Sunday, April 01, 2012

Can Beet Pulp Replace Psyllium to Avoid Sand Build Up?

Anonymous asked onMar 31, 2012 02:08 PM
I live in Nevada and was told beet pulp will help in getting sand out of my horses bellies. I'm new to this horse thing and would love some help as we love our horses. If you would email the answer to me at **** thank you

Reports of using Beet Pulp to help avoid a build up of sand in the large intestine of horses are mainly anecdotal.  I don't advocate replacing psyllium with beet pulp, but it does share some similar properties (gel-forming pectin) that might help with sand removal. Beet pulp also encourages development of "good" microbes in the gut,which helps improve fiber fermentation (poor fermentation is one cause of "hay belly"). 

Sand impaction is common in areas with sandy soils.  The sand gradually accumulates in the colon and can cause chronic discomfort or acute colic.  You vet can identify characteristic "grating" sounds of sand in the abdomen and sand can sometimes be found in the manure.  Sand accumulation can be seen with some imaging devices in your veterinarian's clinic (field ultrasound and xray machines are not powerful enough to visualize the abdomen).

Psyllium has traditionally been used to prevent or remove sand accumulation in the horse's gastrointestinal (GI) tract and there are a multitude of products available in tack and feed stores and online catalogs. Psyllium  contains mucilage which when ingested and mixed with the fluids in the GI tract forms a gel. It is thought that this "gel" picks up and helps move the sand.  

Two studies have shown that psyllium had no effect on the removal of sand from the large intestine (within the parameters of the studies' designs).  A later study showed that a [specific product] containing psyllium plus pre- and pro-biotics may be effective prevention treatment.  At an Equine Veterinary Congress in Italy in 2010, in a presentation by an American veterinarian it was proposed "The efficacy of psyllium is highly controversial, but can be used because it is unlikely to cause problems and owners will expect it."

So, in light of these studies and the claims of the makers of the many psyllium products, where does that leave us?  

This is something to discuss with your vet. I live in sandy desert and stopped feeding psyllium about ten years ago when I began feeding beet pulp to all my horses.  (See Beet Pulp I - You want me to eat WHAT???) I feed hay in small mesh hay feeders or scattered over an acre or more to "simulate" grazing.  Several different veterinarians have indicated they hear no sand when checking my horses.

I have had more than one veterinarian tell me the best prevention for sand colic is feeding "free choice hay" (which might be best done in slow feed hay nets to avoid excess weight gain) and others agree with the feeding of beet pulp as a prevention tactic.  Using mats under feeders will help our equine "Hoovers" from rooting around in the sand to find those last tidbits - especially with wet or oily feeds which sand can stick to or hay like alfalfa which drops fine leaves.
Photo from WHISKERS-ON
For a bit of fun, get down to ground level with your horse as he munches some hay or a treat off the ground and watch how he uses his whiskers and sensitive lips to easily pick up only the "good stuff".


Failure of Psyllium Mucilloid to Facilitate the Evacuation of Sand from the Equine Large Intestine
Phillip D. Hammock, DVM; David E. Freeman, MVB, PhD; and Gordon J. Baker, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS

Fecal Sand Clearance Is Enhanced With a Product Combining Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Psyllium in Clinically Normal Horses
A. D. Landes1, D. M. Hassel2, J. D. Funk3 and A. E. Hill4
1 Equine Medical Service, Fort Collins, CO, USA. 2School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA, USA. 3,4College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA.

Chronic colic: diagnosis and treatment
David Freeman
MVB, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA

The Myths and Reality of Beet Pulp
Copyright Susan Garlinghouse, 1999

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