Letters: 12/04

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More Basic Supplies
I read with interest your article in the October issue about emergency supplies.?? I was delighted to see that my tack shed was stocked with all of??your basic barn supplies and nonprescription items.??

There are other things on my “must-have, can’t-live-without” list, including??a??wire whisk to mix bran mashes,??a??bacon splatter cover to remove bits of grass and other debris from pasture??water tanks, and popsicle sticks??for applying ointments and creams.

They work much better than??using cheap plastic??gloves. My hands are small and plastic gloves don’t fit,??and I find that I have better control??and less waste by dipping the popsicle sticks, available at discount stores in the arts??and craft section, into the??jar of ointment??or cream and spreading it exactly where I needed it.??

Karen J. Lewis
Arizona??

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Cushing’s
I just read your October 2004 journal and had to comment on the question regarding the swollen udder problem.

It’s quite possible that the mare has Cushing’s disease. My 24-year-old Morgan mare went six years without being correctly diagnosed. It damaged her immune system, which left her highly allergic to fly bites and other bugs. She shed out every summer (I bought her when she was 21) to a glossy coat. Please be forewarned that only 60% of Cushing horses show a heavy coat. I had to force my veterinarian to try her on Pergolide. I also put her on Hormonise to stop the release of prolactin, which also complicates things by making the body resistant to insulin

What finally did it for me was the fact that she had fungal skin disease not only in the summer but also starting in the winter, her udders were bagged and full of a serous discharge, and she started to get a potbelly look from the body not utilizing protein correctly and the muscles of the abdomen wall get weak and drop the stomach contents.

Her ACTH test was high normal, which is common. I wouldn’t recommend constant testing for this, as the steroid they give is really contraindicated in Cushing’s horses and can cause further problems. I would highly suggest putting the horse on Pergolide in the morning and Hormonise in the evening. No sweet feed or beet pulp. I have my mare on straight Eqvalan oats and dry alfalfa pellets with a mixed grass for hay. I also give her selenium, vitamin E and Chromium Picolinate supplements.

Pat Dickinson
New Hampshire

Veterinary Editor’s Note: We are impressed with your dedication to learning all you can to help your mare. Pituitary hyperplasia or adenoma (benign tumors) do put out elevated levels of hormones other than ACTH, the one typically checked to make the diagnosis of “Cushing’s.”

We agree there’s a good possibility that there are horses with pituitary problems like this that don’t fit the classical profile of a high ACTH horse, and the udder enlargement and filling is a dead tip off for Prolactin.

Pergolide and Vitex (the herbal extract in Hormonise) have close pharmacological activities in the brain though, both acting on dopamine receptors. We wouldn’t recommend automatically mixing them in this case or any other. Better to give each a try alone to see the response you get.

As for insulin resistance, the cortisol released in response to ACTH is a much more potent inducer of insulin resistance than Prolactin, although you’re absolutely right that Prolactin can do it, too. Beet pulp without molasses is fine for these horses,and the best thing to feed them. If your mare is insulin- resistant, you really shouldn’t be feeding her any oats.

Most Cushing’s horses do their best in spring and early summer, may even be able to stop medication, or lower the dose, at those times. As the days start to shorten however, the typical high risk period for Cushing’s laminitis arrives (August until December/January). A study released this year showed that even normal horses can have extremely elevated levels of ACTH on a seasonal basis, which is likely why Cushing’s gets even worse. The picture is complicated though if the horse is also on pasture. Grasses are at their riskiest in spring and fall.

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Vitamin B Deficiency
I wanted to add to your October cracked-heels article that if a horse is susceptible to cracked heels he might also be lacking nutrients that keep the skin healthy. I get cracks in the corner of my mouth from a vitamin B deficiency. My gelding had scratches last summer and a sarcoid. None of the other horses he was with, in the same environment, had any scratches, which made me suspect that his immune system needed a boost. Apprently this was true, as the scratches cleared up within two weeks and have never recurred.

Ute Miethe
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