Ask Horse Journal: 09/03

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“Bursting” Hives Likely Something Else
Can vitamin C help control hives in a horse'??I have a horse that’s getting ready to be put down because of hives. My horse developed hives two years ago and the vet suggested Azium. He’d clear up initially but return in a week. An allergy blood panel shows he’s allergic to almost everything.

We gave allergy shots for the designated six to eight months, then the maintenance shots, but in two weeks the hives were back. We’ve changed grains, hay, barns — everything. Now they’re bursting open. We tried steroids and an antihistamine, which worked for a week then the hives came back. The vet said there is nothing more I can do. Do you have any suggestions'

-Yolanda Andrews
Michigan

You should have one of the “hives” biopsied and sent to either a university pathology lab or one of the large nationwide pathology lab services.?? Hives don’t normally “break open.” This might be nodular necrobiosis instead.??The horses get nodules/bumps that resemble hives and these do sometimes break open/ulcerate. Like hives, it also responds at least temporarily to corticosteroids.?? That condition is caused by collagen (a connective tissue) breakdown.?? The cause is unknown, but there may well be at least a partial allergic component to this, too, since it is more common in the warmer months. There is also a remote possibility that what you are dealing with is a skin form of lymphosarcoma. A biopsy would put that possibility to rest.

Before giving up on your horse for a condition that probably doesn’t affect his comfort as much as you might fear, we urge you to try a nutritional approach.??Many scientific studies show a strong link between allergic disease and dietary antioxidant/mineral status.??

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Polyurethane Shoes
Polyurethane shoes are said to be durable, shock-absorbing and therapeutic. They’re said to increase blood circulation in the feet and improve traction. They claim steel shoes dramatically increase concussion in the feet and the entire limbs up to the shoulders and back leading to various injuries and chronic problems.

Have there been any scientific studies to support these claims' If these claims are true, then why are steel shoes so prevalent'

-Cindy Meyer
Colorado

As you suspect, we find many of the claims made for plastic shoes are theoretical. On the plus side, they provide better shock absorption than metal shoes, in a way that’s closer to how the normal, unshod foot operates, more “cushion” in general and better traction on slick or hard surfaces than metal shoes (e.g. rock, concrete). The negatives include that they’re hard to fit as precisely as a steel shoe to the individual foot, heavier than many metal shoes (“clunky”), cause more shear/pull on nails, wear quicker than steel, and can be too much traction/grab on some surfaces. Exactly how therapeutic they are for specific lamenesses is speculative, but we’d consider them a reasonable thing to try. Work to find a farrier in your area experienced with the shoes.

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Individual Supplements
I want to restock my supplements and am confused by the vast array of manufacturers out there. Of course, I want the best price, but quality is more important. How can I determine which manufacturers of single-ingredient supplements like MSM or vitamin C offer good quality supplements, or, indeed, is there any difference in quality'

-Jennifer Lee
Hong Kong

As with most things, beware of any company with a price considerably lower than average, although the highest-priced product isn’t necessarily the highest-quality either. Check to see if the product has an expiration date on it and/or call the company with the lot number and ask them for an expiration date for that tub.

With specific reference to single-ingredient supplements, you could call the company and ask if their product is human food grade or if they have ISO certification for the manufacturing facility. Also ask if there is a certificate of analysis available and if they will send you a copy. The COA lists purity of the product and bacterial contaminants. Your best bet is to go with a product that is without fillers, extenders or flavorings when using single ingredients.

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Dirty Horse
My gray Arabian always rolls in her manure, and we can’t get the stains off. Can we use any of the things you listed in the June 2003 white-tail article (human-hair shampoo, white vinegar, liquid laundry bluing)'

-Angelika Hellmer
New Hampshire

These are all nontoxic, although some horses may show some skin sensitivity. We suggest you also try Absorbine’s Miracle Groom (www.absorbine.com 800-628-9653), which is our favorite dry shampoo/spot-remover product.

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Psyllium Or Beet Pulp
My 21-year-old Quarter Horse has a problem with diarrhea if I don’t give him beet pulp every day. Obviously his gut isn’t working properly. How does beet pulp upset the mineral balance' Will psyllium help'

-Terry Pratt
Massachusetts

Beet pulp has a major-mineral profile similar to alfalfa, so if grain is used to balance the horse’s phosphorus intake, and you switch to beet pulp, you’ll have to make changes in supplementation, depending upon the type of hay you use, whether you feed grain with the beet pulp and how much you’re feeding. He may have needed more of the fiber types that beet pulp provides.

The beet pulp isn’t necessarily helping only because it slows down movement through the digestive tract, although that’s part of it. As a rule, psyllium is of more help for “sluggish” intestinal tracts.