Spirulina for Insulin Resistance?

First, I’m a huge fan of supplemental Spirulina platensis and have been for many years. There has been buzz this fall surrounding a study that supposedly shows Spirulina supplementation reversed Equine Metabolic Syndrome [EMS].

Spirulina platensis under the microscope.

The study by Nawrocka et al appeared in the August 2017 issue of the journal Marine Drugs. In the first part of the study the researchers quantified fatty acids, amino acids and other components in the Spirulina. They also confirmed its previously documented antioxidant benefits in cultured equine cells.

The second part of the study utilized three groups of horses – normal, EMS and EMS on a Spirulina supplemented diet.  After 3 months on the experimental diets 5 of 6 horses in the EMS + Spirulina group tested normal on a CGIT – combined glucose and insulin tolerance test. A popular equine lay magazine reporting on this study stated this indicates the horses were negative for EMS after 3 months but this is not accurate and also not what the study said.

The CGIT test is not reliable in horses.  It has poor sensitivity, which means there is the potential for many falsely negative/normal results.  It also has poor repeatability. Results from one test date can be very different from another in the same horse. The bottom line is that we can’t rely on those findings but it should be noted significant changes only occurred in the EMS horses supplemented with Spirulina.

Among the other changes noted after three months in the Spirulina group was weight loss. However, the horses were on a diet of 1.5% of the body weight in timothy hay which alone could explain the weight loss noted.  The EMS horses not given Spirulina did not have a weight loss but the article did not give details about the differences between the pelleted feeds the EMS horses in the two groups received. The EMS + Spirulina group also showed a reduction in the cresty neck score, but not to a normal level.

Four out of six of the EMS + Spirulina horses had a significant reduction in their insulin levels while the EMS group not on Spirulina did not. The insulin levels were still very abnormal, but lower. Again, it is unknown to what extent differences in the composition of the pelleted feeds given to the two EMS groups might have contributed.

Leptin, a marker of insulin resistance independent of insulin and glucose dynamics, was not changed by Spirulina supplementation.

The study did not give the actual dosage of Spirulina that was used, or whether the horses were monitored to see if they were actually consuming the whole dose. This is a significant point because Spirulina is not particularly palatable.  In my experience, when horses are presented with Spirulina pelleted into a palatable base and mixed into their usual meal 1/3 will refuse to eat it, 1/3 eat slowly and may not eat it all while another 1/3 will consume it readily.

This isn’t the first time Spirulina has been investigated in metabolic syndrome/insulin resistance. Benefits have been shown in humans and laboratory animals. However, there are significant differences in the syndrome between these species and the horse.

The take home message is there are many questions regarding this study. Even if the findings are reliable, it’s not a cure by any means.  Controlled calorie intake using a diet of low sugar + starch hays with small amounts of similarly low sugar + starch carrier feed for supplements, plus as much exercise as possible, remains the foundation of management of Equine Metabolic Syndrome.  For details based on over a decade of following thousands of these horses please visit http://www.ecirhorse.org.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

 

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Hoof Health Fix in the Off Season

It’s tempting to let hoof care slide a bit when you’re not working your horse but if you do you will be missing a perfect opportunity to improve hoof health.

The back of a healthy hoof cushions the internal structures and absorbs shock like the heel of a well constructed athletic shoe.

It used to be standard procedure to pull a horse’s shoes for the off season, and with good reason.  The hoof may seem like a pretty rigid structure but when unshod there is measurable expansion at the quarters when the hoof is weight-bearing.  An unshod hoof also engages the frog as a natural shock absorber and integral part of the weight-bearing structures.

When a horse is shod, expansion on weight-bearing is restricted and the frog does not receive as much direct stimulation as when the horse is barefoot. As a result, the heels and frogs tend to narrow over time (contracted) and the foot takes on a more oval shape. Less shock absorption means more vibration is transmitted to the internal structures of the hoof and leg.

When the shoes are pulled it’s not unusual to be able to see the heel area expand within a matter of hours. By a few days, the feet are obviously wider. The frog responds to stimulation by becoming larger and more robust.

Another benefit of the natural expansion and contraction of the bare hoof is that material in the crevices beside the frog are forced out when the horse walks.  This reduces the risk of thrush.  The same pumping action keeps snow from accumulating in a bare hoof and unshod horses have better traction.

If the horse has been protected in shoes for a long time the hoof wall may be thinner than it would be otherwise. This will also respond to the stimulation of being barefoot. To prevent cracking and chipping the hoof ground edge is usually rounded to produce what is called a “mustang roll”. This should always be done if the hoof wall is of poor quality or the horse will be moving over hard surfaces.

The rolled or beveled hoof edge also relieves strain and tension on the laminar connections, leading to a tighter white line. As laminar connections improve, the coffin bone will sit higher within the hoof capsule and you will see good natural concavity developing in the sole.

Another advantage to being barefoot for a while is that the horse can move, break over and wear the hoof in the way that is most comfortable for them.  This can provide valuable information for the veterinarian and hoof care professional.

Whether barefoot or shod, it’s important to maintain an interval between trims that keeps the hoof from becoming overgrown and distorted.  Hoof wall distortions are a very common cause of lameness both in the hoof and the structures above. Even when they are not the direct cause, improper hoof mechanics caused by an overgrown hoof will have a negative impact.

The off season is the time for your horse to rest up and recuperate.  Pulling the shoes and regular hoof care during this period also makes it possible to return the horse to work with the best possible hoof health.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

 

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The Skinny Older Horse

Impending winter weather and loss of good pasture make all owners of thin senior horses anxious.  Some things to consider when a horse is underweight span all age groups, but seniors have additional considerations.

CHEWING SURFACE

Transverse ridges on the chewing surface of molars and premolars are important for breaking down food but become worn smooth with age.

Older horses need frequent, but not necessarily aggressive, dental care. Problems such as worn teeth, loose or missing teeth, abscesses and gum irritation from food packing into diastemas (gaps at the gum level) are common older horse issues which interfere with effective chewing and/or cause pain. Wear also changes the angle of the chewing surface which reduces the effectiveness of chewing.

The goal of dentistry should be to remove pain, not necessarily “fix” things. Horses with significant dental issues reap the most benefit from a wet, if not soupy, diet. Hay cubes or pellets can be thoroughly soaked, as can complete feeds,  beet pulp and bran. Get professional advice in formulating the diet.

I commonly recommend incorporating psyllium into these wet senior diets. It further increases how easily they are swallowed (choke is a concern with seniors) and is an excellent prebiotic. Use 1 to 2 oz of psyllium husk fiber per meal.

Older horses often have reduced natural immunity to parasite infections and may even become positive for parasites normally only seen in foals, like roundworms. This is one cause of weight loss you can control. Keep an eye on fecal egg counts and work with your vet on developing an individual deworming program for your  senior.

Supplementing fat, up to 0.5 kg/day, considerably increases the caloric density of the diet. Begin with a flax based supplement to replace omega-3 fatty acids if the horse is not on fresh grass. Use at least 0.12 kg/day of this or even up to 0.5 kg/day.  If feeding less than the full 0.5 kg/day of flax based supplement I recommend making up the difference with something that will not upset the omega-3:omega-6 ratio, like Uckele’s CocoSun.

Senior citizens of all species may suffer from reduced  digestive efficiency. Even the diversity of the microflora in the large intestine of the horse decreases with age.  A supplement with both high digestive enzyme activity and good numbers of live probiotic organisms can be very helpful for seniors.

Vanishing toplines is a common complaint with older horses. When this is seen the horse should always be checked for PPID – pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, aka Cushing’s Disease – because high cortisol activity in these horses causes muscle loss. There may also be a factor of poor protein digestibility and/or inadequate key amino acid intake.  Supplementation with the triple combination of L-lysine, D,L-methionine and L-threonine is an inexpensive safeguard on the nutritional end.

Problems such as heart failure, kidney failure, liver disease or malignancies are rare in younger horses but anything goes with a senior. All of these may have weight loss as a component. It’s always wise to involve your veterinarian when having weight issues with a senior.  Odds are one or more of the factors mentioned earlier will be the explanation but keeping your vet informed of the issue and what was tried will save precious time in deciding on diagnostics and treatment down the road.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

 

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Impaction Season

Colic remains the #1 health issue of horses across all ages, sexes, breeds and uses. There are many forms of colic and impaction is one of the most common.

MANURE MUCUS

The stringy, sticky, white/tan coating on this manure is mucus, a red flag warning sign for impaction.

Several things have been identified as risk factors for colic, including reduced exercise, diet change and tapeworm infestations.  These factors converge in the fall and winter with a diet change from pasture being a double whammy because of the very low moisture content of hay compared to grass.  Tapeworms are picked up during grazing season so have reached peak numbers and size.  It doesn’t help matters that bot fly larvae attached to the stomach lining have also reached a large size and may cover a significant amount of the stomach’s surface.

Early signs are easy to miss. Manure is present initially but total volume is less.  Some manure may have a coating of mucus.  The horse also continues to eat but will gradually decrease amounts. There is depression but obvious signs of colic do not usually appear until the obstruction is complete or near complete.  The horse often continues to pass manure for a while even when blocked because any manure that was present past the impaction will continue to move out.

Pain severity varies but can be quite dramatic in some horses. However, the color of their mucus membranes/gums remains good.  Pulse is moderately elevated.  They usually respond well to analgesics such as flunixin meglumine (Banamine) but typically need twice daily dosing.  When pain reduces because of treatment they will often eat, but eating quickly causes more pain.

Treatment also involves fluids intravenously and/or by stomach tube.  Softeners, mineral oil and/or osmotic laxatives like magnesium sulfate are commonly used.  Most cases resolve without surgery in about 3 days, but it can take as long as a week for the blockage to clear.  Enemas are sometimes used as the blockage moves closer to the small colon and exiting.

The most important part of avoiding impaction is keeping the horse and his intestinal contents well hydrated.  The best way to do this is to guarantee adequate daily salt intake.  For an average size horse that is not exercising/sweating this is at least 1 oz (2 tablespoons) per day. Horses over 1100 lbs need more.  Add this directly to the bucket meals. If the horse won’t eat enough salt this way, dissolve it in water and spray on the hay.

There must also be a constant supply of water at a palatable temperature – often a tall order in cold weather.  They will drink the most during and after eating and if the water is around body temperature. If you don’t  have hot water in the barn, invest in a heating coil. Make watering the last chore and offer warmed water two or three times a day.

Make sure the horse spends as much time as possible moving around outside the stall.  In addition to reduced manure output and drier fecal matter, Williams et al 2015 found significantly reduced large intestinal motility when horses were moved from pasture to stall confinement with light exercise.

Finally, don’t neglect a combined praziquantel and ivermectin or moxidectin deworming this time of year.

Impaction colic is rarely life-threatening but causes considerable pain and often runs a prolonged course.  You can reduce your horse’s risk by management that focuses on hydration, as much exercise as possible and removing parasites.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

 

 

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Vitamin C for Horses

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) comes in and out of supplement headlines.  As happens with many nutrients, exaggerated claims end up being made and when these eventually prove to be unwarranted the pendulum swings too far in the other direction but there is no question vitamin C plays a pivotal role in health.

GRASS

The horse’s body can manufacture vitamin C but fresh grass is a rich source and blood levels drop off in winter when on hay.

Just about everyone thinks of vitamin C in terms of the immune system and resistance to infections/”colds”.  What it actually does is protect the immune system and other tissues from free radicals generated when the immune system cells are activated.  It therefore ends up moderating friendly fire from immune system activity rather than actually preventing infection.  Another antioxidant function is the regeneration of “used” vitamin E back to an active form.

Vitamin C is also an important antioxidant in muscle cells and all body tissues.  High levels of free radicals are generated by such things as exercise and exposure to pollutants.  Horses with chronic lung disease have been documented to have low levels of vitamin C in lung fluid and supplementation shown to support normal lung function.

Vitamin C also maintains minerals forming the reactive site of enzymes in their active form, is essential to production of carnitine and norepinephrine as well as creation of normal connective tissues throughout the body including integrity of blood vessels, structural framework of bone, joint cartilage, ligament and tendons and is critical for the restitution of wounds and injuries.

Most mammals, including horses, can manufacture vitamin C from glucose.  Unlike other water soluble vitamins, there can also be a limited storage of vitamin C in the body, at least in humans.  We don’t know much about vitamin C in horses.  They make enough to never suffer from full blown deficiency (scurvy) but we don’t know how much they can ramp up production in times of increased need, like injury or infection, whether they can store the vitamin or whether production decreases with age.  This uncertainty coupled with the observation that blood levels drop in stabled horses and over winter suggests some supplementation may be optimal.

Vitamin C has low toxicity, the major issue being gastrointestinal irritation and diarrhea at high doses (typically 20 grams/day or more in an average sized horse). Caution should be used in insulin resistant horses or other horses known or suspected to be iron overloaded.  Vitamin C increases bioavailability of inorganic iron by changing its electrical  charge and directly stimulating absorption. A daily dosage of 4.5 grams or less is best and has been shown to increase blood levels over time.

Supplementation is reasonable in horses with chronic lung irritation, musculoskeletal issues, infections or wounds, to support the body’s inherent antioxidant defenses and maintain vitamin C supplies for normal functions under conditions of high demand.

Vitamin C may be supplemented alone or in combination with plant and/or nutritional antioxidant ingredients such as bioflavonoids, grape seed and skin, vitamin E, berries, glutamine and N-acetyl-cysteine.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

 

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Matching Feeding to Activity Level

Show season is winding down, vacations over, kids back in school, holidays on the horizon and many horses are getting less work as a result.   It’s important to scale back calories, and in some instances type of calories.  It’s equally important not to short change the horse on other nutrients that don’t have as wide a variation in requirements as calories do.

Squig 1

Arabians in endurance work burn tremendous amounts of calories but when let down can become overweight and insulin resistant in short order if diet is not adjusted.

A horse that was in medium work going to no regular work will need a 25 to 30% drop in calories to avoid weight gain. To figure out how to do this, convert the whole diet to “grass hay calorie equivalents”.

One pound high quality oats = 2 lbs grass hay.  One pound alfalfa = 1.25 lbs grass hay.  One pound no or low added fat (up to 6% fat) sweet feed = 2.5 lbs of grass hay.  One pound high fat added feed = up to 3 lbs of grass hay.  One pound of fat/oil = 3.5 lbs of grass hay.  These numbers are approximations but will work well as a starting point.

If your horse was getting 5 lbs of a no added fat feed and 15 lbs of hay/day that’s a total amount of calories equivalent to 27.5 lbs of grass hay.  To reduce for inactivity, you could for example either cut both components of the diet by 25% giving you 3.75 lbs of grain and 11.25 pounds of hay or you could drop grain entirely and feed 20.6 pounds of hay.  You might think your horse would really miss his grain but I can guarantee you the horse would rather have all that extra hay to munch on!

If your hay is 10% protein (not all of them are that high) and the grain 12% protein you will meet minimum maintenance protein requirements on the reduced grain and hay diet, but without much to spare.  If you go with the high hay only diet the protein will be met even if it contains just a little over 6% protein simply because you can feed so much more.

Protein quality (amino acids) is another issue.  Both diets should be supplemented with lysine, with exact amounts depending on protein in the hay and whether the grain was fortified with lysine, but the reduced hay and grain diet is probably going to need more lysine than the hay only diet.  Adding 4 to 6 oz of ground flax or ground flax and Chia will improve amino acid variety while supplying correct proportions of essential fatty acids.

What about vitamins and minerals?  B vitamins and vitamins C, D and K rarely need much supplementation but vitamin A may be needed as hay ages and vitamin E is always required on hay based diets (1 to 2 IU/lb of body weight daily).  This is best added separately at time of feeding to avoid interactions with other elements of the diet which can inactivate the vitamin E.

Minerals are another story. Hays are actually a good source of minerals but usually have  deficiencies and imbalances.  Feeding the full recommended amount of supplemented grains can help with deficiencies but does not fix imbalances and is a calorie-expensive way to supplement.  As you reduce the amount of grain, you also reduce the level of vitamin and mineral supplementation.  A better choice for an inactive horse is a protein/vitamin/mineral “balancer” or a multivitamin, amino acid and mineral pelleted supplement which will add minimal calories (the base of balancers does add calories to the diet).  The mineral profile should then be checked for imbalances by hay analysis or use of regional hay mineral profiles.

Horses getting no formal work benefit from reduced calories. The best way to do this is to remove high calorie concentrates and substitute the correct amount of hay. Protein/amino acids, vitamins and minerals can be added from a “balancer” or pelleted supplement. This will avoid undesirable weight gain without the horse having a sizeable reduction in the amount of food.

Photo: Omani Mr. Squiggles and Carol Layton of Australia

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Liniments Are Worth the Effort

With our often medication oriented mind set it’s easy to overlook the benefits of topical therapy but this has a tremendous amount to offer, especially for joints and muscles. You don’t have to look any further than your own experience to confirm this.

MASSAGE

Is there anyone who hasn’t had to deal with temporary, activity related discomfort in a joint or muscle from either an acute episode or flare up of a chronic problem? You probably reach for ibuprofen or some other NSAID but more often than not the result isn’t what you hoped for.

Simple touch can provide relief. The instinct to rub/massage sore areas is a good one. Just providing another sensory input to the nervous system will decrease unpleasant perceptions. When done properly, massage can also relieve tension in connective tissues and muscles, improve blood delivery. If you are unsure of the correct way to massage your horse, you can’t go wrong by taking your cues from his reaction. If the horse objects, stop doing it. If he seems to enjoy the touch, keep it up!

Adding a liniment to the mix can enhance the results.  Different ingredients will have specific effects, e.g.:

  • Arnica and Capsaicin: Potent relief of temporary discomfort related to overuse and activity
  • Comfrey, Chamomile, Aloe: Support normal counterregulatory responses with inflammation
  • Rosemary extract: Antioxidant, supports normal muscle relaxation
  • Lavender essential oil: Antioxidant, gentle circulatory support.
  • Peppermint oil: Circulatory support, provides pleasant and warming sensory stimulation

When applying liniments, be sure the skin and coat are dry and free of residue from prior products, shampoos or sprays. Clip the overlying hair or apply liberally enough to ensure good penetration down to skin level. A few minutes of rubbing will enhance uptake by the skin and stimulate blood flow to the area.

To avoid over-drying of the skin choose a water or witch hazel base rather than alcohol or acetone. Some liniments can be used under cotton wraps or even Neoprene sweats while others should not. If the product doesn’t specify, use caution with heavily “minty” liniments, Capsaicin and anything including counter-irritants like iron, iodine, or cedar oil. If in doubt, or you know your horse has sensitive skin, do not wrap for the first day or two you use a new product.

Invest a little time in hands-on attention to your horse’s issues. You won’t be disappointed in the results.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

 

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Is Your Horse Too Fat?

We’ve all seen at least one article claiming a high percentage of horses are overweight; even that it’s an epidemic.  While the numbers are true, 40+ years as a veterinarian and a lifetime of observing horses tells me it’s nothing new.

WILD PONY

If you think this little girl is a good weight, you have a problem.

Many horses that are not in high performance activity (working Western, jumpers, combined training, endurance, racing) are overweight.   We don’t see extreme obesity very often but a large number of horses are carrying more weight than is beneficial for them.

The horse doesn’t have to be a dead fit athlete to be a healthy weight.  It’s simply a matter of less active horses needing fewer calories.  Since caretakers control the feeding, overeating shouldn’t be an issue.  A major problem is that too many people don’t recognize what a good body condition actually looks like.

Becoming familiar with the Henneke Body Condition Score is a good start;

http://www.indianahorsecouncil.org/Committees/EquineWelfare/Welflip_Chart.pdf

This is a system for grading the horse based on evaluation of areas where fat typically accumulates.  Individual points may be skewed by things like the horse being heavily muscled (e.g. heavy muscling can lead to a trough in the back rather than it being flat) but if all areas are carefully considered it is a good tool.

Another feature that I find useful applies to the pony above on this page. The bulk of the forearm and gaskin should be proportional to the bulk of the rest of the body.  This will hold true across a wide range of muscling types and variations in things like the depth of the chest. For example, both of these horses are a  condition score of about 5.

QH5

ARABIAN5

There are any number of invalid excuses for having an overweight horse. “This is how the breed looks.” Many breeds gain too much weight when improperly fed. That doesn’t make it normal.  “She’s more content”.  Don’t confuse sluggish for content.  “He needs fat going into winter.” It’s the winter coat that keeps the horse warm and you can add calories for heat generation if and when they are needed.  “She needs more meat on her bones to be healthy.” It’s not meat.  It’s fat.  Excess fat is not a measure of health – only calories.

Being overweight makes the heart work harder, breathing more difficult.  It interferes with temperature regulation and puts tremendous unnecessary strain on the joints, tendons, ligaments and feet.  One of the best things you can do for your horse is to free him or her from the burden of excess body fat.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

 

 

 

 

 

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Topical Hoof Treatments

The most important determinants of hoof health/quality are:

  • Genetics. You can’t change this but realize that genetically weaker hooves are far less tolerant of neglect.
  • Diet.  Protein and sulfur amino acids, fats, minerals, vitamins.
  • Exercise.  Promotes good growth and thick walls.
  • Trim.  Maintain balance and alignment with internal structures to prevent abnormal forces on the hoof wall.
  • Environment.  A healthy hoof tolerates both dryness and water quite well but not prolonged exposure to manure.

A healthy hoof wall is smooth, slick feeling and free of cracks or chips

If any of those factors are less than optimal it won’t make any difference what you put on the outside of the hoof.  That said, there are times when a topical treatment is indicated.

If using a hoof dressing only for shine, avoid those containing acetone or alcohol which will damage the protective fats and dry out the hoof.  Glycerin, lanolin and polyethylene glycol are OK in small amounts but high levels will oversoften the wall and sole.

It’s especially important to watch the ingredients if you are using a dressing because of problems with an overly dry hoof wall. Maximizing  nutrition and trim is the only fix but this takes time.  A good dressing can function like a healthy hoof’s moisture barrier which traps internal moisture while keeping environmental moisture out. It can also help protect cracks and chips from invasion by harmful organisms.  Moisture barrier ingredients to look for include plant based oils and beeswax.

The moisture barrier can use some additional help when attempting to assist the hoof tissues in maintaining defenses against microbial invasion and soothing temporary tenderness and irritation. Helpful ingredients include:

  • Microbial balance: Iodine, essential oils of Rosemary, Camphor, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Oregano, Wintergreen
  • Mild astringent: White Willow, Goldenseal, Tea Tree
  • Cellular proliferation and moisture balance.  Coronary band and heel conditioning: Aloe vera, Calendula, Yucca, Comfrey, Goldenseal, Oregon Grape
  • Support local circulation: Iodine, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Wintergreen
  • Sensitive soles: Turpentine, Iodine, Aloe, Calendula

Avoid both extremely wet and dry conditions when hooves do not have healthy natural defenses.  Keep the environment free of urine or manure build up.  Trim frequently to avoid mechanical issues causing further damage. Pick out and brush the feet daily. Provide exercise as tolerated on surfaces the horse finds comfortable.  Apply topical support once daily or as instructed.

Being alert for and addressing early minor issues can prevent them from advancing to causing pain and problems that require stronger or more invasive treatments.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

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“Natural is Better” Wars

There are so many labels available to describe the individual interests in this debate that it’s very difficult to even frame a simple sentence that describes it. A workable approximation for my purposes here is to define “natural” as substances that exist in a form that can be found in nature.

This blog topic was inspired by reading an article on the holistic treatment of Cushing’s disease – PPID, pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction. I actually agreed with many of the approaches suggested but it was conspicuously lacking the one thing that prolongs, often saves, the lives of these horses – the medication pergolide.

Ironically, pergolide is derived from a natural substance, the fungus ergot. It’s core structure is based on the ergot alkaloid ergoline. Ergot in its natural form is highly toxic, causing potentially life-threatening gangrene, convulsions or hallucinations.  The development of pergolide took a chemical found in this naturally occurring fungus and refined it to produce something which is life-saving for a PPID horse.

Pergolide is a perfect example of where “natural” is not better.  The naturally occurring alkaloid is far too toxic but it can be modified to make a drug that is far safer and highly beneficial.  Many drugs are actually modifications of naturally occurring substances, some stronger and some weaker than the resulting pharmaceutical. Aspirin is another one, a modified form of the salicin found in White Willow Bark and Meadowsweet.

I use a LOT of natural substances instead of drugs. They can be just as effective, if not moreso. Examples are chondroitin sulfate and Spirulina with hyperreactive skin and airways, Jiaogulan for circulatory support in laminitis, acetyl-L-carnitine for muscle metabolism, L-leucine/HMB for building muscle bulk (instead of anabolic steroids).  Natural substances can even be more effective, or just as effective but without certain side effects.

The flip side, as above, is that phamaceuticals can also be far more effective, even safer, in some instances. This includes vaccinations, dewormers and antibiotics where there are no natural alternatives equivalent in effectiveness and safety.  In fact, advancements in those three areas are largely responsible for the dramatic increase in the horse’s average lifespan over the last 50 to 100 years, human too for that matter.

Some natural remedies are not only totally ineffective but also toxic. The current craze of using cobalt instead of EPO to boost red counts in racehorses is a perfect example.

The bottom line here is that “natural” has a lot to offer but it is not always better or  effective and can be toxic.  The intelligent approach is to take advantage of the best of both worlds, weigh all your alternatives for every situation in terms of risk versus benefit. Your horse will benefit.  Be WHOLE-istic.

Eleanor  Kellon, VMD

 

 

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