Ginseng And Equine Vaccinations

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Research conducted at the Equine Research Center, University of Guelph, published in the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research, looked at the effects of supplementation with the ginseng Panax quinquefolium on response to vaccination in horses.

The study supplemented five horses for 28 days with 35 mg/kg (17.5 grams for an 1,100-pound horse) daily, while another five horses were kept under identical conditions but not supplemented.

On day 14 of the study, all horses were vaccinated against EHV-1 (equine Herpes virus) and antibody responses were followed. The supplemented horses showed significant rises in their antibody titers by day 2 after vaccination while the unsupplemented horses did not begin to show a rise until day 6.

Bottom Line: Because both groups of horses responded within a week, they must have been exposed to the virus before. This is not surprising considering how widespread EHV-1 is and that horses are likely to become long-term carriers. The response could be different if this had been a first-time vaccination for a disease the horse had never been exposed to in the past. However, this study did show that the ginseng seemed to be acting as a nonspecific primer for the immune system, resulting in much more rapid rise in antibody titers.

In 1996, a similarly designed study in humans at the University of Milan in Italy documented influenza vaccine titers were twice as high in subjects taking the ginseng than in those who did not. No negative side effects or changes in blood tests were found in either study. Ginseng may therefore be useful in boosting the immune response to vaccines and likely infections as well.

Note: The ginseng used in the Guelph horse study was North American/Canadian ginseng grown by Rainey Farm in Canada. It was analyzed to contain 0.05% ginsenosides, the active component. All ginsengs are definitely not created equal. This type of ginseng grows best in northern latitudes. Other types of ginseng, as well as ginsengs grown under different conditions, may have different effects.

USDA-Approved Equine Microchip

The American Horse Council reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the Digital Angel Corporation’s Life-Chip (www.digitalangelcorp.com) equine radio frequency identification (RFID) injectable transponder for use in horses. The microchip has a unique 15-digit number that can be read by any ISO-compliant reader. The recommended site for implantation is in the nuchal ligament on the left side, in the middle third of the neck, halfway between the ears and withers. Each microchip is capped with a biocompatable material that prevents migration from the site of implantation.

Cold Tolerance

Researchers in Finland proved ponies and drafts are more tolerant of cold. They measured body heat lost by ponies, cold-blooded horses, warmbloods and light breeds at various temperatures. At 59?° F, all types dissipated a similar level of heat. At 35.6?° F, full-sized horses were losing more heat than the ponies, and ponies didn’t lose any more heat at 10?° F than at 2?°. When temps dropped below 2?°, cold-blooded horse lost less heat than lighter breeds.

Helicobacter Bacteria

While this bacteria is associated with human gastric ulcers, it doesn’t appear to be significant with horses.

Earlier this year, a research group at Ghent University published a report that they had found a Helicobacter bacterial species, which they named Helicobacter equorum, in the feces of horses. Helicobacter pylori is the bacterium that is associated with gastric ulcers in people. However, the horse strain lacked an enzyme, urease, that can be a finger print for whether or not a particular ”bug” will be harmful.

This initial report started a flurry of speculation in some circles that equine ulcers may indeed be linked to a bacteria (although this has been looked at before and never found), and that maybe we should rethink giving horses with ulcers antibiotics. However, the same group from Ghent published a follow-up study where they dosed four horses with the horse strain, collected the feces after dosing and examined their intestinal tracts either 10 or 30 days after dosing. They found no changes in the intestinal tract, but the bacteria were found to have taken up home in the horse’s large intestine and were being excreted in the feces. A control horse that hadn’t been dosed was not shedding the Helicobacter in feces.

Bottom Line: There is a species of Helicobacter bacteria that can colonize the horse’s large intestine, but there’s still no evidence that this or any other strain of Helicobacter is a cause of gastric ulcers in horses.

Oral antibiotics aren’t indicated for horses with ulcers. In fact, because of the risk of causing colic or fatal overgrowth of harmful bacteria, they should not be used at all. Only trimethoprim-sulfa and doxycycline have a good safety record for oral use.