy metabolism, or the production of ATP.  Deficiencies of thiamin in the horse can result in muscle fasciculation, ataxia and most frequently in appetence.   However, true thiamin deficiencies in horses are very infrequent.  Nevertheless,   it is often supplemented when horses go off feed to restore their appetite.  There is some evidence that the exercising horse may require more thiamin, which is presumably related to their higher rate of metabolism.  Dietary sources of thiamin are typically found in the concentrate portion of a horse’s diet.  Cereal grains, their by-products, and  brewer’s yeast are especially high in thiamin.   Overall, maintenance horses are currently recommend to consume 3 mg thiamin/kg of DM consumed while exercising horses should consume 5 mg of thiamin/kg of DM.  If we use a standard 500 kg horse as an example, and assume it is consuming 2% of its body weight in dry matter (or 10 kg of feed), this horse should consume between 30-50 mg of thiamin per day.

    Riboflavin, historically referred to a B2, is another vitamin which is required in energy producing pathways, especially in the electron transport chain.  Riboflavin also functions in lipid metabolism and as an anti-oxidant.  Riboflavin, like thiamin, is synthesized in the hindgut of the horse through microbial fermentation.  Interestingly, no documented cases of riboflavin deficiencies have been reported in the equine.  Legumes are relatively high in riboflavin, so horses consuming alfalfas or clovers should have little difficulty in meeting their riboflavin requirements.   Even horses consuming grass sources of forages easily meet their riboflavin requirement.  The current recommendation of horses is to consume 2 mg of riboflavin per kg of DM, but even grasses contain 7-10 mg of riboflavin/kg of DM. Therefore there appears to be little reason to supplement horses with riboflavin.

    Niacin, traditionally referred to as B3, participates heavily in oxidation/reduction reactions in the body which are vital to energy metabolism. Niacin can not only be produced in the hindgut, but it can further be synthesized by the horse through the conversion of tryptophan to niacin within the liver.  Like riboflavin, niacin deficiency has also not been described in the horse.  Currently, there is not even a recommended dietary intake for horses for niacin.

    Biotin is a water soluble vitamin which is a co-factor in many carboxylation reactions (addition of carbon to a compound).  These are important reactions in gluconeogenesis (the synthesis of glucose by the body) and fatty acid synthesis.  Of traditional horse feeds, alfalfa supplies the highest concentration.   Once again, the microbial microflora are also quite capable of synthesizing biotin. While no distinct deficiencies of biotin have been reported, low quality hooves are often associated with low biotin.  Supplementation of biotin in the range of 15-20 mg day has been reported to improve hoof wall integrity, structure and strength.  However, when supplementing biotin, horse owners must realize that significant effects do take quite some time to be realized.  The shortest time period of supplementation which achieved positive effects on hoof growth and hardness was 5 months, with some studies reporting a need to supplement for over a year.

    Finally, there are certainly many other vitamins that may be of interest to the horse owner, such as folate, lipoic acid, cobalamin etc.  We do know that synthesis of cobalamin, or B12 does require the mineral cobalt to be incorporated.  However, horses appear to be quite capable of doing so and do not appear to need any supplementation.  In fact, horses can graze cobalt deficient pastures with no ill effect where ruminants would die from deficiency diseases.  Currently there is a paucity of information available to guide the horse owner in best practices concerning many of these other vitamins. Perhaps someday we will know more about these important vitamins and can make better recommendations for dietary values to enhance the health status of the horse.  Until then, just be thankful your horse has its gut bugs, he couldn’t do it without them!

  • How OHS and OG would be best replacement product for Platinum Performance

    We are often asked by consumers how our products compare to Platinum Performance and rather Omega Horseshine or Omega Grande would be the best replacement product. please find an overview of Omega Horseshine®, Omega GRANDE®, and Platinum Performance – along with our Bottom Line Recommendation.

    Detailed Description of Omega Horseshine®:

    Omega Horseshine contains the best premium, stabilized ground flax base enhanced with a small percentage of a blend of biotin, yeast (probiotic), oats (antioxidant), vitamins, and chelated minerals. Omega Horseshine is to be considered a powerful Omega-3 supplement (approx 28,000 mg Omega-3 per 1 cup serving!). It is not to be considered a vitamin, mineral, or biotin supplement by any means. The small amount of ingredients (other than stabilized flax) in the formula actually works to promote best absorption of nutrition when the flax is being metabolized. When proper nutrition is present for the horse's body, the horse is better able to assimilate and utilize the Omega-3 essential fatty acid oil in the flax seed much more efficiently. The naturally occurring shorter chained Omega-3s in flax --Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) -- can more effectively be converted by the body into the longer chained Omega-3s -- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) -- when the proper nutritional support is present. The Omega Horseshine formula helps assure that the proper nutritional support is present. Thus, the horse has the full spectrum of Omega-3s available for optimum health. Omega-3 is a very powerful anti-inflammatory and can help alleviate joint pain, allowing more freedom of movement. Omega Horseshine can also be used as an alternative for psyllium to prevent sand colic. It is readily accepted by horses and is easy to serve.

    The outer coating, or membrane, of every one of the billions of cells in the horse's body is unusually rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, Omega-3 essential fatty acids are the main structural fat that makes up this membrane and plays such a vital role in how cells function. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are the first fats utilized by the body. Since they are the first fats utilized – they do not get stored as body fat. When the cell's membrane is healthy and working at its optimal level, it can let in all the good nutrition for the cell, as well as eliminate all the toxins which will be carried out of the cell and removed by the bowels. It is really quite simple: Healthy cells = Healthy body!

    Omega Horseshine contains 30% crude fat and has a 39% Carbohydrate level with a Non Structural Carbohydrate (NSC) level of 4.4% (Starch .6% and Sugar 3.8%). It is one of the safest and most natural ways to supplement the healthy Omega-3 fat in animals -- which provides side "benefits" of beautiful bloom, soft smooth skin, strong solid hoof growth, prevention of inflammatory problems from bug bites/allergies, relief from arthritic pain, and sufficient Omega-3 for pregnant mares.

    Ingredients: Stabilized Ground Flax Seed, Yeast Culture (Diamond V Yeast), Ground Oats, Calcium Carbonate, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Copper Sulfate, Folic Acid, Niacinamide, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Biotin, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Riboflavin and Thiamine.

    Detailed Description of Omega GRANDE®:
    Omega GRANDE – the COMPLETE equine supplement -- is formulated to provide the recommended daily essential vitamins and minerals (custom-formulated and blended mix) required for performance horses with the added benefits of stabilized, super anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids from ground flaxseed (approx 27,396 mg Omega-3 per 1-1/2 cup serving!), stabilized rice bran & ground grain sorghum seed (two super powerful plant-based antioxidants high in Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) to help build a strong immune system), Diamond V® Yeast (effective probiotic as an aid for digestion), biotin, and a custom-formulated vitamin/mineral mix.
    Omega GRANDE is intended to be supplemented to working horses being fed grass hay. Omega GRANDE does not contain any corn or wheat. When the body has proper functional nutrition, in the right balance -- the level of cell membrane integrity improves -- thus improving the level of optimal health. Omega GRANDE eliminates the need for extra supplementation and can also be used as an alternative for psyllium to prevent sand colic. Omega GRANDE is readily accepted by horses and is easy to serve. Omega GRANDE does not contain any processed grain by-products, molasses or sugar.
    Ingredients:  Stabilized Ground Flaxseed, Stabilized Rice Bran, Ground Grain Sorghum, Diamond V Yeast, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Polysaccharide Complex, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Polysaccharide Complex, Biotin, Sodium Selenite, Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6)
    Guaranteed Analysis:
    Crude Protein, % Min 16.0
    Arginine, % Min. 0.884
    Leucine, % Min. 0.772
    Isoleucine, % Min. 0.559
    Valine, % Min. 0.622
    Lysine, % Min. 0.423
    Phenylalanine, % Min. 0.490
    Threonine, % Min. 0.411
    Histidine, % Min. 0.234
    Methionine, % Min. 0.211
    Tryptophan, % Min. 0.155
    Crude Fat, % Min. 22.0
    Crude Fiber, % Max. 13.0
    Calcium, % Min. 1.8
    Calcium, % Max. 2.0
    Phosphorus, % Min. 1.0
    Magnesium, % Min. 0.43
    Potassium, % Min. 0.62
    Copper, ppm Min. 274.0
    Selenium, ppm Min. 4.2
    Zinc, ppm Min. 1,480.0
    Manganese, ppm, Min. 61.0
    Vitamin A, IU/lb. Min. 33,500
    Vitamin E, IU/lb. Min. 1,500
    Vitamin D, IU/lb. Min. 4,600
    Omega-3 Fatty Acids, % Min. 8.0
    Omega-6 Fatty Acids, % Min. 3.6
    Omega-9 Fatty Acids, % Min. 4.1
    Omega Essential Fatty Acid Content - Per 3 scoop serving (228 g):
    27,396 mg of Omega-3
    12,390 mg of Omega-6
    14,015 mg of Omega-9
    Selenium, Biotin and Kcal Content - Per 3 scoop serving (228 g):
    0.95 mg of Selenium
    5.0 mg of Biotin
    1053.0 Kcal
    The correct daily serving size is 3 scoops (1-1/2 cups) for a 1000-1200 lb. horse. Omega GRANDE is COMPLETE and is the only supplement your horse will need with either chopped up grass or hay. It is readily accepted by horses and is easy to serve. All the benefits of the stabilized ground flax and MORE! Omega GRANDE will provide the proper balance for your horses.
    Omega GRANDE is in a powdered form (we choose not to pelletize our products as there is a definite benefit for your horse in minimally-processed feeds that are closest to “whole foods”). The 15 lb bag is a 30 day supply for one horse.
    Please take a moment to scan over these multiple benefits horses would experience when supplementing with Omega GRANDE.
    Improve hoof strength and growth:
    Since poor hoof growth may be a sign of Omega-3 deficiency, and Omega GRANDE provides the highest levels of Omega-3 -- it is an excellent choice for helping create healthy strong thick-walled hoof growth without cracks. There is also 5.0 gr of Biotin per serving. Based on our customers' comments on the results they've seen -- they were able to cut way back on or discontinue any additional hoof supplements when supplementing with Omega GRANDE.
    Beautiful shiny coat and healthy skin:
    Problems with poor hair condition or dull dry coat/skin may be attributed to an Omega-3 deficiency in the horse's body. The stabilized ground flax used in Omega GRANDE is very high in Omega-3 essential fatty acids (flax is the richest source of Omega-3 in the plant world). This makes it ideal because it is heavily tipped in favor of the Omega-3s your horse's diet may be missing. Also the custom-blended mix of required daily vitamins and minerals helps assure that your horse is getting the correct balance for all-over body health -- from the inside out. One of the first visible signs when supplementing with Omega GRANDE will be a soft shiny coat.
    Alleviate inflammation associated with joint pain:
    The membrane, or outer coating, of every one of the billions of cells in the body are unusually rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. In fact Omega-3 fatty acids are the structural fat that makes up this membrane and play a vital role in how cells function. To understand how Omega GRANDE® (as a rich source of stabilized Omega-3 essential fatty acids and immune building plant and vitamin based antioxidants) helps improve a horse's quality of life, let’s take a look at how cells behave when they are aging and/or damaged by trauma such as injury, surgery, over-training, allergic reactions, stress, or disease. When a cell is irritated or damaged, or when it begins to age, its membranes break down. As a result, compounds contained within the cell walls are released into the cell matrix. Some of these substances, such as histamine, give rise to inflammation and associated pain.

    Inflammation is a horse's natural response to injury. Inflammation is characterized by redness, swelling, heat and moderate to intense discomfort. When a joint becomes inflamed, your horse may experience any or all of these symptoms. If this occurs in joint areas it can prevent the joint from moving properly, leading to stiffness and loss of function. Researchers have found that the “diseases of aging” or "damage by trauma" in horses have similar underlying factors: a decrease in cell stability leading to membrane damage and subsequent release of compounds that promote damage, spasm and inflammation.

    The Omega-3 essential fatty acids and antioxidants in Omega GRANDE® work by stabilizing the membranes of the cells, promoting healing of existing damage and helping to prevent further damage. On a practical level, this means quality of life is improved, and you will see your horse experiencing freedom from pain. Many customers are able to cut way back on or discontinue glucosamine supplements altogether.
    Prevent muscle tying up:
    Omega GRANDE's base of stabilized ground flax seed helps maintain proper fluid and electrolyte balance in the small intestine that will lessen the incidence of tieing up and muscle cramping. The proper mineral and vitamin nutrition (in Omega GRANDE's custom blend) is important to help minimize oxidative stress and promote proper muscle function.
    Digestive stability:
    Studies have shown that Diamond V Yeast enhances digestibility and hindgut fermentation. The ground flaxseed in the Omega GRANDE also acts as a digestive aid.
    Effective alternative for psyllium to prevent sand colic:
    The stabilized ground flax in Omega GRANDE contains a high mucilage gum content (soluble fiber) that swells and takes on a gel-like consistency when it enters the digestive system -- trapping and suspending sand, carrying it out -- helping prevent impaction and sand colic. (Mucilage gum is a type of polysaccharide that becomes viscous when mixed with water or other fluids.) There is no need for adding psyllium when supplementing with any of our flax-based Omega Fields' products.
    There is a neat demonstration that can be performed that illustrates how effective the ground flax in Omega GRANDE is as a sand colic preventative. Mix Omega GRANDE with water and allow it to gel. Do the same thing with any product containing ground psyllium husks. The amount of "stickability" of each is very visible when you put a dipping or stirring stick into both the resulting mixtures. When you remove the stick you will be able to see how the material clings. When you remove the stick from the Omega GRANDE mixture, you will note the thicker "slime" or "goo" that coats the stick. This is the same slimy mucilage that forms when Omega GRANDE is fed to your horse and it is what suspends the sand, and carries it out of the horse's gut. When you remove the stick from the ground psyllium product mixture, you will note that the stick tends to "pop" free and there is less sticky "slime" or "goo".
    Detailed Description of Platinum Performance:

    According to their website, Platinum Performance is a comprehensive foundation formula for all horses.

    Note: We believe that Platinum Performance cannot be considered a mineral supplement beyond what is already present in the (some “high carb”!) ingredients. Major mineral levels are very low. Traces are also very low and in ratios that won't help a bit with most hays and may make common problems worse. The flax is a benefit, of course -- but you are getting that in Omega Horseshine (and it is stabilized -- and there is more of it per serving!).

    Ingredients: Flax Seed, Flax Oil, Rice Bran, Lactose Free Whey Protein Concentrate, Sunflower Seed, Soy Flour, Cane Molasses, Performance Minerals™ , Osteon™ (Natural Zeolite), Calcium Carbonate, Bio-Sponge® , dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, d-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Mixed Tocopherols, Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), Glucosamine Sulfate, Chromium Yeast, Selenium Yeast, L-Carnitine Tartrate, Zinc Gluconate, Magnesium Citrate, Manganese Citrate, Copper Gluconate, Cobalt Chelate, L-Lysine, L-Glutamine, Vitamin A, Vitamin D3, Iodine Chelate, dl-Methionine, Choline Bitartrate, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Biotin, Aloe Vera Concentrate, Vitamin B12, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid.

    Note: Sugar (molasses) is added to Platinum Performance's formula; however, there are no added sweeteners in the Omega Horseshine and Omega GRANDE more natural formulas! Horses do not need added sugar to their diet!
    Omega Fields’ Bottom Line Recommendation:
    Either Omega Horseshine or Omega GRANDE  would be a wonderful and relevant replacement for Platinum Performance. It really depends on what consumers are looking for in a supplement. Please know that both products are dry and easily top-dressed over feed, very palatable, and would contribute great focus and mind for horses. Also, neither of the products would make horses “hot”! If a consumer is looking for a basic Omega-3 supplement, we would recommend Omega Horseshine. If you are looking for an Omega-3, Antioxidant, Complete Vitamin/Mineral, Probiotic supplement, we would recommend Omega GRANDE. As mentioned – it really depends on what their looking for in a supplement.

  • Ouch, My Stomach Hurts

    Written By Walt Friedrich

    Horses are grazers. We all know that. They would spend 24 hours out of every day, doing just that if they could. It’s quite natural, and the wild ones actually do that because their lifestyles allow it. Domestics – not so much.

    Oh, they would if they could, but only the lucky ones get to spend much time on pasture. A large percentage of domestics are routinely stalled overnight as well as part of the day, effectively removing them from graze for more than half of their lives!

    And that’s unfortunate for a number of reasons. Here’s a big one: ulcers.

    See, their Creator had a beautiful plan in mind when She designed them. Let them nibble all the time, always have something in their stomachs, always ready for anything climate and weather throws their way. Because of that constant eating-machine design, She caused digestive stomach acid to be secreted constantly, always available to deal with food. And because the horse was constantly grazing, She made saliva quite potent and copious, helping to mediate all that stomach acid. She even coated the bottom half of the stomach with a mucous lining to protect it from that acid.

    It’s a brilliant design; constant stomach acid available to handle constant intake of grass, and plenty saliva to help control that powerful acid. It’s so slick that as long as the horse lives as She intended – wild – there was little need for anything more.

    Ah, but then came domestication, and everything changed – that is, for those we put to work for us. Those endless miles of wild-growing grass are no longer available to them. Instead of grazing 24/7, they get to eat hay, not steadily, but rather in one or two large “feedings” per day, along with a pound or two of grain – and maybe some pasture grass grazing in between, if they’re lucky.

    So, what does that altered eating cycle do to their stomachs? Well, since it’s empty much of the time but the acid keeps coming, they get to feeling like you and I do, when we get an acid stomach – but they have to live with it, on  a regular basis. They don’t have Prilosec or even Tums to help with that burning. But it doesn’t stop there – that acid that’s continuously pumped into the stomach whose upper half has no protective “armor plating”, freely attacks that surface, eventually eating holes into it, creating a nasty situation that results in – gasp – ulcers! And not just in the stomach – that stomach acid passes down into the digestive tract, where it can cause even more ulcers to form.

    It’s been said that there are just two kinds of domestic horses – those with ulcers and those who haven’t developed them yet. And these sweet, magnificent beasts can’t even tell us, in a way that most of us understand, that it hurts. They do give us the signals, but few of us seem to recognize them for what they are, and the horse just goes through life with stomach pain.

    Here are some of the signals:
    Poor performance
    Attitude changes
    Poor coat
    Poor body condition
    Tucked-up appearance
    Poor appetite
    Colic

    And more: a normally calm horse might…
    Kick inside the trailer
    Pin ears when being mounted for riding
    Flinch, bite or kick when girth tightened
    Act up in general

    Thus far, we’ve described the most common cause of ulcer development – constantly allowing our horse’s stomach to cycle between empty and full. Now let’s examine another cause, one that is actually a complication of cause number one and is particularly frustrating – excessive administration of NSAIDS, especially Bute.

    Bute is the most effective and most common high potency analgesic we give to our horses. It’s almost as common in treating horses as aspirin is to you and me. And it certainly is effective – but the horse pays a price, and sometimes a very heavy one, because Bute is a double-barreled remedy. Its chemical composition causes it to suppress two important enzymes. Enzyme One is responsible for the secretion of the stomach coating that protects its lower half from the destructive effect of its own stomach acid. Enzyme Two is responsible for allowing pain to be felt anywhere in the body.

    To explain, let’s consider a hypothetical: our horse is laminitic. We want to eliminate the pain, and so we dose him with Bute. Bute suppresses Enzyme Two, reducing or eliminating the pain – a good thing. But Bute also suppresses Enzyme One, preventing the protective stomach layer from forming – a bad thing. Now our horse is more comfortable with his pain reduced, but he’s vulnerable to the development of stomach ulcers because the stomach wall is unprotected. An occasional one mg dose of Bute is unlikely to result in an ulcer. But one mg twice a day for an extended period – common practice for treatment of laminitis and founder, for example – greatly increases the potential for those dreaded ulcers to develop, and we’ve got us a Hobson’s Choice.

    However, there is help. A large number of pharmaceuticals are available to counteract the effects of an ulcer, even to prevent its development in the first place. These include GastroGard, UlcerGard, Ranitidine, Sucralfate, Ulc-Rid, Succeed, Nutrient Buffer, among others. These preparations are effective to varying degrees, and the one thing they have in common is that they are expensive.

    Fortunately, a lower-cost, highly effective, non-pharmaceutical option is also available: lecithin. Lecithin replaces that stomach-protecting layer, lost when Bute suppresses Enzyme One. Lecithin is chemically very similar to that layer, which means that by replacing what Bute destroys, it counters Bute’s negative effect. Studies have confirmed that not only does lecithin reduce stomach injury, in some cases it even eliminates existing ulceration. What’s particularly impressive, it provides this protection without modifying the effectiveness of Bute as a pain killer. And adding icing to the cake, lecithin is readily available and comparatively inexpensive!

    We’re getting a little complicated, so let’s take a moment and recap the major points:

    Stomach acid: for ourselves, we think of it only when it’s backing up into our esophagus and causing heartburn. But it is absolutely vital. It initiates digestion of ingested food. For the horse, it is also his defense against all those microbes that accompany every bite of grass. But it can burn holes in his unprotected stomach.

    Protective stomach coating: a secreted substance known as a phospholipid. It protects the stomach wall from its own digestive acid.

    Bute (et al): an analgesic, especially important to horses, with a side-effect that results in the loss of the stomach-protective coating, leaving the horse vulnerable to developing ulcers.

    Commercially available ulcer medication, mostly pharmaceutical: treats and sometimes cures and prevents ulcers; expensive.

    Lecithin: a naturally occurring substance abundantly found in animal and plant cell membranes. As with pharmaceutical products, lecithin can prevent development of ulcers, even eliminate them. Relatively inexpensive.

    Just what is lecithin and where do we get it? Lecithin is also a phospholipid, very similar to the natural stomach protective coating, capable of supporting or replacing it. Soy beans are the primary source for commercially prepared lecithin. It is extracted from soybean oil during processing, and undergoes further processing to make it easily edible and palatable.

    Lecithin granules are available on-line. Search around, you’ll find it as low as about $5 per pound. If you dose your horse with one cup per day, he’ll be getting about five ounces of lecithin granules; thus one pound will last about three days, costing about $1.65 per day. The compounded anti-ulcer medications mentioned earlier range between $5 and $50 per day.

    Domestication has resulted in a fundamental change in the horse’s natural eating habits to the extent that he is much more subject to the development of gastric and intestinal ulcers. But we can counter that very negative result in two major ways. Where feasible, we can structure his daily routine to ensure he’ll have something in his stomach almost constantly. Where we can’t make that change, we can provide him regularly with effective medications to help his system fight off the development of an ulcer, and do so at  reasonable cost. Either way, we’ll be making a happier, healthier horse – and that’s a nice benefit to us, as well.

  • Show Me the Way:Adventures in Tracking Training

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

  • Vitamin C

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

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

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

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

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

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

  • On the Right Track

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

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

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

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

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

     

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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