Research News: 12/05

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Mixing Herbals, Nutraceuticals and Drugs
As herbal and nutraceutical therapies grow in popularity, the potential for a horse to be receiving both drugs and these supplements increases. One area of potential concern is the effect on blood clotting. This could be a particular problem for horses with gastric or colonic ulcers, those that may require surgery, or those with indwelling venous catheters that would be receiving treatments with heparin to prevent clotting in the lines.

Some commonly used herbal mixtures, e.g. for arthritis, contain multiple ingredients that could influence clotting. Aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (phenylbutazone, etc.) are widely prescribed for a variety of lamenesses or other painful conditions and have anticlotting activity. A wide variety of antibiotics, including the popular oral combination of trimethoprim and a sulfa, are also known to interact with medications that prolong clotting, although it’s not clear if this is a direct effect or if they influence the metabolism and clearance of the other drugs.

The actual risk of an herb-drug interaction occurring that could cause blood-clotting problems, or what dosages of each would be required, is unknown, all the more reason though to keep the possibility in mind. Be sure to inform your veterinarian or veterinary hospital if you are using one or more herbs that may influence clotting, and get advice before starting herbals with this capacity if your horse is already being treated with a drug that may do the same.

Also With This Article
”Ingredients That Inhibit Clotting”

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Yeast Treatment For Enterocolitis
Enterocolitis is a diffuse, severe inflammation of the intestinal tract, usually caused by an infectious organism like Salmonella or the Ehrlichia of Potomac Horse Fever. Enterocolitis may also occur when large numbers of the beneficial bacteria in the intestine are killed off, as with heavy antibiotic therapy or if a horse has a severe colic.

Although caused by infectious organisms, many forms of enterocolitis aren’t treated with antibiotics because they either don’t help, or actually make things worse. Treatment is primarily supportive in most cases, with intravenous fluids and electrolytes, anti-inflammatories to help ward off laminitis, and hope the horse will get over it.

A study completed at the University of Pennsylvania found that treating horses with 25 to 50 grams of lypholized Saccharomyces boulardii, a yeast with beneficial probiotic effects in other species, significantly decreased the severity and duration of clinical signs of enterocolitis in hospitalized horses. Clinical trials in people with enterocolitis show good results.

How the yeast works isn’t clear, since it doesn’t directly kill pathogenic bacteria. Possibilities are an immune stimulant effect, interfering with the binding of the bacteria to the intestinal wall, changing conditions within the bowel so that the bacterial growth is suppressed, or simply crowding the pathogens out by sheer numbers.

S. boulardii is available as a human supplement, but there are no pure, high-dose, equine probiotics on the market at this time. It’s unknown whether the more available Saccharomyces cerevisiae, another beneficial probiotic yeast strain, would have a similar effect.

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New Hope For Damaged Eyes
When injured, equine corneas are particularly susceptible to damage from enzyme activity and difficult-to-treat infections. Medical treatment involves around-the-clock treatment of these eyes every two to four hours and isn’t always effective. The treatment courses are very prolonged, and the eyes are quite painful.

A study performed at the veterinary school of the University of Florida treated severely infected and degenerating corneas by transplants of amnionic membrane. The amnion (inner placental membrane) was harvested during a cesarean section and kept in deep freeze until needed. Ulcers in the involved eyes covered at least 50% of the corneal surface and were not responding to medical treatment. The transplants sloughed off within four to six weeks, revealing healed corneas. The eyes were painfree and had at least partial vision. The horses returned to work.

Although only three horses were involved in this trial, the technique has been used successfully in human ophthalmology since 1998 and should prove to be an effective tool in fighting painful eyes.

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Take Nothing At Face Value
A recently published Scandinavian study may end up unwittingly putting a lot of horses at danger.

The study followed a group of Icelandic horses that were deprived of free water but had access to snow. No signs of dehydration, either clinically or by blood chemistry, were found, which might lead you to think horses can get adequate water from snow. Wrong.

The catch is these horses were being fed only grass silage, which has a high moisture/water content, up to 75% or more water. There’s all the difference in the world between feeding hay with a moisture content of around 10%, vs. grass silage at 75%.

If you hear someone claiming that research has now proven that horses can do just fine with nothing but snow as a water source, don’t believe it. And, please set them straight.