Ask Horse Journal: 07/02

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Cancer Prognosis
My 20-year-old horse has just been diagnosed with lymphosarcoma. I’m told it’s a malignant lymphoma that will spread throughout his body/organs and that once the symptoms appear, the horse usually deteriorates rapidly. The initial diagnosis was anemia, and I was afraid I made him that way because I gave him garlic for fly control but the veterinarian said that wasn’t it.

I understand this is rare and occurs in horses from four months to 22 years old, but is most likely in horses ages four to nine. I would really like to know what my horse’s prognosis is, what treatments you might suggest and if there’s anything I can do to help him.

-Gaylord Burgau
Louisiana

Cancer in general is relatively rare in horses, but of the types they do get, lymphosarcoma is among the most common.?? It is a cancer of the lymph nodes and lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.?? The disease can strike the intestinal tract, lymph nodes in the chest or the skin, sometimes in combination.??

Treatments with immune stimulants, vaccines made from tumor cells and chemotherapy have all been tried, but the best you can hope for from this is a short remission if the horse is in the early stages.??

Occasionally a horse may have involvement of the intestinal tract in one localized area.?? In those cases, surgical removal may get all of the disease or at least prolong the horse’s life.?? Overall though, there is no successful treatment.??

However, if your horse’s diagnosis was not made by a biopsy confirmation of the disease, you might want to get a second opinion.?? There are some other diseases that may mimic lymphosarcoma and can be more treatable, including heavy small strongle parasite burdens, chronic salmonella infection, bute toxicity and granulomatous enteritis.

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Needs Weight And Muscle
My nine-year-old Thoroughbred mare just recovered from a fractured coffin bone, and now that I am riding her she’s lost weight and muscle condition. I’ve been working up her exercise program to help her regain her stamina, but she’s still thin and lacks muscles on her back.

When I brought this up to my horse’s chiropracter, he suggested adding alfalfa to her diet rather than upping her grain, or adding rice bran. He said more sweet feed would only give her excess energy and that her diet should be high in hay rather than grain. However, it’s been a good eight weeks since I’ve started giving her as much hay as she can eat, and she’s still too thin.

What do you suggest I try that would help her gain weight and develop muscle' Would rice bran work better' As of now, she’s eating seven quarts of 10% sweet feed and as much hay as she can eat at night. She also gets corn oil with each meal.

-Gianna Lishman
Virginia

We agree that the base of her diet should be hay, that alfalfa will sometimes be more effective at putting weight on than many grass hays, and that rice bran would be a good addition for more calories. However, while your focus right now is on weight gain, and that calls for calories, you don’t want to lose the “big picture” and get into a situation where her diet is unbalanced.

If your target weight is about 1,000 pounds, try feeding her five lbs./day of good-quality alfalfa, or alfalfa cubes or pellets, plus give her free-choice grass hay. The mineral profile of alfalfa will lead to some imbalances, but you can kill two birds with one stone by also giving her two lbs./day of a stabilized rice bran that does not have calcium added. We would also feed six lbs./day of a 10 to 12% mineral fortified grain mix.

This is still a pretty high grain intake for a horse in light-to-moderate work, but the high metabolism of a Thoroughbred more often than not requires grain. By taking advantage of the calorie-dense (from fat) but lower-carbohydrate rice bran, you should be able to put weight on her without causing nervousness. Keep your work level fairly light until she is gaining the weight you want then gradually increase the load. You can increase the rice bran up to three pounds if necessary.

If that’s not enough for her at heavier work loads, increase grain gradually until she maintains her weight, or go with more of the alfalfa and rice bran combo with one pound rice bran for each 2.5 pounds alfalfa.

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Iron Overload
I think my horses are overloaded on iron. I know my water is loaded with it, but the solutions will be costly and time consuming.

I started my mildly arthritic gelding on Nu-Flex Maximizer with Ester C and saw noticeable results in 30 days. However, you warned against feeding vitamin C if you suspect high iron because of the binding effect. What joint nutraceutical do you recommend that will fulfill the requirements I need for glucausomine/chondroitin/MSM/yucca without the antioxidants and vitamin C'

-Beth Fluken
Colorado

Vitamin C problems in an iron-overloaded horse occur on two fronts. First is that the absorption of iron is favored by an acidic environment in the small bowel. Since Ester-C has a neutral pH rather than the acid one of regular vitamin C, it won’t cause problems that way. Very high dose C, especially intravenously, can cause some problems as it may mobilize stored iron. However, if your horse is improving on the Nu-Flex (Select The Best, www.buyselect.com, 800/451-4660), which doesn’t contain excessive Ester-C, we see no reason to be concerned about using it.

As additional nutritional support for the iron overload, we suggest that a higher-than-minimum intake of antioxidant nutrients is needed just to keep pace. It’s also important, though, to make sure the nutrients remain in balance with each other.

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Muscle Problem In Warmblood
I have a big, muscular five-year-old warmblood. He’s 17 hands and weighs about 1,400 pounds. However, he always looks stiff or slightly off behind. I have had everything x-rayed, and the vets find nothing.

I’ve been reading the articles regarding muscle soreness and mineral deficiencies. My vet drew blood and took hair, but he called later to say his lab could only do the mineral check on an individual basis. Just to check for selenium was $65.

He’s an easy keeper. He gets about 20 pounds of orchard grass/alfalfa mix a day and three pounds of Strategy. He gets Select Nu-Flex maximizer and MSM. I just started him on vitamin E-selenium and the HorseTech Nutra Flax. I really feel his problem is muscle related, but I wondered if I could fix it by balancing his diet.

-Debbie Moore
California

First, you need to define the problem a little better. Stifle OCD has to be ruled out in a big horse of this age. Unless your X-rays were done at a university with a powerful machine, they may not be good enough to carefully examine the stifles. In addition, X-rays don’t necessarily tell the whole picture, especially with hocks, and early joint inflammation and soft-tissue sources of pain. Flexion tests and blocks might be good ideas, too.

If the horse stands with a hind leg(s) more forward under his body than normal, with weight off a leg or with leg(s) rotated outward instead of standing squarely on both legs, that indicative of leg pain. If it’s indeed a muscle problem, it may be picked up by elevated muscle enzymes on a blood chemistry panel.

Soreness on palpation of the muscles is likely, too, which is a sinking away, tensing or twitching, ear pinning or even kicking with pressure. Remember that topline muscle soreness is also common when there is a lower-leg source of pain, and there are several reactive acupuncture points for hock or stifle problems in the neighborhood that you could be triggering.

Correcting a dietary imbalance is a good idea in any case. Since you’re feeding a balanced grain, you can simply get a hay analysis to see what’s lacking there and supplement it. If there’s nothing wrong, we’d consider hair mineral analysis for possible toxic or competing minerals that might be throwing things off.

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Avoid Grass Clippings
Should you feed your horse grass clippings' Before you grab up a pile for your horse, consider that grass clippings:

• From a chemically treated lawn should not be fed to a horse.
• Tend to be tiny pieces, which the horse may not chew as well as if he took a bite of grass himself.
• Are consumed faster than grazed grass, leading to choke.
• May increase the risk of founder, as mown grass is cut closer to the ground where soluble carbohydrates tend to be higher vs. the tops of the grass a horse grabs as he grazes.
• Can ferment quickly, causing digestive upset.

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Texas Tough On Coggins
In response to citizen petitions, the Texas Animal Health Commission strengthened its requirements for Coggins tests. As of April 1, the state requires equids to have had a negative blood test for equine infections anemia (EIA) within the previous 12 months, if the animals are boarded, stabled or pastured within 200 yards of equids owned by another person. The previous law required a negative Coggins within 12 months for horses being sold, transported or crossing the state line.

According to Dr. Linda Logan, Texas state veterinarian, Texas has had a dramatic decline in the viral infection, also known as “swamp fever,” since 1997, when more than 730 equids tested positive in Texas. ??Of the 250,000 equids tested in Texas in 2001, only 124 were infected, a drop Logan credits to owner concern, more stringent testing requirements and a growing awareness of EIA.