Written By Dr. Kris Hiney
Nothing is more devastating to the horse owner than to have a treasured partner be afflicted by the painful, crippling disease of laminitis. Laminitis can be a debilitating disease that may ultimately result in the death of the horse or humane euthanization. Unfortunately there are so many factors that can manifest in development of this syndrome that it can be difficult to sort through.To understand the development of laminitis one should really understand the physiology of the equine foot. Essentially the hard keratinized tissue which forms the hoof wall is held to the soft tissue by the interdigitation between the sensitive and insensitive laminae. The insensitive laminae (seen here in Figure 1) is formed in vertical sheets on the inside of the hoof wall.Figure 1. An interior view of a horse’s hoof with the soft tissues removed. 1b. A schematic of the vertical lines of insensitive laminae lining the interior of the horse’s foot.Connecting to the insensitive laminae is the sensitive laminae, which is living tissue requiring an adequate blood supply of oxygen and nutrients to survive. When an alteration of blood flow or a vascular insult occurs inflammation or even death of the sensitive laminae can occur. The sensitive laminae ultimately stabilize the internal structures of the horse’s hoof, including the third phalanx (or coffin bone). When this stable connection is lost, the pull of the deep digital flexor tendon on the base of PIII rotates it out of place. This condition is referred to as chronic laminitis or founder.Figure 2. The sensitive laminae which connect the hoof wall to the horse’s foot.
Figure 3. A foundered hoof where PIII has rotated out of place due to the pull of the deep digital flexor tendon.There are many reasons why blood flow can be disrupted to the equine digit. Laminits is often a systemic disease which is only visualized in the foot. While digestive issues lead the list of causes of laminitis there are other physical insults which can occur as well. When procuring wood shavings from a reputable dealer, care should be taken never to include those of the black walnut tree. These shavings contain the chemical juglone, actually a toxin which can kill other plants in the black walnut environment. Other physical causes are concussive trauma, from being ridden on hard surfaces resulting in decreased blood flow to the foot, and excessive loading (i.e., one limb is severely lame resulting in extra loading to the sound limb). Endotoxemia, such as what might be seen in a mare with a retained placenta, may also result in the development of laminitis.Nutritionally, a whole series of gastric insults can alter blood flow to the foot. These include a carbohydrate overload (the classic example of the horse breaking into the feed bin) which leads to an alteration of fermentation in the hindgut. In order to prevent starch from escaping enzymatic digestion in the small intestine and escaping to the hind gut, it is recommended to avoid a starch intake of more than 2-4 g/kg of body weight per meal. Therefore, a 500 kg horse should receive no more than 1-2 kg of starch per meal. Pasture grasses have also long been known to precipitate bouts of founder, but typically only in susceptible populations. Ponies, and horses with thrifty genotypes are the most likely to suffer from pasture-associated laminitis. It is believed to be caused by a high level of fructans, although the quantity of fructans required to cause laminitis is unknown. Fructan content is known to vary with the time of year, with a higher content seen in the spring, when most pasture-associated laminitis occurs. Horses which are susceptible to pasture-associated laminitis should also limit their intake of pasture grass in the afternoon, when photosynthesis throughout the day has resulted in a higher level of fructans in the plant. The levels of water soluble carbohydrate gradually decline through the night, making grazing in the morning relatively safer. As the majority of horses which develop laminitis due so on pasture, rather than through the owner feeding excessive concentrates, at least some thought or caution should be used when grazing horses. Ideally horses should be introduced gradually to consuming fresh grass, and susceptible horses' grazing should be limited to when fructan concentrations are at their minimum.If a horse does develop chronic laminitis, unfortunately there is little the owner may do nutritionally to manage the horse. Obviously exposure to pasture grasses at peak times of fructan concentration should be avoided. Also, the horse should be managed to lower body weight to decrease the mechanical load on the laminae. Low energy forage should be the primary feed for the foundered horse. However, because low energy forages will typically be deficient in protein, minerals and vitamins, it is important to ensure that the horse is supplemented with a low energy concentrate to make up for dietary insufficiencies. As these horses are often in a great deal of pain, NSAID administration may often be needed, but can also contribute to gastrointestinal upsets. Alternatives to NSAIDS, such as Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, may help to alleviate some discomfort, without the negative side effects.Overall, close attention to the diet of the horse, avoiding GI disturbances or causing fluctuations within the hind gut, and limiting grass intake during periods of time where fructan concentrations can be high, will hopefully prevent the horse from ever experiencing this deadly disease.
Could Chicklet and Bazooka have avoided running into the moving car if they had learned “Wait and Stay?”Written By Leigh Pyron
I’m sure the first thing you’re thinking is Oh my gosh! are they alright? Yes, they did survive the collision with only minor injuries, thank goodness!It all started about six months ago when I received a call from a couple who desperately needed help with their two “out-of-control” Labradoodles named Chicklet and Bazooka. Both dogs had some basic obedience training when they were puppies, but unfortunately no one had taken the time to keep up with the training as they grew older. They had quite a few challenging behavior issues to address, such as, knocking adults and children over when greeting them, pulling their owners through the neighborhood on leash walks, and (one behavior they had truly perfected) “bolting” out of the house through the front door and from the back of their SUV.A few days later when I arrived at their home for a consult, a nice young couple, Denise and Mark and their two children, Jack and Samantha, greeted me at the door. As the kids ran off to play in their rooms, we took a seat at the dining room table to talk. I was very anxious to hear the story about the car incident. I was trying to concentrate on what they were saying, but all I could hear was the background noise of scratching and banging against a door somewhere down the hall. They had put the dogs in the kitchen and they could barely contain themselves anxiously waiting to meet the new human that had entered their house. I finally told them to go ahead and let the dogs out while I stood up and braced myself a bit against the table. In seconds, a burst of energy came bounding into the room and I was gregariously greeted by two very large Labradoodles, one apricot in color and resembling the curly poodle side of the Labradoodle, and a wiry haired chocolate one looking very much like an Irish Wolfhound. I was trying to practice my usual initial greeting of new dogs, ignoring them and keeping eye contact with the owners, but I wasn’t very successful. These two were bound and determined to win my undivided attention!As Denise and Mark were yelling out their names in redundancy, and with extreme embarrassment, they each grabbed a dog and peeled them off of me. The next thing I knew, they were tossing handfuls of treats in the opposite direction for them to fetch. As the dogs flew across the room in search of their treats, we were finally able to take our seats again at the table. They were just about to share their story with me again when our brief, peaceful moment came to another screaming halt. Because both dogs had Labrador in them, the treats were gone in a matter of seconds and before we knew it I had a chocolate, apricot parfait in my lap! Now someone who isn’t a dog lover would have probably left the house by now, but the two of them were quite comical in their battle to achieve the most affection from the visiting human. It was all I could do to keep from laughing as the poor couple turned red and grabbed the pooches off of me again! Needless to say, Chicklet and Bazooka ended up back in the kitchen for the rest of our visit.Now, finally, I would get to hear the long awaited story… One Saturday afternoon Denise had headed off to run some errands while Mark got the kids ready to take them to a friend’s house for the day. As the kids got into the car, Mark headed back into the house to get the dogs. He was the only one who could handle the two dogs, so he was the one responsible for exercising them. Once the kids were dropped off he headed for a hiking trail a few miles away. As he pulled over to park the car, he saw someone he knew going into a house across the street. As Mark caught the man’s attention he waved to the man, who hollered out to him that he was taking his son to a birthday party. Unfortunately, Mark could barely make out what he was saying due to Chicklet and Bazooka’s out-of-control barking, whining and scratching at the hatch door desperately trying to get out. He ended up just smiling at the man and waving goodbye. He then proceeded to change from his street shoes into his hiking boots. As he was putting on his boots, unbeknownst to him, one of the bootlaces had gotten tangled around a floor latch that just so happened to be the release for the back-door hatch. As he grabbed the second boot he realized it was caught on something and began to pull it towards him. All of a sudden the back hatch popped open and out bolted Chicklet and Bazooka into the street. As the dogs flew past him, Mark, flabbergasted and frantic, struggled to release his bootlace from the latch. He shoved his foot into his boot without lacing it and bolted out of the car himself to try and accost the crazy doodles at large!Chicklet and Bazooka immediately headed towards the house where the birthday party was commencing in the backyard. By the time Mark caught up with the two dogs and made it into the backyard, he found them standing on top of a picnic table devouring a Cookie-Monster birthday cake! The dogs were surrounded by a group of screaming, crying and laughing children and adults. Mortified by the scene his dogs were starring in, he ran at top speed hoping he could take them by surprise. The second they caught a glimpse of him they flew off the table and headed around the other side of the house back towards the car. As Mark made his way around the house to the street, he was just in time to see his two crazy dogs looking back at him as if to say, “hurry up he’s gaining on us!” Within seconds of that look, the dogs ran head-on into a moving mini van.Luckily for Chicklet and Bazooka the person in the van happened to be searching for a parking spot when they ran into it, so the van was barely moving. The dogs were a bit stunned and in shock, but they recovered just fine. Mark on the other hand was another story! Needless to say, Chicklet and Bazooka’s obedience training program would begin right away and it would definitely include “Wait and Stay!”Once your dog has learned “Wait and Stay” there are many ways you can practice using it:· At any entrance or exit of a house or building· Getting in and out of your vehicle· Ask for a “Wait” before releasing your dog to eat his meal· At street corners and intersections· To keep from entering an unsafe area, e.g., a glass breaking in the kitchen· Using it as a backup to recall. If your dog won’t “come” when you call, try “Wait or Stay” and walk towards him· Use it as a game to play with your dog inside or outside of your home. Ask your dog to “Wait/Stay” while you go and hide somewhere; then release him by calling to find you.Teaching “Wait and Stay”“Wait”– When you ask your dog to “Wait” they cannot move past the threshold where you asked them to wait, like the front door, but they can move about behind the threshold.Teaching “Wait” – Put your dog on a 6-foot leash and shorten the leash a bit only giving your dog a few feet of the leash as you walk towards the front door. As you reach to open the door, begin to turn your body around to face your dog with your back to the opening of the door. If your dog is used to going out the door ahead of your, you may have to quickly move in front of him blocking him from the exit. Once he is in place, ask your dog to “Wait” while holding out your hand with a flat, open palm facing him. Begin to slowly take a few steps backwards while keeping a hold on the leash. If he tries to move forward, take a quick step forward into his space forcing him to move back behind the threshold. Repeat “Wait” one more time. Once he has been successfully waiting for a few seconds, release him by saying, “OK” or “Release” giving him permission to pass through the threshold. You don’t have to treat him once you release him; he is rewarded by being allowed to move through the entrance. You can praise him and tell him he is a “good-boy.” Practice this both entering and exiting the house. Be sure not to make him wait too long at first, work on building up time and distance.“Stay”- When you ask your dog to “Stay” he can be in a sit, down or standing position. He must stay in position, without moving about, until you release him.Teaching “Stay” – Once your dog is in position tell him to “Stay” while holding out your hand with a flat, open palm facing him. Take a few steps backwards keeping an eye on him to be sure he remains in position. If he tries to move out of position, step forward moving him back into position, and ask for the “Stay” again. After a few seconds of staying in position, release him by saying, “OK” or “Release.” Remember to take your time building up on time and distance. If he keeps popping-up out of his position, you may be moving back too far or too fast. Start out at a short distance apart and only make him wait a few seconds the first several times you practice it.Have fun with these exercises. Once your dog has achieved “Wait and Stay” at close range, practice these exercises outdoors where you can really expand on your distance and time. When a dog learns commands through the fun of exercise and play they tend to learn very quickly and they don’t seem to forget it!
Written By Don SchriderQ. Do I need any special housing for my chickens?A. Chickens do need a shelter to get out of the rain and sun, and to block prevailing winds, but they do not need expensive or elaborate housing. Very simple or existing structures can be made to work. They should have good ventilation, without drafts, and should be secure from nighttime predators.Q. How do I heat my chicken house in the winter?A. There is no need to heat the chicken house. It is better to have the building open on the south side, so that fresh air will wick away moisture, dust, and ammonia from droppings. Sealing a chicken house tight in the winter actually results in more cases of frostbite and respiratory ailments.Q. What do I need to feed to get healthy eggs?A. Chicken eggs have been found to be an excellent source of protein, and the cholesterol in eggs has been found to be the good kind – the kind that decreases the bad cholesterol. But eggs from hens that range and that receive nutritional supplements have been found to be much more nutritious. One of the best supplements currently available is Omega Ultra Egg™. Omega Ultra Egg contains stabilized, whole-ground flaxseed and vitamins that boost the nutritional value
sof eggs and, in particular, increases Omega-3 essential fatty acids. This is very beneficial for us humans as many of our foods are high in Omega-6 and deficient in Omega-3.Q. How do I get more eggs?A. There are a number of things you can do to get more eggs, but the most important points to address are the basics: clean air, free of dust; fresh water; fresh, not stale, feed; freedom from internal and external parasites; and an environment which allows the birds to express their natural tendencies (such as dust bathing and nesting in a secluded spot). The birds should also be in good body condition, not too fat or too thin. Adding more corn to diet is good idea when hens are thin. Adding oats to the diet is a good way to bring over-conditioned hens into production.Q. I sometimes get soft-shelled eggs. Is there anything I can do about this?A. Hens that range on pasture, forage in grass yards, or forage in gardens often need a calcium supplement – eating less layer feed. It is good idea to provide the hens ground oyster shell that they may eat free choice. Other ways of including more calcium in the birds' diets include crushing and feeding egg shells back to them (crush so they do not look like an egg) and feed Omega Ultra Egg™ supplement which contains calcium. It is also a good idea to have grit available to help grind up the foods they forage. Free choice charcoal, as found in wood ashes from your fireplace or woodstove, is another supplement offered free choice. Charcoal tends to draw in toxins and so is useful for free ranging poultry.Q. What is the best breeding plan to use for my chickens?A. While many people believe breeding and mating is about producing superior individuals, the role of breeding is actually to manage genetic relationships such that a flock may produce healthy offspring for many years. When space allows, Spiral Breeding is the best overall method to manage genetic relationships. In Spiral Breeding birds are divided into three or more breeding groups. Each group is given a name, like A, B, and C. Daughters of a group join their mothers in that group – so Group A pullets join Group A hens in the next breeding season. Sons are mated to females of the next group – so Group A sons are used only with females from Group B. Culling and selection are the tools that produce superior individuals, or, rather, cause these to be produced from a flock.Q. How do I add new birds to my flock?A. Chickens have a pecking order that allows each bird to know who has first “dibs” on treats and roosting spots. When new chickens are added, the birds often will fight or even bully the new birds while trying to assert their ranks. Chickens also have social skills – ways of expressing a lack of threat as well as dominance. So if new birds can be penned such that the flock can see them and get close to them, separated by a wire fence for instance, then, when allowed together after a few days, fights will be minimal when they are integrated. It is also best to plan to be around for some time when the birds are first put together. Fighting may still occur, but in this way you can intercede if a bird is pecked to the point of drawing blood. I like to introduce birds during the day when they can roam the yards. This way there will be places for those low on the totem pole to hide from any bullies.
Written By Jenny PavlovicWe all want to belong and feel useful. Most of us are happiest when we have meaningful work. Our dogs are descended from long lines of herders, retrievers, hunters, guard dogs, and other dogs who became companions to people because they did useful work. Nowadays, sleeping at home all day while the family is at school and work can leave a dog restless and bored. A dog needs plenty of exercise and a purpose in life. Of course our dogs are great companions, but when they don’t have the opportunity to do the jobs they were bred for, they can get into trouble, or even invent their own jobs.Take Bandit, for instance. He comes from a long line of Australian Cattle Dogs, hard headed, smart, intense dogs who are used to taking charge and are not intimidated by a herd of cows. Bandit has had opportunities to herd cows, but we don’t have our own herd, so those opportunities don’t come often enough for him. Thus, Bandit carries one jolly ball while herding another one around the yard. He tries to herd me to the door when he wants me to go outside. He sometimes herds the other dogs, especially if he thinks they’re in my way and wants to clear the way for me. He barks at the deer that come to the bird feeder, wanting to control those hoofed animals. When I’ve been sitting at the computer for too long, he whacks me on the leg with the rubber chicken or drops a tennis ball in my lap. It’s time to take a break and play ball! I call Bandit my recreation director.Chase has created some interesting jobs for himself. I think Chase is a mix of collie and cattle dog, two herding breeds. He has had the opportunity to work sheep and ducks, but not often enough. Herding dogs are especially alert to anything that is out of order because they’re used to watching over their flock. Chase likes to notify me when anything is different. He hears the garbage truck and snowplow coming long before I do and lets me know. He barks in a unique way when the feral cat is around. When we go outside, Chase patrols the perimeter as a collie will. He follows his nose, which tells him what other creatures have passed through. He spots birds way up in the sky and has alerted me to a bald eagle soaring high above. Chase is currently in training to become a therapy dog. I’ve felt for a long time that this is a calling for him and I’m finally giving him the chance to do it. We plan to volunteer at the library where kids can read to Chase, and we may also visit an eldercare home.One job that Chase takes very seriously is one that I cannot figure out. He goes bonkers when I crack a hardboiled egg. I can crack a dozen raw eggs with no response, but when I get ready to crack a hardboiled egg, Chase springs up and barks like it’s the end of the world. He has even learned what it sounds like when I take a hardboiled egg out of the refrigerator. When I flip the lid of the fridge compartment he comes running, anticipating that I’ll soon crack a hardboiled egg, and prepares to go bonkers. The only reason for this that I can think of is that this cracking sound reminds Chase of something from his early life in an abusive home. But I just don’t know. He is very sensitive to different sounds.Cay is more into play than work, but she has created a couple of jobs for herself. She loves to steal Chase’s favorite ball and scamper around the yard holding it just out of his reach. Since we only have one of these balls and Chase is quite serious about it, Cay enjoys the role of “bratty little sister”. The more Chase gets upset, the more she prances around with his ball, just out of reach. Having played the role of bratty little sister myself once, I tell Chase to pretend like he doesn’t care and the fun of the game will go away for Cay. But he goes into fits knowing that she has ‘his’ ball.When we go up to play in the pen on the hill, the dogs often take balls with them. The result is that our backyard would be empty of balls to play with if we didn’t bring some back down the hill every day. Cay has figured this out. Each day when we turn to head back to the house, she runs around searching for a ball to bring back. She never comes back empty handed (or should I say empty mouthed?). I can’t remember when or how Cay chose this job for herself, but she takes it very seriously every day.In the winter, at least one of the dogs jumps up on my bed before bedtime, warming it up for me. Sure, this is a perk for them, but it’s also a perk for me. I never have to feel cold sheets on a cold winter night. And I’m ready for a three dog night too.Sometimes my dogs work as a team. When I offer a large yogurt carton to be licked out, Chase licks the inside rim around the top, Bandit licks around the middle, and Cay, with the longest, narrowest muzzle, licks out the bottom. When I think about it, I notice more and more jobs that my dogs have created for themselves. What jobs do your dogs help you with?Of course, my dogs are great companions. Besides being my friends, one of the best jobs they have is leading me to new friends—through dog activities like obedience, agility, tracking and herding, and through their stories. Now that’s what I call meaningful work!We recently reconnected with Cay’s brother Zander’s family when they read an Omega Fields article about her. I’m happy to hear that Cays’ brother is also getting the great nutrition provided by Omega Canine Shine® ground flaxseed supplement and Omega Nuggets™ flaxseed treats.Wishing you and yours the benefits of great nutrition and a Happy Spring!
Written By Julia Edwards-Dake
I ride. That seems like such a simple statement. However as many women who ride know it is really a complicated matter. It has to do with power and empowerment. Being able to do things one might have considered out of reach or ability. I have considered this as I shovel manure, fill water barrels in the cold rain, wait for the vet/farrier/electrician/hay delivery, change a tire on a horse trailer on the side of the freeway or cool a gelding out before getting down to the business of drinking a cold beer after a long ride.
The time, the money, the effort it takes to ride calls for dedication. At least I call it dedication. Both my ex-husbands call it ‘the sickness’. It is a sickness I’ve had since I was a small girl bouncing my model horses and dreaming of the day I would ride a real horse. Most of the women I ride with understand the meaning of ‘the sickness’. It’s not a sport. It’s not a hobby. It’s what we do and, in some ways, who we are as women and human beings.
I ride. I hook up my trailer and load my gelding. I haul to some trailhead somewhere, unload, saddle, whistle up my dog and I ride. I breathe in the air, watch the sunlight filter through the trees and savor the movement of my horse. My shoulders relax. A smile rides my sunscreen smeared face. I pull my ball cap down and let the real world fade into the tracks my horse leaves in the dust.
Time slows. Flying insects buzz loudly, looking like fairies. My gelding flicks his ears and moves down the trail. I can smell his sweat and it is perfume to my senses. Time slows. The rhythm of the walk and the movement of the leaves become my focus. My saddle creaks and the leather rein in my hand softens with the warmth.
I consider the simple statement; I ride. I think of all I do because I ride. Climb granite slabs, wade into a freezing lake, race a friend through the manzanita all the while laughing and feeling my heart in my chest. Other days just the act of mounting and dismounting can be a real accomplishment. Still I ride, no matter how tired or how much my seat bones or any of the numerous horse related injuries hurt. I ride. And I feel better for doing so.
The beauty I’ve seen because I ride amazes me. I’ve ridden out to find lakes that remain, for the most part, unseen. Caves, dark and cold, beside rivers full and rolling are the scenes I see in my dreams. The Granite Staircase at Echo Summit, bald eagles on the wing and bobcats on the prowl add to the empowerment and joy in my heart.
I think of the people, mostly women, I’ve met because I ride. I consider how competent they all are. Not a weenie among the bunch. We haul 40 foot rigs, we back into tight spaces without clipping a tree. We set up camp. Tend the horses. Cook and keep safe. We understand and love our companions; the horse. We respect each other and those we encounter on the trail. We know that if you are out there riding, you also shovel, fill, wait, and doctor. Your hands are a little rough and you travel without makeup or hair gel. You do without to afford ‘the sickness’ and probably, when you were a small girl, you bounced a model horse while you dreamed of riding a real one.
Written By Barbara O'BrienSpring is busting out all over here at White Robin Farm. Lambs are being born. Chicks are hatching and the flowers are waking up from their long winter sleep. I thought I would share with you some of my favorite spring images. Happy Spring to all of you from all of us at Barbara O'Brien Photography!
Written By Dr. Kris HineySimilar to people, horses can develop allergies to environmental contaminants that lead to asthma-like symptoms. In the equine world, this syndrome is referred to as recurrent airway obstruction (RAO). It was previously referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or (COPD) but due to dissimilarities with the syndrome observed in humans, RAO is now the preferred term. When some horses are exposed to dusts and molds, they develop allergies. Why some horses do and others do not develop allergies is unknown. There is some evidence that this disease may be genetic. Horses born to affected parents are three times more likely to develop RAO than horses born to non-affected parents. Therefore, if you know your horse is predisposed to RAO, it is even more important to identify the symptoms and to properly manage its environment.Identifying RAOWhen the horse is exposed to an allergen, the body responds by increasing inflammation through the bronchioles coupled with bronchoconstriction. The lungs increase in mucus production which the horse may not be able to clear easily. Frequently nasal discharge is seen, along with coughing, an increase in lung sounds and more distress during breathing. Lung sounds are typically heard with expiration, or the horse will “wheeze” when breathing out. Continual exposure to allergens may lead to fibrotic changes within the lungs. This will result in a horse which cannot take in oxygen to the same extent as an unaffected horse. You may notice that the horse has an increase in respiration rate over what is normally experienced during exercise, or he may become more exercise intolerant or fatigue easier. Horses with this syndrome which have had it more severely or more chronically may even develop a “heave line”. This is due to the hypertrophy of the abdominal muscles which must be used to assist the animal in breathing, rather than just solely using their diaphragm.Management of the RAO horseAs pollen and mold counts increase in the environment, horses with RAO will experience more symptoms or episodes of RAO. Often barns and stables are not designed with proper ventilation in mind. This contributes to a continual exposure of the horse’s respiratory system to particulate matter. Hay and straw bedding ideally should always be stored in a separate building from where horses are housed, and certainly not overhead. Additionally, the stalling area should be separate from the riding arena. All the dust that is kicked up while horses are exercising can greatly exacerbate the problem. Ever think about how much dust is stirred up into the air while the barn aisles are being swept? Ideally all of this dust exposure should be minimized and RAO affected horses removed from the barn whenever dust is stirred up. One of the best changes to management practices of the RAO horse is simply to house them outdoors. Often an improvement in airway function is seen within days.While horses stabled inside are clearly more likely to be exposed to particulate matter, horses on pasture during the summer can also have trouble. This even has its own nomenclature, summer pasture associated obstructive pulmonary disease or SPAOPD. Horses with this syndrome should be kept off pasture during the summer months, but can be housed outdoors during the rest of the year. If horses must be housed inside, whether they are SPAOPD or perhaps competitive horses that must be stalled, it is imperative that the environment is as dust free as possible. Straw bedding may not be a great choice for RAO horses but shavings can also contain molds similar to those in hay and straw. High quality straw may actually be lower in spore count that some shavings. Alternative beddings may yield the best results such as cardboard or newspaper pellets. If straw or shavings are used, remove any RAO affected horses while bedding is introduced into the stalling area. Essentially, let the dust settle before the horse is put back into the stall!Feeding managementIdeally the RAO horse should graze fresh pastures as much as possible, but obviously this is not always possible. One of the most immediate dietary changes for the affected horse is to absolutely eliminate any moldy hay or straw that may be in the horse’s environment. While moldy hay should never be fed to horses, it is more critical with RAO horses. One of the difficulties in finding suitable hays for RAO horses is that humans may not always be able to detect the presence of mold if it is not obvious. Try to find hay sources from a knowledgeable producer who bales high quality hay. The type of fungus which produces the most damaging fungal spores prefers relatively hot temperatures. This would be seen in poorly cured hay, or hay that is baled at too high of a moisture content. The heating which occurs during spoilage is a haven for these fungi. Round bales may not be an ideal choice, unless they are stored completely inside and are never subject to any sort of spoilage. Additionally, round bales encourage the horse to almost bury their head within the bale, making the immediate breathing area of the horse very dusty. Completely pelleted diets might be a good choice for these horses at it greatly eliminates the dust exposure to the horse while feeding. The quality of the pellet is also critical. Uncoated pellets may break down more easily and have a substantial dust component. Hay cubes and haylage are also alternative feeding strategies. Moistening the feed can also help in dust suppression prior to feeding. Hay only needs to be soaked for 30 minutes to achieve optimal dust suppression. Beyond that time no additional benefits are seen. However, the down side to soaking the hay is that some of the nutrients are leached out into the water, including P, K, Mg and Cu.Beyond eliminating dust and molds other dietary therapy may be aid the RAO horse. Supplementing RAO horses with additional anti-oxidants in the diet may be helpful. There is an increase in free radical formation or reactive oxygen species (ROS) in horses with lung inflammation. In fact, the increase in RAO may increase the upregulation of genes which produce inflammatory factors such as interleukins. Horses with RAO given a supplement of vitamin C and E plus Se resulted in less airway inflammation and an increase in exercise tolerance. Other natural sources of anti-oxidants such as sorghum and omega 3 fatty acids have not yet been studied for their effectiveness in RAO horses. Additionally, due to the increased energy requirement just to breath, RAO horses are often underweight. The sustained stress to the horse’s system may also contribute to this weight loss. You may need to find a feed with an increase in energy density, such as a fat added feed to help maintain its body weight as well as additional anti-oxidants.If one follows these management guidelines carefully, RAO horses may be symptom free for years to come. While pasture is ideal for RAO horses, performance horses which need to be stalled can be kept healthy with a rigorous adherence to maintaining a dust and mold free environment and proper dietary management.
Written By Dr. Kris HineyThe digestive tract of our equine companions is typically the system which most often goes awry. Colic and other digestive related upsets are the leading cause of death in the equine, but luckily can largely be avoided with careful management. If we understand the normal digestive physiology of the horse, we can avoid errors in our feeding program.One of the most important features of a good feeding program for horses is providing an adequate amount of good quality forage for our horses. If we think about how a horses’ digestive system is designed to function, the relatively small stomach of the horse is designed to ingest small amounts of material throughout the day. This provides a constant influx of roughage to the hindgut, where it undergoes microbial fermentation. This is certainly the most healthy system and natural way of feeding horses. However, most horses managed in current stabling scenarios are meal fed, typically twice per day. While perhaps unavoidable, we try to offset this somewhat unnatural system by ensuring the horse receives enough forage for both its digestive health, and mental health as well. Typically, horses will consume 2% of their body weight per day in dry matter. Most hays are usually around 85% dry matter (meaning they still retain 15% moisture after drying). For a thousand pound horse, that means that we should offer at least 23 to 24 lbs of hay per day. See calculations below:1000 lbs x .02 = 20 lbs of DM20 lbs DM/.85 = 23.5 lbs of hay as fed (or what you would actually weigh out)Beyond just the shear amount of hay we offer, we should also think about the time the horse spends consuming that feed. If we again think about the natural feeding behavior of the horse, they eat for about 18 hours a day, continually traveling and searching for the most tender, nutritive grasses. When horses are deprived of feed, the pH of their stomach begins to drop, making them more susceptible to ulcers. In fact, a drop in pH of the stomach begins within 5-6 hours after the horse ceases eating. At 10 hours post feeding, the horse’s stomach is completely empty.Beyond the obvious health risks this poses, the horse is unable to perform its natural foraging behavior. This encourages the development of stable vices such as cribbing, wood chewing, etc. which can be further detrimental for the horse’s health.Therefore, our feedings should be spread out through the day to account for this. Alternatively, we can offer more hay to our horse then the previously discussed 2% to allow them to participate in their normal desire to pick through their feed to select the most desirable parts. Realize this may increase the amount of hay wastage and economic loss. In addition, offering more hay can result in horses gaining more weight than desired if not offset by adequate exercise. If this is the case, look for hays that are lower in digestible energy (typically grass hays). However, this does not mean a decrease in quality such as the inclusion of dust, molds, weeds, etc.In addition, the regular intake of roughage allows for a more stable population of bacteria in the gut. When the diet of the horse is radically altered, a shift in population of bacteria in the gut occurs, responding to the new environment supplied to the bacterial. This sudden shift in bacteria can result in digestive upsets, as well as development of laminitis. Therefore, any feed changes should occur gradually. This includes the new pasture growing in the spring. Horses which are kept stalled or in dry lots should not be suddenly turned out into rapidly growing pastures in the spring. Ideally they should be introduced gradually, increasing the duration the horse has access to the pasture.While maximizing forage intake is certainly ideal, what if you have a horse which cannot meet its energy needs through forage alone? Such horses usually fall into our moderate to heavy work category, or our lactating mares and growing babies. These horses then need to have a more calorically dense energy source, such as concentrate (or grain). When we feed a large amount of concentrate to a horse, the pH of the digestive system also changes, which may be detrimental. To avoid this, it is advisable to feed no more than .4% of the horse’s body weight in non-structural carbohydrate at any one meal. Our traditional grains such as corn and oats are abundant in nonstructural carbohydrates, which provide an excellent source of energy, but more care should be taken in feeding substantial quantities. Alternatively, we can provide feeds which are higher in rapidly digestible fibers, such as beet pulp, citrus pulp and rice bran. Many horse feeds now contain these ingredients as energy sources. In addition, rice bran is high in fat, which provides an extra boost of calories. Fat is 2.25X more calorically dense than carbohydrates, and provides a great way to increase calorie consumption with a lower risk of digestive upsets. Fat added to feeds may also dampen the increase in blood glucose seen after feeding concentrates. Finally, a horse will need less feed by weight when consuming a fat-added feed than a traditional concentrate.One of the final considerations to maintaining a healthy digestive system of the horse is to ensure it receives adequate water every day. Horses on harvested feeds need adequate water intake to maintain the fluid environment of their digestive tract. If forage is higher in fiber and less digestible, it is imperative that the horse receives enough water to keep digesta moving normally through the tract. Most horses consume at least ten gallons of water a day. It is ideal to provide more water than the horse consumes (i.e., the bucket should not be empty before refilling). Also be sure that, in the winter, the horse has access to water. In cold environments rapidly freezing water may lower a horse’s overall intake and make him at risk for impaction colic. Using bucket or tank heaters or a more frequent watering schedule will ensure that everything keeps moving regularly through your horse!Following these simple guidelines for feeding will help avoid costly veterinarian bills and keep your horse healthy, both mentally and physically.
Written By Jenny PavlovicWe haven’t had much of a winter here this season, at least by Minnesota standards. Not much snow, not very cold weather. It seems like the temperature has hardly even dropped below freezing. By the time you read this, I might be trying to dig my way out of a snowstorm. But while writing this in mid-February, we’ve gotten off easy. I suspect that March may bring a barrage of snow, and April may fool us yet. So far, though, most of our winter walks have been on slippery mud and ice, not snow.I’m always surprised to hear that some people stay cooped up inside all winter. With three very active dogs, I need to get out every day. I would get no rest on the sofa with three dogs bouncing off the walls. They need to run and play off leash to get worn out, so we go out for our daily walk/run no matter the weather. The dogs usually lose weight in the winter because they’re doing the same things, except in the snow. They’re less active when it gets very hot in the summer.I bought Cayenne a wonderful new dog coat from Duluth Trading this year because she tends to be a freeze baby. We haven’t had much occasion to use the new coat this season, but when the temperature dropped, we were glad to have it. I keep Cay lean because she was born with some minor joint problems and I don’t want extra weight to make them worse. Her leanness and her fine coat make her more sensitive to the cold than the boys. She came from Tennessee and apparently wasn’t made for harsh winters.Cay loves to run and play in the snow and doesn’t want to miss a thing, but when it’s just time to go out for a potty stop, she makes quick work of doing her business. When she first joined our family, she was even afraid to go out in the dark. She doesn’t like the early morning and late night dark and cold temperatures. She runs right back to the door, willing me to let her back in.Bandit, on the other hand, stays out to play with the jolly balls in any kind of weather, apparently not noticing crisp cold air or bitter arctic winds. He has a thicker coat, but more importantly, he has focus and a strong work ethic. True to his Australian Cattle Dog ancestry (with middle name “Cattle”, not “Careful”) , he was born to focus on the task at hand, whether it is herding cattle or carrying one jolly ball while herding a second one around the yard. His play is his work and his work is his play, no matter the weather.Without Bandit, I probably would never find myself playing ball out in the yard at 11 o’clock at night, experiencing the wonders of nighttime. I would have missed the quiet stillness of the night, the amazing clear night skies with astounding arrays of stars, and the bright full moon casting its light across the yard. I would have missed seeing the northern lights and listening to coyotes howling, prompting my own three dogs to join in the song. Without Bandit, I probably wouldn’t spend much time outside at night at all; I likely wouldn’t even know what phase the moon is in.Chase has a good thick coat to keep him warm. He looks like a cattle dog-collie mix. When we go out, he keeps track of the birds and animals, including the crows that fly overhead and the rabbits that live just outside the fence. More of a border patroller, he checks the perimeters each time he goes out. He uses his nose extensively to keep track of everything in the neighborhood. He has shown me a bald eagle way up in the sky, one that I would have missed without his help. He also notifies me of anything that seems different or out of place, and pesters me until I check it out.Without my three dogs, I would have missed so much of the day time and night time beauty of winter. No matter the weather, I appreciate what my dogs teach me. I’m comfortable knowing that Omega Fields Omega Canine Shine® and Omega Nuggets™ give them the optimum nutrition they need to cope with the varying weather conditions here in Minnesota. I’m taking good care of them as they are taking good care of me.
Written By Don SchriderIt feels like spring here in Virginia, and thoughts are turning toward hatching and raising baby chicks. Many of you will be starting your chicken adventure by purchasing baby chicks. Here are a few tips I’d like to share to help you achieve great success.The first thing to do is to build or purchase your brooder. There are many designs out there, from a livestock tank with a heat lamp to a cardboard box with a desk lamp. But basic brooder design provides an area that is warm, 95 degrees Fahrenheit, prevents drafts, and provides cooler areas with food and water. I have seen a wooden brooder 2 foot by 4 foot by 18 inches high with a ceramic lamp base mounted on the side. This design is nice and puts the bulb near the chicks. A 100 watt bulb can be used and replaced with a lower wattage bulb to reduce the temperature when needed.Another good brooder is made from a single 4'x8' sheet of plywood and is called an “Ohio Brooder” after the Ohio Experiment Station which invented it in the 1940s. You simply cut a 4 foot by 4 foot piece for a top and then rip the remaining plywood into four 1 foot by 4 foot pieces which act as sides. Use 1x2 or 1x1 lumber to lightly frame this and make four 18 inch tall legs. I suggest using a set of hinges on one side so that the lid can be opened. Inside, mount two ceramic bulb bases in the center of opposite-side walls. Use 100 or 150 watt bulbs and your chicks have a brooder that hovers and can be placed inside any large pen.One variant on this design uses the new insulation made of silver bubble wrap – a material made of plastic bubble wrap sandwiched between silver, reflective foil sheets. This stuff is nice to use with chickens as they will do little damage to it and it will reduce your heating bills.A variety of heat sources can be used with the chicks. Incandescent bulbs are getting harder to find, but they have the advantage in a brooder of giving off both heat and light. I am not a fan of the large heat lamp bulbs – they can start a fire easily if too close to bedding, splashes of water from drinking chicks will cause them to blow out, they eat energy, and they are quite large. There is an infrared halogen bulb design that replaces these and is much safer and a better product – Syrvet offers these. My favorite heat source now is a product called the Sweeter Heater. This is a plastic rectangle that emits radiant heat. It does not go much above 95 degrees, but its height can be adjusted and even on the coldest days the temperature under it stays the same. I’ve put dayold chicks in a brooder in an unheated shed in January and they were happy. The disadvantage with this new heater is that you still need a light source near it, though you could simply use an appliance bulb.Often you will see recommendations to brood at 95 degrees and then drop by 5 degrees per week. This is not the plan I suggest; rather, provide your chicks with a warm zone and a cool zone. Start by placing the food and water near the warm zone so that the chicks will venture out, without becoming chilled, to eat and drink. After day 3, start moving the food and water a little further out every few days. This will encourage them to exercise. They will come out from the warm area, eat and exercise, and drink, and when they get cool they will return the heat source. This imitates nature best – chicks going to mom when they are cool, and mom brooding them at the same temperature each time.One of the best tools to tell if chicks are happy is to watch them in your brooder. Happy chicks will sleep in a group under the brooder, and when awake will spread out evenly around their pen. When all the chicks lay as far from the heat source as possible, then the brooder is too hot. When they crowd under the brooder and seldom come out, then they are too cool.The biggest killers of dayold chicks are dehydration and chilling which occurs when their down becomes wet. When you first receive your chicks, you should have the brooder setup and warm (having run it for a few days to be sure it is up to temperature), and food and lukewarm water should be ready. Dip chick’s beak into the water as you add them to the brooder. In this way you ensure that some will know where and what water is; chicks imitate their parents and each other, so if some eat and drink others will follow them. Water devices should be designed to prevent the chicks from falling into the water and getting wet. If your water device is a bit too big, add marbles to the drinking area so that chicks cannot get wet.To keep chicks from eating the bedding (pine shavings make the best brooder bedding) place newspaper or brown paper bags in the area of the feed. Be sure the material you use is not slick, as slick surfaces will cause leg injuries – usually pulled ligaments. You can remove the paper after a few days. Sprinkle a little bit of Omega Ultra Egg™ over the top of the feed – its color will attract the interest of the chicks and aid them in learning to eat. Keep the dosage low the first few days, gradually increasing over the course of a week.As the chicks grow, their natural curiosity will cause them to peck things; when they become crowded, growing larger and the brooder staying the same size, they will sometimes peck at each other, even to the point of wounding and killing each other. Allowing plenty of space is one cure. When space is limited, simply building some visual barriers will help greatly. Visual barriers imitate bushes, giving chicks places to go where bullies do not see them and creating the feel of fewer chicks. You can nail boards or cardboard against walls, on an angle, to creating places the chicks can explore and hide in. You can make little a-frames that can be moved around. You can even clip bushes or branches and hang them from the top of the pens to create private little areas. Visual barriers work for adults as well as chicks.Another idea is to give the chicks something to peck, thus positively applying their natural instinct, or reduce their pecking inclination. Hanging bits of wood or bone from strings just a little above their heads will entertain them for hours. Hanging cabbage from a string will give them a nice treat while focusing their attention. Millet heads or, for older birds, sunflower heads are also excellent treats and vent pecking instincts. You can also prevent brooder pecking and cannibalism by using yellow bulbs, a.k.a. bug lights. My experiences show that chicks exposed to yellow light alone will not peck each other even when badly crowded.To medicate or not to medicate… I have never been a big fan of medicated feed. The chief aliment that medicated feed is designed to cure is coccidious – an ailment caused by the organism coccidi, which can be found anywhere. Coccidious is manifest when an overabundance of this organism enters the chicks’ mouths, make their way to the chicks’ intestines, and damages the intestine lining. Outwardly, the chicks express their discomfort by hunching up – that is, holding their shoulders high, tails low, and neck retracted. You will notice blood in their droppings. Coccidious occurs most frequently when there is wet bedding in the brooder, usually near the water fountain. So keep the brooder dry! A natural coccidistat (preventative) is apple cider vinegar. Simply add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per gallon of drinking water as a preventative. This may be increased to 6 tablespoons per gallon if you have evidence of coccidious. It will take 5 days at this level to cure the coccidious. Apple cider vinegar has the advantages of providing some vitamins, it provides riboflavin which causes the feathers to be more flexible and beautiful, and it will prevent algae from growing on the water fountain. Apple cider vinegar can be fed to poultry of all ages.Some other good brooding tips: Add a handful of shavings each day. This will help keep the chicks from laying on their own manure and keep the brooder smelling nice. If you smell ammonia, clean the brooder. Ammonia causes damage to chicks lungs long before we smell it. Clean up feed spills. Feed in moist shavings begins to mold and molds are very bad for poultry, sometimes causing sickness and death. In general, keep the brooder clean and you will have few problems.Feed the chicks treats from day one. Chicks will learn to eat many things, such as garlic, if offered from the beginning. Pulling dandelion clumps and placing them, roots and dirt and all, in the brooder will give the chicks something to peck at, teaches them to forage, and offers them healthy treats. Give them slices of soft vegetables, bits of cooked egg, and grains beginning after the first week. Just be sure to remove leftovers after an hour or so, so that these foods do not mold.Last, but not least, spend some time watching your chicks. They will become better accustomed to you and you will find hours of enjoyment!