Ask Horse Journal: 09/04

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Right-Front Lameness
I run a barn that includes 35 horses. They include a number of different breeds, and we seem to have a huge outbreak of coffin-joint arthritis. What do you suggest is the best remedy for treating this sad, painful situation' We want to change our farm name to Right-Front Lameness.

Pain originating from a problem in the foot is the most common lameness. Coffin (distal interphalangeal) joint arthritis itself is also fairly common but far from the only thing that could be going on.

To confuse matters further, recent reports have found that it can be difficult to distinguish between pain arising from within the coffin joint and nearby structures, such as the navicular bursa or even deep flexor tendon problems. This is because diagnostic local anesthetics and therapeutic injections, such as corticosteroids or hyaluronic acid, can find their way into other tissues even when injected into the joint capsule of the coffin joint, and vice versa for injections into the navicular bursa. Radiographs can also be misleading. Some points to remember are:

• Old calcium deposits around a joint (osteophytes) are not necessarily causing pain, while recent ones usually do indicate active inflammation.

• Because pinpointing the site of the pain can be difficult, even with local anesthetic injections into the joint, if treatment of presumed coffin-joint arthritis by injections into the joint isn’t successful, it’s worthwhile also trying navicular bursa injections.

Before even considering joint injections, however, we have some suggestions for you to try. First, try to identify and correct factors that can cause or aggravate the problem.

Many foot problems can be traced back to the hoof not being balanced or otherwise incorrectly trimmed. This includes going too long between trims, heels not even, heels and/or toes being left too long. When heels are low or underrun and the toe is too long, the dorsal (top, toward the horse’s body) edges of the pastern bone and coffin bone may be pinched together. When heels are too high, the plantar (toward the ground) joint space and navicular area in general is compressed/pinched, while tension is put on the joint capsule attachments along the dorsal surface.

A coffin-joint problem in one foot only may mean the real problem lies in a less obvious but constant source of nagging pain in either the opposite front or opposite hind, with the coffin joint irritation showing up because the horse is overloading that leg. To get anywhere with quieting down the coffin joint, you’ll need to locate and also treat other problems.

Work over hard ground is especially punishing to the feet and coffin joints. This needs to be avoided while you’re trying to get problems under control. Treatment options before resorting to joint injections include:

• Make sure the foot is meticulously balanced. Watch how the hoof wall contacts the ground with the horse walking straight toward you. If it doesn’t land perfectly flat, it’s not balanced.

The horse’s hoof is really his “shoe” and should conform to the shape and location of the coffin bone inside it as well as a good running shoe hugs a track star’s foot.

• Avoid using any more than a few days treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs, just long enough to gain control of the problem. Allow liberal turnout but on soft ground.

• Magnetic hoof wraps or pulsed electromagnetic therapy are often helpful in controlling the pain of coffin-joint problems

• Try joint nutraceuticals, with at least a 30-day test.

• When possible, keep the horse barefoot for at least a few weeks, with edges of the hoof wall gently rolled for easy breakover. When the horse is in shoes, avoid toe grabs, studs or borium, and bevel the edge of the shoe for easy breakover.

• If after two to three weeks of the above the horse still needs pain control, consider an herbal anti-inflammatory product.

• If all else fails and you’re positive it is the coffin joint, proceed to intra-articular medications.

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Rest-Area Etiquette
During a trail ride, the question arose as to whether it’s necessary to stand up in the stirrups and get off the back when the horse is urinating. Is this true or just an old myth'

It’s not necessary to stand up, as the horse will get the job done anyway, but it does make it easier on the horse. To urinate effectively, the horse stretches out, “opening up” the spaces between the vertebrae and dropping closer to the ground but during the actual urination also actively tightens his/her abdominal muscles to “push” and in the process the back rises slightly.

By standing up, you distribute more weight down into the stirrups and take some pressure off the back, freeing the horse up to stretch more easily. Stay in this position and avoid shifting your weight until the horse has his legs back underneath him/her. It’s the polite thing to do.

However, the idea that you can damage a horse’s kidneys by not standing is a myth. The kidneys don’t sit under the saddle for one thing, and are located under several inches of muscle and a layer of bone, plus have a heavy insulating/cushioning layer of fat around them. However, if you were to bounce down forcefully on the horse’s back when he’s in the stretched out position you could cause some back pain, so once the horse is in the position, assume yours, too, and stay there.

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Wow! This stuff works!
Last summer, my young BLM horse was losing the hair on his belly and developing a huge, crusty, oozing scab that didn’t respond to anything. His belly looked like a moth-eaten wool blanket with a huge hole out of the middle.??He then rubbed out??nearly all of??his mane and all of his tail hair??down to the skin.??

My vet diagnosed??it as an??allergy to gnat bites,??saying it would go away when the fly season was over.?? But the??lesion, which covered his entire belly, didn’t heal over the winter. I kept the oozing??in check with furacin because that was the only thing that seemed to make a slight difference.??

When I read your August 2004 article on your midline dermatitis potion, I purchased the ingredients, mixed the potion, and put it on him.??Instead of circling around me??and protesting the whole time I applied it, as he did with the other remedies, he just stood there after the first swipe and seemed to bask in the wonderful feeling of??relief.??

I noticed a physical difference after three applications (a day and a half). I was able to gently scrape off the crust??with my gloved fingernails, and now all that is left is a small patch where the crusting and oozing was the worst. He still loves getting the stuff applied, and all the areas are healed.

The story goes on. ??I recently found a patch of sweet itch on the hind foot of one of my Arabian geldings, which he gets every summer.?? I put the potion on and within??two applications, I was able to gently scrape off the scabs and now, after five days,??am seeing pink, healing skin.??I, and my horses,??thank you for sharing??this information. It is nothing short of a miracle for us.

We’re thrilled to know how helpful you found the remedy, which was invented by our veterinary editor, Dr. Eleanor Kellon.

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Plain Beet Pulp
I am a huge fan of Horse Journal and really rely on the information it contains. Recently, there have been several articles that talk about the benefits of beet pulp for “easy keepers.” I have an easy keeper that became paralyzed on his right side last fall. His movement has improved, but he still can’t get around like he used to. Thus, he has become overweight. In the struggle to keep weight off of him while maintaining a healthy digestive tract, I’ve been giving him small amounts of beet pulp three times a day. However, I can’t find any without molasses. Can you help me'

Instead of feed dealerships, try getting in touch with some feed mills that mix feed for dairy or beef cattle, even swine.?? Ask them if they could order in some plain beet pulp for you, or get in contact with a distributor of bulk feed ingredient products.?? If that doesn’t work, you can always get rid of the molasses just by rinsing your beet pulp with hot water until the water runs off??clear.?? The molasses is all on the outside so it washes off easily.?? Means a bit more work but the rinsing also gets the soaking/softening??process off to a good start so you won’t have to soak as long.

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Timing Vaccinations
Concerning West Nile Virus, you recommend not having the horse vaccinated during mosquito season. Are you recommending this just for WNV innoculations or for all vaccines' I’m going to a few shows in late summer/early fall and I’m going to have a flu booster given this week.?? This is going to be close to the beginning of the height of mosquito season in Illinois.

Is this a problem'?? My horses were vaccinated for WNV in the spring with the new WNV vaccine. They have received WNV shots for three years. Any ideas'

A flu vaccine wouldn’t have the same potential problem of tying up West Nile-specific antibodies, but any vaccine is a stress to the immune system.?? To minimize this effect, avoid shipping or unusually hard/stressful work loads for the week before and after the vaccination, avoid deworming or tooth floating close to time of vaccination, and maintain a high plane of nutrition with good antioxidant vitamin and mineral support.??You could also all but eliminate systemic effects and get excellent flu protection by using the intranasal flu vaccine.

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Hoses And Water Safety
I read an article in a gardening magazine that discussed the safety of drinking water from garden hoses.??The article noted that most garden hoses will release polyvinyl chloride (both a carcinogen and teratogen) in the water, particularly when heated by summer sun.?? It also said that there are other carcinogenic compounds and elements (lead) that leach out.?? Since I fill my horses’ water tubs and buckets from hoses, this concerned me. Does exposure to hose-leachables cause health problems for horses'

A leading mainstream consumer publication did a study on lead levels in water that had been sitting in sections of garden hoses.??They found 10 to 100 times the human-recommended safe-lead level in water from hoses that weren’t specifically labeled as safe for drinking water, but only when water had been allowed to sit in the hose for 20 hours and when the sections of hose were baked in an oven to simulate the heating effect of the sun.

However, the safe upper limit of lead concentration in water for horses is 100 ppb compared to the 15 ppb for humans.?? Remember, too, that we’re talking about the water that stands inside the hose for a long time, so this problem can be solved if you run the water for a while before use.

It’s also true that vinyl chloride can leach out of PCV piping systems, and this has been a problem that has shown up on routine water-quality-monitoring reports. However, as with lead leaching, there are specific conditions that favor this happening.??

According to the EPA, these are:

• The length of time water sets in the system,
• Small diameter pipe (2" or less),
• Water temperature of 50?°F+.

However, all you need to do is run the hose for a bit before you use it to remove the standing water.

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Also With "Ask Horse Journal"

Dermagel Goes OTC
Dermagel, one of our top choices in herbal-based wound care, is now available over the counter (OTC). This product was previously only available through veterinarians.??However, the OTC product is being called Skin Renovator. It’s manufactured through Equine America. www.equine-america.com 800-838-7524.

Let Them Eat Hulls
You may think of seed hulls as something you need to clean up and throw away, but they’re fed to cows as a source of easily fermented fiber that encourages healthy populations of microorganisms and a better source of energy. A study from Iowa State in a recent issue of the Journal of Animal Science confirms the same benefits for horses.

Four adult Quarter Horse geldings were fitted with cannulas in their cecums and accustomed to a diet of mixed brome and alfalfa hay, then tested on diets 25%, 50% or 75% soybean hulls substituted for the hay. Researchers found increased fiber fermentation, increased numbers of microorganisms and increase in the amount of the volatile fatty acid propionate, which the horse converts to glucose as needed in his liver. Older data had estimated the caloric content of soybean hulls to be about the same as grass hay, but this new data suggests the calorie level might be much higher.

We’re not suggesting you rush to fill your horse’s feed tub with soybean hulls???although they’re palatable???but this study confirms using them as a hay substitute is feasible. This is a particularly important finding for horses that can no longer chew hay well or for times hay is scarce and expensive. Other advantages include their prebiotic effect and that they contain no starch. This makes them safe to include in the diet of horses that are sensitive to simple carbohydrates.

Poison Ivy Munchies
As pasture quality wanes, your horse may take to sampling some unusual things, including toxic plants. However, if you catch him munching on poison ivy vines, don’t panic. The irritant oil in poison ivy won’t bother your horse. However, you’ll need to be careful when handling and grooming him. The oil easily gets onto the animal’s coat, and that can be transferred to people.

If you do find yourself with a poison ivy reaction, an excellent remedy may be right on your barn shelf. Counterirritant liniments with a menthol, camphor and/or thymol base used full strength will dry up the blisters and provide immediate pain relief. Repeat if new lesions form.

AIDS Research And EIA
The human AIDS virus and the one that causes EIA in horses are so similar that the EIA virus is often used by AIDS research groups. In fact, AIDS research may one day bring us a step closer to finding an effective way to eliminate the threat of EIA.

Recently, Chinese researchers developed a recombinant vaccine that puts the genes responsible for creating the outer envelope proteins of the EIA virus into a harmless virus. Mice immunized with this virus produced antibodies that were five to nine times higher than those found in response to earlier vaccine types.