Originally Posted by IIIBarsV
This is for all you owners of ex-racehorses and any other horse who seems to be having a lot of trouble gaining weight, despite nutrition increases, free choice hay/grass, 12 lbs of grain, ulcer meds, deworming, dental work and prebiotics...
If your vet is stumped and your horse is eating enough food for three horses but gaining nothing, you may want to consider a one-time treatment for hindgut acidosis.
Symptoms of hindgut acidosis often mimick gastric ulcer symptoms, but are unresponsive to gastric ulcer treatment. You may have tried prebiotics and notice the horse shows improvement while on pre/probiotics, but results are not "shockingly good" and may fade over time.
Other symptoms include:
- Colic (gas, impaction)
- laminitis (acute or subclinical)
- cramping in the flank
- allergic reactions (respiratory, hives-- progressively get worse every season)
- Foul smelling manure... like barfy, sharp.
Acidosis is usually brought on by a trigger that disrupts the hindgut microorganism balance. High-starch diets (anything with corn/oats/barley/wheat or sweetfeed--- cereal grains are high-starch) in large amounts can trigger the starch-digesting population to explode and produce lactic acid, which drops the pH and kills off the forage-fermenting bacteria. This not only results in your horse being unable to properly ferment their hay, but the resulting irritation to the intestinal walls from the acidity does the following:
- cramping in the flank and abdomen. Horses often look "sucked up" in the flank even when not dehydrated.
- causes inflammation, which interferes with nutrient absorption
- results in diarrhea sometimes
- causes hindgut ulcers very quickly and often long before gastric ulcers.
Worse case scenarios result in sudden or prolonged death from either the body starving itself, or from dysbiosis or perforated gut, which can cause infection, necrotic tissue, and organ failure.
Toxic reactions from the forage-fermentor genocide can cause endotoxemia and serious colic.
Massive triggers such as grain binges, grass binges, hefty antibiotics for an extended period of time, long-term use of NSAIDs such as bute, banamine, devil's claw, and protozoal infections (such as EPM) can cause serious digestive system disruptions that result in severe symptoms seen within a year. The more common case of high-starch-diet-induced acidosis can take months or years to show up as weight loss, even up to 5 years or more to show a noticeable problem.
The long-term mild acidosis is a result of a spiral effect that can be influenced by many factors, but the biggest of which is how much starch the horse is eating on a daily basis. Hindgut ulcers can keep the cycle degenerating as well. Some very mild cases with moderate weightloss can recover on their own with the right diet--- low-starch, free-choice hay, digestible fiber. Others may exist in a permanent state of "slightly too thin" and then eventually spiral downhill.
Those are the basics. Hindgut disruptions can happen from stress, situations of neglect, mold toxins, ingesting poisons or poisonous plants, and other aggressive pathogens. Heavy wormloads can damage the intestinal wall, which in turn causes irritation the cecum and can affect the horse's bacterial balance and ability to absorb nutrients.
In other words, at the drop of a bloody hat. LOL.
Acidosis is sneaky and with such random symptoms, it's difficult to diagnose. Indeed, many vets and professionals don't recognize the symptoms. Testing fecal matter with litmus paper to measure pH may be one way, but the best way I've found is to ask the following questions:
1) What is the horse currently eating?
2) Has the horse ever been in a lifestyle that fed high-starch? (includes grass pasturing-- some horses are starch-sensitive to grass moreso than others. These ones usually show hoof problems first).
3) List the horse's symptoms.
4) Check responses to other treatments, particularly ulcer meds and prebiotics.
5) Do the check list of other common weightloss problems--
- deworming (require fecal done by vet)
- dental work
- adequate minimum nutrition requirements being met (amount per day and how it's fed throughout the day)
- is the horse getting enough to eat per day for it's workload?
6) Has the horse ever been anywhere near a race track?
7) Horse's age and challenges associated--- young horses always fluctuate as they grow, and older horses may require different types of feeding to be able to eat if they have lost their molars.
8) Pull bloodwork to check for underlying infections, liver problems, and so on.
9) Try going soya-free and see if that helps, since some horses have soya intolerance.
Once you go through the history and the owner has gone through the process of basic issues such as feeding enough every day, vet work up to date, and we're still stumped and the horse hasn't gained much...
Then we assume the horse may have hindgut acidosis.
The protocol for treating this is very safe and beneficial to ANY horse, even if they have no obvious problems. It is one part healthy horse management on a balanced diet, and one part science.
1) Get the horse on a low-starch, nutritional diet. This may mean drylotting/minimizing grass access, increasing hay to free-choice, and switching grains to something low-starch but high nutrition, such as Triple Crown Senior, Purina Integri-T, and others, or simply a ration balancer with rice bran, flax, beet pulp, and alfalfa pellets.
2) KER Equishure. Get the big bucket, your horse may need to be on it for 2 months instead of just one.
3) Prebiotic of your choice--- Omega Alpha Biotic8 gets good reviews, as do FastTrack, CRS Gold, Smart Gut Ultra (Smartpak).
1) Fixes any current starchy disruptions.
2) Neutralizes the acid and creates the "right" growing environment for the forage-fermenting bacteria. Necessary! Prebiotics alone do NOT fix acidity! Equishure is the ONLY thing (currently) that fixes acidity!
3) Encourages quicker recovery of the bacterial population, which is essential for the horse to gain weight quickly.
Equishure + diet change alone sometimes will do the trick, but the best results happen with all three steps for one or two months. (Two for severe cases).
While this is usually a one-time treatment, some horses may experience another trigger for acidosis in the future and relapse, particularly if they are on grass year round or in competition or switch back to high-starch grains, or get sick or injured and so on. However, doing the "hindgut rehab" will help the horse take the hit in stride and make them more resilient next time.