Ask Horse Journal: 10/02

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Smart Owner Detects Accidental Mold Exposure
just discovered that for the past three weeks I’ve been feeding my two rescue??horses (one of whom is COPD) moldy hay replacement.?? This product is given after each grain meal once I stop giving hay — when the grass comes in — just to keep them on a similar routine.?? They get about four cups after each meal.?? When I got near the end of the bag, there was discoloration and a lot of dust.??

I checked with the manufacturer, and it turned out it is a old bag from last fall.??I noticed that my horses didn’t look their usual healthy selves. Their coats seem dull, and their “dapples” have disappeared.??What can I do to offset the effect of their ingesting this mold'?? I’m thinking I should give a bran mash and then lots of probiotics over the next few days.??

-G. Schroeder
South Carolina

The most important thing to do with mycotoxin exposures is to stop access to the contaminated feed, as we’re sure you’ve done.?? Effects on some tissues, especially the brain and sometimes the kidney, are irreversible, but for the most part the animals will begin to recover as the toxins are eliminated through the feces or detoxified in the liver.?? The most readily available toxin binder you could feed to help remove residual toxins would be activated charcoal, available at any drug store.??Feed an ounce or two a day for five to seven days.??

There are other commercially available mycotoxin binders, but by the time you could find and order them the window for eliminating any residual mycotoxin would likely be past.??

Increased antioxidant intake, especially E, selenium, vitamin C, bioflavinoids and grape seed extract may help.?? Herbally, silymarin (milk thistle) would be the supplement of choice, but you should have your veterinarian check liver and kidney function before considering any herbal products.

If your veterinarian agrees with its use you probably should go with a human product where quality control is stricter, since mycotoxins may affect herbals, too.??Treat your horses for about a week, or until liver enzymes come down if they are elevated and your veterinarian agrees.

While it’s true that a hay or grain can be mycotoxin contaminated without any obvious visual clues, it’s also true that fungal growth tends to occur toward the bottom of a bag (moisture absorption over time) and that fungus-infested bits of hay and grain tend to settle out because they are both heavier and finer.??

In other words, they may not have gotten as large a dose of fungal toxin as you fear.?? In fact, if you have only been feeding this product for a short time, it would probably be a good idea to consider there may be other things responsible for the drop in condition you have noted, including parasites or fungal toxins in your grains or??on the pasture, especially if they were subjected to a freeze after spring growth started.