Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Allergies" - breaking the inflammatory cycle with a proprietary blend...

I don't often reply/post on many of the on-line groups I'm subscribed to as I'm not often able to get back to follow-up. But recent discussions on "allergies" and herbal remedies (for "allergy" and other inflammatory conditions) on the EC/IR group and other groups caught my attention.

The discussions on allergies made me think of my asthma - I really think many horses are not "allergic" but simply get caught up an inflammatory response - if the inflammatory cycle can be stopped, the "triggers" will cease to cause problems (or not as much). I didn't initially understand why I wasn't "allergic" to all the stuff that caused breathing problems, red eyes, runny nose and itching - my allergy tests were all negative. But, working with the allergist, I learned that "triggers" are not the same thing as allergies and I found these triggers (ranging from perfume to dust to cold to kitties to pollens, etc.) don't affect me as much if I take care of the baseline anti-inflammation stuff - like taking my
magnesium and Singulair (which is very similar to Spirulina in the way it acts), staying hydrated, getting enough rest, eating a balanced diet. If I do all these things I can stay off the inhaled steroids. In fact when I really pay attention to what I eat and drink and get enough rest I can actually pet and play with the barn kitties without turning into a mass of itchy red eyed sniffles.

Flax, spirulina, chondroitin etc (in addition to the baseline mineral balanced diet) all help improve the inflammatory threshold so the horse doesn't respond to triggers by mounting a major inflammatory response. But once an inflammatory cascade is started it seems more and more things will act as triggers until our horse is in a bubble of inflammation - with many systems affected. It can take something fairly significant (such as steroids and antihistamines) in large enough doses taken for a long enough period of time to stop the inflammatory response spiral and hold it off long enough for the immune system to regroup.

I think this is why some of these herbal concoctions are successful - if you put a large enough variety of herbal ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties in a high enough potency to stop the inflammatory cascade plus some adaptogens to help improve circulation, etc., something's bound to work. The "proprietary blend" or, IMO, "kitchen sink" approach.

If someone uses one of these blends and it works, the cost and accompanying rhetoric is irrelevant and we become a fan. Few of us actually take the time to figure out what made it work. If it doesn't work, we tend to just walk away and start searching for something else - we rarely go somewhere to discuss the downside - that it may have gotten in the way of appropriate diagnosis and resulted in the wrong treatment for the wrong thing.

At times some people have seemed to feel that the main Equine Cushings list is "anti-herbal". It isn't but the group has always advocated:

  • Knowing and understanding what you're giving your horse; what it is and what is it meant to do.
  • Being responsible for what gets put in your horse's body.
  • Understanding that any herb or homeopathic that is potent enough to effect change is potent enough to possibly produce side effects or toxicity, the same as any other "medicine".
  • Understanding that "natural" does not equal "safe".
  • When you give "kitchen sink" mixtures, you have no idea what worked and what didn't.
  • If it looks like magic, there's probably some sleight of hand involved, especially if it costs a lot (this is my personal opinion).
  • Any medications - western, non-traditional, herbal, energy modalities, etc. need to be administered after a sound nutritional base is established; often the appropriate balanced nutrition provides a sound base and some conditions that previously required medication are eliminated.

It's necessary for the EC main list to remain tightly focused so in depth discussions that aren't directly related to EC/IR are referred to EC Horsekeeping - that doesn't mean they are "anti-xyz", just that it may be distracting for many newcomers.

There are a lot of herbal resources on-line and in bookstores - where you can look up an herb, see its properties and what it's expected to do and determine if this is something appropriate for your horse. You don't need a pharmacy or medical degree to decide if you want or need to give your horse something that will cause him to pee more or make his liver work harder or if a mild anti-inflammatory will make him more comfortable after work - many of these decisions are simply common sense; you may want some guidance to determine if you want to give your horse an immune stimulant or something that supports his immune system (a vast difference).

If you really want to get a handle on changing the course of the inflammatory cycle, check out Dr. Kellon's Nutrition as Therapy course.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Equine Pituitary Dysfunction Test Choices Analyzed by New Bolton Center's Jill Beech VMD

From Fran Jurga`s Hoof Blog: Up-to-the Minute News from Hoofcare & Lameness Journal: Equine Pituitary Dysfunction Test Choices Analyzed...: "In our new age of horses as companion animals, a significant proportion of our equine population would be considered into or at least approaching the geriatric phase of life. Equine pituitary disease and disorders are a concern in the horse-owning public..."

Because it is a late sign, laminitis is a poor "diagnostic" indicator for PPID (Cushing's disease). Testing ACTH (with Cornell as our lab of choice), despite the difficulties in handling and shipping and the possibility of false negatives or positives is immensely better than waiting until your horse has laminitis or has foundered.
It's always good news when our knowledge base about diagnosing this disease is broadened or - as here - confirmed.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Nutrition and Hoof Quality

My hoofcare provider (Courtney Vincent) emailed me to ask about a product she recently encountered:

I trim 2 horses, same place, same feeds, 3-4 year age difference, both QH, both on 5oz AZ Copper Complete.
Then [someone] gave her a sample of something called hoof armour or something like that - it is a yeast supplement for feet, very expensive. Have you heard of it? Anyway, she put the one horse on it an
d did not put the other horse on it.
I went back to trim and the horse on it had zero separation and foot looked good overall, the other one looked horrible, had terrible separation and just overall not good.

I had briefly looked at Kombat Boots some time ago and felt that, given the cost, I would just try HorseTech's Yeast+.

I took a closer look at it this morning, and also some other things I feel might affect hoof quality, especially in an older horse.

Kombat Boots appears to me to be an expensive version of saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast. http://www.kombatboots.com/.
Based on the information on their web site I don't see any advantage for this product over basic Diamond V http://www.diamondv.com/products-core/ or Yea-Sacc http://www.yea-sacc1026.com/yea-sacc/about.htm.
I've been using Yeast+ from HorseTech (which is Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast from Diamond V) http://www.horsetech.com/yeast.htm.
You can order bulk bags of Diamond V yeast at some feed stores or from here http://triangleh.com/category/diamond-v-yeast-order/ (I've never ordered here so don't know the level of service).

If you do a comparison, Kombat Boots claims "100 grams of natural yeast in an 8 oz. serving". This is about 12.5 grams per ounce so I presume there is some kind of filler to make it pelleted. HorseTech's Yeast+ is 28 grams of yeast per ounce or 227 grams in 8 ounces. No filler. Same for basic Yea-Sacc or Diamond V.

Kombat Boots' web site says "other" products "...use yeast cultures, yeast extracts..." implying they don't actually contain yeast. The products I looked at above do contain "Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast..." or "Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast and the media on which it was grown..." - this certainly indicates that these products do contain yeast. I don't know how yeast might be grown except on a culture medium of some type so any yeast might be considered a "culture", even if it is removed from the growth media.

Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast will act as a probiotic and to help older horses (and younger stressed horses) with B-vitamin support, and is thought to help with utilization of feeds - improved fiber digestion in horses hasn't been scientifically proven but is claimed in other species and in horses anecdotally.

Another thing I'd look at for an older horse (or any horse with hoof problems) is the crude protein (CP) and digestibility (ADF, NDF) of their hay, and if the energy level (DE) is sufficient to keep protein from being diverted to energy use. If the hay is not really good, even extra amino acids (AA's) in the supplement might not be enough. Horse's digestive systems weren't really meant to support horses living this long (how many horses over twenty or twenty-five survive in the wild?) - some that aren't doing well on the "basics" may need a boost. Protein sources that also contain moderate levels of fat can be useful, keeping in mind that high fat levels can worsen or induce insulin resistance (IR).

We also need to look at how the horses are processing their feed. Older horses make less saliva which makes chewing more difficult, compounded by less tooth function with age. Are they really chewing adequately? Dunking or soaking hay may help. Do they need to have their hay chopped (a wood chipper from Home Depot of Lowes) or do they need to be switched to
pelleted hay (this is why my aged black Appendix mare is getting close to 8-9 lbs alfalfa/Timothy pellets + beet pulp daily, along with her AZ Copper Complete supplement and Yeast+). Plain or mixed pellets from Mtn Sunrise, or Lakin or other mixed pellets can make up 100% of the ration, with hay provided for "entertainment". This might really be the first place to look for an older horse - it's worth trying a pelleted hay for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference.

Improving protein
There is a wide variety of feeds that can provide supplemental protein. Some of them - and the amount of CP they provide in 0.25 lbs/4 ounces - are:
Soy meal - 116g
Distillers Grains - 34.8g
Flaxseed - 31.7g
Sunflower seeds - 31.7g
Split peas - 28g (high starch)
Wheat bran - 19.7g (high starch)
Rice bran - 16.8g (high starch)
Oats - 14.4g (high starch)

Soy is a fairly complete protein plus it's cheap - thus its popularity in feeds. Soybean hulls may provide lower lysine content or its lysine availability may depend on what's combined with them. Calf Manna is an example of a high soy protein feed (but also contains corn which can make it unsuitable for an IR horse).

None of the others are "complete" proteins by themselves but, used in combination, can provide a more complete AA profile. Moorman's MoorGlo has rice bran, flaxseed and "SoyShine" lipids plus some alfalfa meal and is very palatable. Nutrena Empower is a similar product. Both are high fat (18-22%) so should not be fed in large quantities.

Whey protein isolate has a complete amino acid profile; most products (human sports/protein drink powders) provide about 24 grams protein in 1 ounce - or 96 grams in 4 oz. This is highly digestible protein (vs crude protein); does not add a lot of calories or sugars and would be one of my top choices for an IR horse or other horses where we want to limit sugar/starch. It's easy to add a scoop or two to feed twice a day. I tend to stick with vanilla - your horse may prefer other flavors. Whey (not the isolate) is a common ingredient in many feeds; it will have higher sugar levels and lower protein levels than the isolate. Make sure the product is pure whey - some protein powders also contain egg or soy protein.

So, going back to Kombat Boots, we have another "magic bullet" - an expensive product that appears to be the missing ingredient in our horses' lives. Can it help? - probably. Would it be so effective if protein, energy, vitamins or minerals were missing from our horses' ration? - probably not. Is it worth the cost? Well, until they show me in true scientific terms - double blind crossover studies comparing Kombat Boots to basic Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, I'll stick with my Yeast+ from HorseTech.