Research News: 01/04

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Stick With Whole Oats
rocessed grains — those that are crimped, rolled, ground or steamed — are often suggested as being more easily digested. However, a study at the Institute of Animal Nutrition, School of Veterinary Medicine in Germany, disputes this belief.

The researchers found that processing oats made little difference in the horse’s glucose or insulin response to feeding. Since the starch in oats must be converted to glucose by digestive enzymes before it’s absorbed, the magnitude of glucose change in the blood after feeding is directly related to the oat’s digestibility.

Processing grains to crack open hard coats or partially breakdown complex starches may still be of value with things like corn and barley, but it appears to offer little nutritional advantage with oats. (It may still be a chewing advantage for some horses.)

Processing also destroys fragile vitamins, enzymes and essential fatty acids that are present in whole, intact grains. So, with oats at least, we’ll go au naturale in feeding when we can.

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Nebulized Antibiotics
Nebulizers — a process that reduces medications to a fine spray that can be breathed in by the patient — have long been used in human medicine to deliver a variety of medications directly into the lungs. Bronchodilators are the most commonly nebulized drugs, but antibiotics and antifungals can also be administered this way.

A study at the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Virginia found that concentrations of 50 mg/ml of gentamicin or 25 mg/ml of ceftiofur produced nebulized aerosols appropriate for treating equine lung infections. In addition to direct delivery of medication where it is needed, nebulizing antibiotics is less costly than systemic therapy and has a reduced risk of side effects. Don’t try this with a regular vaporizer, though. Vaporizers don’t produce particles small enough to reach the deep airways of the lung.

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Surrogate Mother Mules
In breeds that allow embryo transfer, it’s becoming popular to transfer fertilized eggs/embryos from valuable racing or show stock into inexpensive recipient mares, which will then carry the pregnancy so the pricey show mare continues her career.

Draft mares are often favored for this duty since they will tend to produce larger, more robust foals. A study performed at the University of Pisa in Italy suggests mules may be good surrogates, too.

While mules (cross of a horse mare with a donkey jack) are usually sterile, many do cycle. Hormonal manipulation was used to synchronize the estrus cycles of two cycling mules and embryo-donor mares. A mule that was not spontaneously cycling was put on the same program. Embryos developed to term in the two mules that had been normally cycling but not in the noncycling mule.