Equine Digestion, Ulcers and Probiotics

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The equine digestive tract is designed to allow large quantities of forage to be consumed in a continuous manner. The upper part of the digestive tract is not designed for large single meals, which has become so common in the life of a stabled horse. These large meals can potentially overwhelm an equine’s stomach and small intestine, causing rapid fermentation of grain carbohydrates. This may result in a wide range of health issues for the horse, most notably gastric ulcers. Gastric ulcers in horses are more common than you would think and can be serious. It is believed that ulcers affect up to 90% of racehorses. Also horses that are stabled for extended periods can develop gastric ulcers. Factors that contribute to the development of ulcers include stress, physical activity, medications, high carbohydrate diets.

Ulcers in equines have been known to cause poor performance and pain; they can also be fatal when left untreated. In humans, eating stimulates the production of hydrochloric acid. In horses, because they are trickle feeders, hydrochloric acid is constantly being produced. If the horse does not eat, acid will accumulate in the stomach, and start to irritate the stomach lining, therefore causing gastric ulcers. Making sure that the stomach is rarely empty means acids have less of a damaging effect. Signs of gastric ulcers in adult horses include poor performance, poor appetite, change of attitude, weight loss or poor condition, mild colic.

Medications and changes in management practices are the cornerstones of therapy for equine gastric ulcers. Different medication may be used for different purposes; they may decrease acid production, buffer the acid that is produced or protect the lining of the stomach from the effects of the acids. In addition to medication, management changes are always necessary and should include:

  • Increasing the amount of roughage given.
  • Increasing the number of feedings per day.
  • Putting horses out to graze would be the best alternative or as much as possible.
  • Avoiding or decreasing the amount of hard feed.
  • Use supplements to add vitamins and minerals, and vegetable oils to add calories.
  • Giving probiotics to aid digestion.

stabled horses


The gastric ulcer treatment you decide on to implement depends solely on the individual horse and its environment. Be sure to follow your vet’s treatment recommendations, clinical signs may improve within 1-2 days of beginning the treatment, but it takes far longer for ulcer to actually heal. So be sure to finish treatments to the very end in order for the ulcer to completely heal.

Whereas medication can heal the ulcers, an after treatment such as an equine feed supplement is often recommended in the form of probiotics, as they help to re-establish a healthy flora environment in the horse’s stomach and colon. Probiotics can be fed continuously and can help to avoid ulcers recurring.

Furthermore it is a really good idea always to feed probiotics after an antibiotic treatment. While an antibiotic is getting rid of an infection it can be very hard on the stomach environment and the horse can experience a low immune defense and generally seem off after such a treatment. A course of pro-biotic can set things right again, so the horse can get back to its full health and therefore return quicker to its high performance level. Foals are also known to develop ulcers, especially for the first months of their lives, up to 57% of foals fall into this category. Probiotics has been shown to help foals get a good start and prevent scouring and upset stomachs. Supplementation is a good idea to maintain a healthy gut and prevent ulcers.

We recommend probiotics DIGEST + and DIGEST BOOST.

Equine Health Care – Electrolytes

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As we start into the warmer season, keeping horses hydrated is top of the priority list. Providing the performance horses with electrolytes through an equine supplement (especially during the spring and summer months) should be priority for maintaining top performance and healthy horses. Dehydration can affect your horse’s performance in a negative way. Electrolytes are chemical substances that are essential to the proper functioning of muscles, nerves and kidneys. Horses lose electrolytes in a number of ways; sweat, saliva, urine and diarrhoea.

Losses of sodium, Potassium and chloride in sweat can cause muscle fatigue and weakness; also decreasing the horse’s thirst response to dehydration. Preparation is key in order to stop excessive electrolyte loss during an intense workout or competition; the horse should start out with adequate electrolyte and hydration levels supplied through an equine supplement.

Heat is constantly created within the horse’s body due to muscle contraction. Excess heat must then be expelled from the body; this is done primarily through sweating and some through respiration. Horses are known to sweat up to 15 litres per hour; they sweat at a much higher rate than any other mammal. This may be seen as a very efficient cooling method but it also causes the horse to lose higher quantities of electrolytes through sweat. They also lose large amount of water which can create dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Electrolytes are minerals necessary for an extensive range of body functions; some of these include fluid regulation in and out of cells, muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission. Any depletion of electrolytes can lead to premature muscle fatigue, poor recovery time, muscle cramps, reduced stamina and tying up.


Horse drinking water


Each mineral has its own function:

  • Sodium – balances body water levels and regulates blood pressure.
  • Potassium – optimises muscle and kidney function
  • Chloride – maintains acid/base balance
  • Magnesium – enhances good nerve function and it is important for muscle function and bone formation

An electrolyte imbalance can occur if a horse sweats 10 litres per hour or more, therefore replacement is vital both post exercise for optimum health and performance. It has been shown that replacement is most effective when carried out over longer periods using an electrolyte in the form of a vitamin and mineral supplement for horses. The amount of electrolyte supplement used will vary depending on the degree of fitness, work levels and environment. A carbohydrate should also be present in the electrolyte supplement to help with absorption.

Pre supplementation up to 4 hours prior to competition is said to slow fatigue of muscles by up to 23%. For horses engaged in heavy exercise, especially in hot climates, electrolyte supplementation has a valuable role in preventing metabolic distress. Feeding electrolytes is an important part of a successful equine performance supplements programme.

Recommended PEAK products includes PEAKS Electrolytes.


sweating horse

Iron Deficiency in Equine

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Minerals are an essential part of the diet, despite the fact they provide the body with no energy. Without them the equine body would not be able to metabolise fats, proteins or carbohydrates; muscle and nerves would not function correctly and their bones could not support their own weight. Mineral’s help to transport oxygen via the blood. The main mineral involved in this process is the trace mineral known as iron; even though it is only a trace mineral it plays a necessary role in the equine diet.

We are all familiar with the role iron plays in forming haemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells used to transport oxygen around the body. Iron is also present in myoglobin, which helps get oxygen into the horse’s muscles. Up to 80%of the iron taken in by the body is used for the formation of haemoglobin and myoglobin. Horse’s need 40-50ppm per day, most forages contain between 50-250ppm of iron, so it is safe to say under most conditions that horses receive plenty of iron in their daily diets. However iron-deficiency anaemia, is something that can often occur after illness or general exhaustion and a horse vitamin and mineral supplement can be considered to help this condition.


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If deficiency does occur, horses may exhibit poor performance, followed by low red blood cell count. A diagnosis for iron deficiency anaemia, a deficiency symptom, can be confirmed by a blood test. Treatment should consist of determining the cause and then correcting it.

Iron levels are linked closely with fitness and equine iron supplements have a reputation for enhancing athletic performance. Equine supplements with iron should never be administered unless blood test results have shown the horse to have a deficiency. Horses under heavy stress of athletic performance may develop deficiency symptoms, as well as, horses with chronic blood loss due to parasite damage or inflammation.

Iron toxicities is more common today in horses than iron deficiency. Symptoms of toxicity can include diarrhoea or increased susceptibility to bacterial infections. All living organisms require iron and bacteria and they will multiply more effectively when it is readily available.
Coming to the end of a mares pregnancy and also while she is lactating, it can be a good idea to check if she has iron deficiency as both the pregnancy and producing milk can be exhausting for the mare. Iron can help her to give her a well-deserved boost of energy and in that way also do the foal good.


MareFoal


PEAK STAMINA contains iron and B-vitamin complex, a well thought out energy booster, which also gives a brilliant shine to the coat as an extra bonus. It is very tasty and breeders often give a small bit to foals as well as their mares, while training them to be handled, as they come to you to get some of that tasty stuff.
Other equine performance supplements recommended by the PEAK team are EQUIP-PEAK and DMG.

Equine Health Care – Respiratory Diseases


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The horse is an obligate nasal breather, this means horses breath solely through their nose. Air passes up through the nostrils and nasal passage, into the naso pharynx, through the larynx and down along the windpipe to the lungs. Horses possess a large lung capacity, which can increase airflow up to 20 times their resting value during exercise. A resting horse breathes on average of 15 times per minute, moving approximatley 5 litres of air with each breath. During fast work a horse can move up to 1,500 litres of air per minute through the respiratory system .

The breath, along with fitness, can be compromised if obstruction to the airway occurs. Two examples of respiratory diseases that can affect the horse’s health and performance, but can be made manageable, are Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO) or Exercise Induced Pulmonary Haemorrhage (EIPH).

RAO is the new term for what was previously known as Chronic obstructive pulmonary diease (COPD). RAO is essentially a horse’s allergic reaction to environmental dust. This allerigic reaction causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways making it difficult for the horse to breath.

This allergic reaction can be caused by fungal spores, found in dusty bedding or mouldy hay and straw. The allergic reaction causes an increase in the mucous production, along with inflammation constricting the airways. This combination makes it harder for the horse to breath as the airway narrows. Sometimes, the airway may completely collapse during expiration, which makes breathing out difficult for the horse.


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Symptoms of Recurrent Airway Obstruction:(RAO)

  1. Excess mucus
  2. Coughing
  3. Reduced exercise tolerance
  4. Wheezing
  5. Increased respiratory rate

 

Once diagnoised RAO is a lifelong condition, but in some cases can be made manageable by the use of equine feed supplements. And the cause can be completely eliminated by turning the horse out full time. If this is not possible a dust free environment must be made available using dust free bedding and mould free forage. The horse may be prescibed a bronchodilator or corticosteroids to help with inflammation and acute attacks of RAO. Equine health supplements can help to loosen mucus, elminate coughing and open up the airway.


horse-breathing


Other such Equine Respiratory conditions that affect performance is Equine Induced Pulmonary Harroehage (EIPH) – also known as lung bleeding. It is associated with exercise and refers to bleeding in the lungs due to exertion. EIPH can be seen in varying degrees of hemorrhage that come from the nostril. Horses may cough following bleeding or freqeunt swallowing may occur, and/or the horse may show poor performance. A more definite diagnosis can be made by endoscopic examination of the trachea. Because EIPH occurs in horses in varying degrees a combination of these techniques can be carried out to achieve an accurate diagnosis. Another test used is a broncho-alveolar lavage (BAL), which is used to confirm the presense of EIPH when there is a lack of blood in the trachea. Once diagnoised, managment is essential to prevent recurring episodes of EIPH. Similar to RAO, the environment should be made as dust free as possible. Exercise and conditioning should be planned and time taken to reach fitness.

Equine supplementing can also be part of the management programme for these respiratory issues, to open up airways, eliminate coughing and help the horse to perform better.

Related Products in the PEAK range include: WIND-EZE, BLEEDEX and HOMOPLUS.


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Equine Joint Supplements

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Joint mobility can vary in all horses, depending on breed, age and environment. We tend to put our horses legs through a lot on a daily basis. Pain and discomfort can be helped with a little prevention by using equine performance supplements. Equine joint supplements can help to support normal and healthy joint function; they are also useful for horses in hard work or with joint issues such as arthritis or orthopaedic injury.

Constant wear and tear on joints causes fluid between joints to diminish; bones may begin to rub together creating ligament and cartilage issues, affecting performance in the horse. Supplementing can help prevent equine joint problems and help the older horses to move more freely. Three main ingredients in equine joint supplements tend to be Glucosamine, Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and Chondroitine Sulphate.

Glucosamine can be found in the joint cartilage and is a type of sugar. It protects the cartilage and has an anti-inflammatory effect. It is the main building block of all connective tissue one being joint cartilage. Glucosamine can come in two forms, both effective as one another, glucosamine hydro chloride or glucosamine sulfate.


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Methylsulfonylmethane, commonly more known as MSM, contains a sulfer that assists in the formation of building block for joint cartilage such as collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin. Like glucosamine, MSM has been shown to have anti-inflammatoryproperties, as well as pain reduction qualities.

Lastly, Chondroitin Sulphate is a major constituent of cartilage, providing structure, holding water and nutrients, and allowing other molecules to move through cartilage which is an important property, as there is no blood supply to cartilage. In degenerative joint disease, such as osteoarthritis, there is a loss of chondroitin sulphate as the cartilage erodes. Chondroitin sulphate may support healing of bone, which is consistent with the fact that the majority of glycosaminoglycans found in bone consist of chondroitin sulphate.

With all that we expect from horses now a days it can be important to give an oral equine joint supplement to help manage the increased demand on the horse’s joints. These equine joint supplements ensure that there is always a ready supply of nutrients the joints need in order to cope with the stress of exercise and maintain healthy joints in your horse.


peak horse joint care


Furthermore prevention of joint problems is key before the damage becomes irreversible. When using the best equine joint supplements the results should be visible within a couple of weeks. A high grade of raw material content should be considered, when carrying out an equine joint supplement comparison. The horse should move with more ease and experience less pain, in many cases the result is a horse that is back to performing effortlessly with smooth moving equine joints.

We recommend POWER JOINT, which is an equine glucosamine supplement. It minimises wear and tear of cartilage tissues and promotes healthy production of the cartilage matrix as it is replenished over time.

And for osteoarthritis we recommend D-FLEX, pure Chondroitin Sulphate, which is particularly good for older horses.


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Copper Deficiency in Horses

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Copper deficiency in horses is one of the very important horse health supplements. It is a trace element required by all body tissue for the metabolic function. To ensure good health for horses, they need copper for the formation of connective tissue, to help reduce inflammation, utilise iron in the body, form strong bones and blood vessels, and also to maintain hair colour. Copper is a component of several enzymes, it is regulated in the liver by storing or excreting it in the bile. Copper’s absorption into the gut can be influenced by other minerals such as Zinc and Iron, causing difficulty in gauging how much copper is actually utilized by the body every day, it is said that the horse uses somewhere between 50-60mg per day. Some signs that a horse may be deficient in Copper are decolouration of coat, frizzy mane and tail ends, weak hooves and worms.

Causes such as excess iron in horses can lead to deficiencies in zinc and copper. Copper deficiency can cause serious horse health problems and this may lead to weakness of tendons and ligaments, foot, skin and joint cartilage problems. Also, the presence of a copper deficiency, can lead to anaemia in horses. One of the first noticeable signs of copper deficiency will be the discolouration in the coat or fading, the horse may also be lethargic in their work. Therefore it is important to ensure correct copper levels in horses to ensure proper horse health care.

Hoof problems can occur, as they are closely related to the coat. Hooves tend to be weaker, losing shoes and cracked hooves can be a common occurrence. The splitting or cracked hooves can leave the horse more susceptible to contracting white line disease by opportunistic bacteria and thus affect the overall horse health. Other common occurrences in the hoof are problems with thrush, as the frog tissue is not in a healthy state, being weak and soft allows the bacteria to enter.

In worst case scenarios osteoporosis or arthritis can be the result of copper deficiency and in some cases horses have been diagnosed with fragile bones and deformations. Foals and other growing horses need sufficient amounts of calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper, along with other nutrients, in order to form strong, healthy bones and joints.


horses grazing


Copper deficiency can occur due to lack of copper in the soil, which means the horse is not receiving adequate amounts from the roughage in their diet. A soil test is a good indication of whether or not the soil is lacking in copper. When supplementing with copper it is important to consider a multi-vitamin, as copper is involved with other vitamins and minerals. Copper and zinc ratios (Cn:Zn, 1:3) need to be presented correctly, if not correct an excess of on may inhibit the absorption of the other.

If you have any horse health questions on copper or on horse health products in general, please feel free to use “Ask our Vet” at the bottom of our website. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Related products at PEAK HORSE include COPPERFAST and BIOTIN BOOST for hooves.

Horse Health Care – Healthy Hooves


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We all know the expression ‘no hoof, no horse’, poor hoof quality is a complaint of many horse owners, especially for those of the thoroughbred kind. There are many different factors that can affect healthy hoof growth, for example, genetics, environment, farriery and nutrition. Hoof health products are plentiful in the horse health trade, it is however important to make sure that the horse is receiving a correct and balanced diet before considering supplementation, as part of an equine care regime. If lacking the right nutrient balance the horse’s body will utilise nutrients for other needs of maintenance and growth in the body.

Lacking the correct nutrients the hoof tends to have slower growth. This can result in cracking, splitting and difficulty holding a shoe. Healthy hooves of an adult horse can grow up to as much as 10mm per month. As the hoof naturally wears away or is trimmed away it has to be constantly replaced, and horse health care products can help the hoof to grow back out healthy and strong.

There are certain nutritional components that can promote healthy hoof growth in the horse, these being Protein, Vitamins and Minerals. Essential nutrients must be present in the appropriate amounts so as not to compromise the growth of healthy hooves.

Equine health is at the top of horse people’s agenda and to promote horse hoof health it’s important to know this horse health fact, namely that the hoof itself is made up of mainly protein. This protein is called Keratin, which consists of a chain of amino acids. These essential amino acids are cysteine, cystine and methionine. Cysteine and Methionine play a role in hoof formation. They contain sulfur which helps form amino acid chains that contribute to hoof formation. The more chains present the stronger the hoof formation, absence of key proteins leads to weak hooves.

Biotin is the main component for the growth of healthy hooves. Biotin is a B complex vitamin, found is most horse care products that encourage hoof growth and serves an integral part in the health of all connective tissue. Like all B vitamins, biotin in water soluble, therefore the body uses what is needed, any extra is excreted in the urine. This makes biotin toxicity difficult to come by. Significant hoof growth has been shown in horses fed up to 20mg of biotin per day. The horse’s hind gut is where biotin is produced by bacteria, provided good grass is part of a balanced diet. Biotin deficiency has been linked to weak and cracking hooves, as well as deformities such as low heels.


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When evaluating an equine health care problem such as weak hooves minerals are an important factor to consider. Zinc being the main trace mineral when referring to horse hooves. Zinc is essential for hooves, skin, hair and immune support. It has been said that a majority of equine diets are zinc deficient. When feeding zinc it’s paramount to feed the correct ratios of zinc and copper for efficient absorption. If selecting an equine product for hoof growth it is essential that it contains copper along with zinc in the ingredients. Zinc is a necessary component in the horse’s diet for keratin formation and minimising a great deal of abscesses in the hoof.

The correct use of equine health supplements can replenish what is needed for healthy hoof growth. Supplementation is not an immediate fix and a correct diet is essential in your horse health care regime. It is not possible to repair cracks through supplementation, only encourage better growth from the coronary band down.

Equine health products in the PEAK HORSE range that supports healthy hoof growth are Biotin Boost and Copper Fast.