Healthy Tummy = Happy Horse

HEALTHY TUMMY = HAPPY HORSE

Questions regarding digestive health of the equine athlete is one of the most common questions I get asked.
In general the major reason horses suffer from Digestive Health issues is because the way we keep them is not natural.  In the wild, horses graze slowly and continuously and very rarely suffer from digestive health issues.  Performance horses are often confined, fed high grain low forage diets (and this is particularly harmful when the horse is only fed once or twice day), often have periods where they are not fed and exercised hard (particular in a competition environment) and have periods of stress due to competition, travel or illness.  None of this is “natural” to our equine friends.
The major digestive health issue we get asked about is Gastric Ulcers or EGUS (Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome).

SIGNS YOUR EQUINE ATHLETE MAY BE SUFFERING FROM GASTRIC ULCERS :

  • Crib biting/windsucking
  • Being Girthy
  • Decrease in performance
  • Change in attitude
  • Dull coat
  • Poor or fussy eaters
  • Poor body condition

The clinical signs of ulcers are often vague leaving owners wondering what the problem is (and it could be many).  The only way to confirm if they are in fact an issue is through scoping by a vet.

If in fact Ulcers are present, there are different levels of severity.  The severity of the Ulcers are graded as follows:

  • Grade 0 = when the epithelium is inflamed but intact;
  • Grade 1 = when there is superficial erosion of the mucosal surface;
  • Grade 2 = when there single superficial erosion of the mucosal surface;
  • Grade 3 = when there are several actively haemorrhaging.
 If your horse is scoped and found to have ulcers please obtain veterinary advice for treatment.
Whilst we mainly focus on the prevention of digestive issues with the products we supply, we do stock Retroflam made by Natures Farmacy.  This is a brilliant product that can be used to treat and prevent Ulcers in horses, and is one of our best selling products.  It is in fact being used and recommended by Randwick Equine Clinic.   When purchasing this product I can also put you in touch with the Nutritionist at Natures Farmacy to get advice on your horse’s diet to ensure diet is not contributing to the problem.
Management is key to preventing all Equine Digestive disorders and as our business name suggests, we encourage owners to be Proactive about their animals’ health.
To help prevent Ulcers in particular:
  • Mimic the horses natural grazing habits as closely as possible. You can do this by:
  • making sure they either have access to grass or hay at all times. If it is hay, use a slow feeder hay net to make the hay last longer;
  • use a slow feeder ball to feed their hard feed. Slow feeder balls as the name suggests, means the horse gets access to their feed slowly – more like their natural environment;
  • have feed bins on the ground as this more closely resembles their natural grazing position;
  • always avoid subjecting the horse to long periods without feed.
  • If at all possible, avoid stress and extended use of anti-inflammatory medications such as Bute.
  • Never exercise the horse on an empty stomach as this can cause acid splash on the stomach wall. Feed a small amount of Lucerne half an hour before you ride and it’s a good idea to let your horse have access to Lucerne hay as you are saddling up.
 Supplements can assist other management strategies but there are many on the market and you really need to establish what you are trying to achieve before purchasing.
The four main supplements we stock are Retroflam , Comfort Gut, GNF and  Curragh Carron Oil both manufactured by TRM.  All of these products work in different ways.
In a nutshell, Retroflam both heals and prevents ulcers, Comfort Gut is a toxin binder which removes toxins and impurities from the system and reduces the acid in the digestive tract but will not treat Ulcers if they are present, GNF and Curragh Carron Oil both help to prevent ulcers and have a protective and soothing effect.  They are great when used in conjunction with one another.
To provide some further information to help you decide which supplement may help your horse I offer you the following information relevant to each product.

GNF (Gut Natural Function) is a complete gastric health supplement.

 The five main key rolls of GNF, setting it aside from any other Gastric Health product on the market are:
  • Reduces stomach pH acidity. GNF formulation uses two important natural Antacids, Calcium Carbonate and Magnesium Hydroxide.
  • Seaweed Extract (Laminaria Hyperborea) that creates a gel like lining around the stomach, protecting against stomach acid.
  • Glutamine, a very important amino acid to help maintain Epithelial cells. Supplementation of Glutamine has been proven to increase intestinal performance and decrease over expression of pro inflammatory genes thus leading to a reduction in intestinal damage.
  • Fructo-oligosaccharides – FOS – Classified as a Pre-Biotic substance that stimulate the growth and population of good gut bacteria, will then aid in better food utilization.
  • Kaolin – A mineral clay that has been shown to help bind loose manure during foal scours or periods of diarrhoea
GNF is a proven combination of minerals, amino acids and prebiotics which have a roll in general metabolism and are required for feed conversion.
Curragh Carron Oil is a Linseed oil with the added benefits of Calcium Hydroxide and Magnesium Sulphate Heptahydrate (big words I know!)  The Linseed Oil provides Omega 3 which is an anti-Inflammatory.  Calcium Hydroxide is used as a buffer to reduce stomach pH to a more neutral state, and Magnesium Sulphate Heptahydrate has been show to have a soothing effect. In addition to the soothing effect and anti-inflammatory properties it also has wonderful benefits for your horses’ coat.  The graph below gives an indication of Omega 3 and 6 in different oils.  This is important as Omega 3 is an anti inflammatory and Omega 6 is an inflammatory (which we don’t want).
Curragh

Comfort Gut

Comfort Gut is a toxin binder which means that it works by absorbing acid, toxins, and other impurities before they are expelled by the horse in the manure.  It doesn’t have the same protective component as GNF or Retroflam.

Retroflam

Retroflam is a blend of natural ingredients that includes Lechithin, good digestive bacteria, B Vitamins to support the nervous system and ingredients to support the immune system and pH balance of the stomach.

 So what would I recommend....the million $ question??

I have used Comfort Gut with great success as have many, many customers.  You don’t have to look far to find great testimonials on this product and it is all natural and non swabbable.  I  currently have my horses on GNF and the Curragh Carron Oil.  I love GNF for its complete approach and combined with the oil my dressage horse looks a million dollars and she is no longer girthy or cranky in the stables.
If you suspect ulcers my first choice would be Retroflam.  A fabulous product that can be assisted by a diet analysis with Julie Cook from Natures Farmacy for a wholistic approach. Julie is an absolute wealth of knowledge and the product she makes is a testament to her skills and knowledge.
So that probably doesn’t help you much!  They are all fabulous products. Look at what you are trying to achieve, are you wanting to reduce acid specifically, protect the stomach, treat ulcers or suspected ulcers or looking for an all round preventative supplement.  As always it can be trial and error.  What works for some doesn’t work as well for others.
My best advice though is as always prevention is better than cure.  Be ‘proactive” by combining the best management practices with nutritional support.  If you suspect ulcers get the horse scoped.  It is much easier to manage when you are not guessing and horses unfortunately can’t talk. 

OVER TO YOU

If you require any further information on equine digestive health or would like to discuss your options in this regard,  please email us at info@proactiveanimalhealth.com.au,
visit our website at www.proactiveanimalhealth.com.au or
ph: 0418179326
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