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Exploring Aloe Vera for Equine Gastric Ulcers

In the seemingly never-ending battle against equine gastric ulcers, a research team from the University of Adelaide in South Australia reached for an unusual solution: aloe vera. According to those scientists*, aloe vera isn’t just soothing for burnt or irritated skin but also potentially beneficial for protecting the sensitive lining of the stomach.

“The inner leaf gel of the aloe vera plant has been reported to be effective in the prevention and treatment of gastric ulcers in man and in animals in experimental models. Its anti-ulcer properties have been attributed to a variety of possible mechanisms, including anti-oxidant activity, anti-inflammatory properties, cytoprotective and mucus-stimulatory effects, and its ability to regulate gastric acid production,” explained the researchers.

Despite the theoretical benefits of aloe vera for gastric ulcers, limited data have been published showing whether horses benefit from this natural product.

“Equine gastric ulcer syndrome, or EGUS, includes ulcers affecting both the squamous and glandular portions of the stomach. Such ulcers negatively affect performance, prove challenging to effectively treat, and unfortunately recur frequently once treatment has stopped,” reminded Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

To determine whether aloe vera was a viable option for horses with EGUS, 39 horses diagnosed with one or more gastric ulcers (grade ?2 lesions of the squamous and/or glandular mucosa) were offered either aloe vera or omeprazole. Key findings of the study included:

  • Most horses were diagnosed with ulcers in the squamous portion of the stomach rather than the glandular portion;
  • Better healing rates were noted in the omeprazole group; and
  • Of the patients diagnosed with squamous ulcers, 56% of horses offered aloe vera improved, whereas 85% of horses treated with omeprazole improved.

Overall, the researchers concluded, “Four weeks of treatment with aloe vera inner leaf gel, at 17.6 mg/kg twice daily, was inferior to omeprazole buffered paste, at 4 mg/kg once daily, in the treatment of naturally occurring EGUS.”

Even though aloe vera proved inferior to omeprazole, the currently recommended treatment for EGUS, more than half of all horses improved. No control group was included, and a combination of omeprazole and aloe vera was not included, suggesting that aloe vera warrants further study.

“A proven way to support gastrointestinal health includes KER’s RiteTrac. This product quickly neutralizes excessive gastric acid, protecting the stomach lining and restoring the normal gastric environment,” explained Crandell. “In addition to using RiteTrac, KER has partnered with quality feed companies to address management issues associated with minimizing risk of developing gastric ulcers in horses.”

In Australia, look for these research-proven products.

*Bush, J., R. van den Boom, S.H. Franklin. Comparison of aloe vera and omeprazole for treatment of equine gastric ulcer syndrome. Equine Veterinary Journal. In press.

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Nutrition (11)

Managing Horse Wounds? Include Biotin

When a horse owner is faced with an unexpected soft-tissue injury, a flurry of questions immediately springs to mind. When do I call the vet? Does the wound really need stitches? What about an antibiotic?

Here are some helpful facts to help your horse on his road to recovery:..

Colic Signs in Horses: Know Them and React Appropriately

Horses with abdominal pain, usually referred to as colic, often display signs of distress. Like humans, though, some horses have a higher threshold for pain than others, and signs vary from horse to horse. Noticing subtle behavioral changes associated with colic will give caretakers the upper hand in overcoming colic.

Signs of colic can be lumped into five general categories...

Milkweed Toxicity in Horses

While monarch butterflies require milkweed to complete their life cycle, horses are best served by ignoring the ubiquitous plant. Several species of milkweed, a well-known perennial plant, cause poisoning in horses and other livestock, usually when more palatable plants are not available.

Milkweed plants prefer sandy soils and are often found along roadways and waterways. They can be opportunistic, thriving in overgrazed areas...

Managing Insulin Dysregulation and Obesity in Horses: Beyond Diet

Researchers recently identified a specific type of protein called glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) as a potential therapeutic target for horses with insulin dysregulation. By blocking the action of GIP, equine scientists hope that insulin levels can be better controlled which, in turn, will help control obesity and limit laminitis.

“Insulin dysregulation refers to various abnormalities in insulin metabolism, including abnormally high circulating levels of insulin and insulin resistance. Due to the continued increase in the number of horses affected by insulin dysregulation and the lack of a cure, GIP offers a glimmer of hope for affected horses,” explained Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., an equine nutrition advisor for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...

Understanding Different Types of Horse Digestive Supplements

From stem to stern, your horse is a microbial milieu that works to maintain gastrointestinal health. Unforeseen circumstances can rapidly upset the delicate populations of bacteria, fungi, and yeast—collectively referred to as the microbiota—that inhabit the horse’s gut, especially the large intestine and cecum.

"The intestinal microbiota has enormous impact on the health and performance of horses. Although single pathogens can cause disease, gut microbial dysbiosis, a shift in the microbiota as a whole, is increasingly being identified as a cause of a wide range of diseases," wrote researchers in a recent study of equine probiotics*...

Can Kefir Keep Horses' Hindguts Healthy?

As hindgut fermenters, horses rely on the population of microorganisms in the cecum and colon to extract energy from their feed. Keeping the microbiome healthy involves various management strategies, such as offering an appropriate diet, minimizing abrupt changes in diet, and adding various dietary supplements, including prebiotics, probiotics, curcumin, and now possibly kefir, according to some researchers.

“Milk kefir is a fermentation product containing proteins, lipids, lactose, ethanol, lactic acid, as well as calcium, vitamins, and a variety of microorganisms such as lactic acid bacteria and yeast,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...

Influence of Equine Management on Ammonia Emissions

Across the globe, the number of animals producing manure, naturally rich in ammonia, continues to increase, which translates directly into increases in ammonia. Ammonia gas reacts with sulfuric acid and nitric acid in the air to form small particles that have negative health and environmental effects. Of importance, those small particles aggravate respiratory diseases in horses. Additionally, ammonia and its secondary products contribute to soil acidification eutrophication and disruption of ecosystem functions.

“Understanding ammonia (NH3) emissions from different sources, quantifying their magnitudes, and evaluating mitigation options are the subject of scientific research, worldwide,” explained a group of researchers from China, where livestock populations are growing rapidly...

Traveling Affects the Equine Microbiome

Summer is a time for travel—horse shows, trail rides, and horseback vacations. New evidence shows that travel can have an impact on the equine microbiome, the microbial population of the hindgut critical for proper digestion, immune function, and nutrient and energy production. Microbes are sensitive to the environment, and even small changes in diet, exercise, stress level, or health can affect the delicate balance in the gut.

Recent studies suggest that the stress of travel alters the population of microbes in the hindgut. A research trial conducted at the University of Illinois compared cecal fluid samples in horses that traveled and were stalled in an unfamiliar location for 48 hours to control horses that stayed home with no change in routine*...

Poor Appetite: Look Closer at Your Horse's Digestive Tract

Has your horse decided that gobbling his grain is no longer as fun as it once was? Has he slowed his eating so much that he requires hours to finish a meal he once would devour in mere minutes?

Horses lose their appetite for a variety of reasons. One lesser-known cause is gastrointestinal discomfort emanating from gastric ulcers and hindgut acidosis...

Researchers Investigate Curcumin for Diarrheic Horses

An alteration in the delicate balance of the equine intestinal microbiome, a condition called dysbiosis, often leads to diarrhea. In turn, diarrhea can cause life-threatening bouts of laminitis. Regardless of the original cause of dysbiosis, be it an alteration in diet, administration of a new drug or supplement, or even infection with pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Clostridium difficile, or Streptococcus bovis/equinus complex (SBEC), the first step is to restore the microbiome…and fast!

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics, prebiotics and probiotics, and supportive care remain mainstays in managing diarrhea in horses. NSAIDs, however, come with some risk so finding alternate anti-inflammatory agents with fewer side effects would certainly benefit sick horses...

Fructans in Equine Diets: Fermentation Studied

Equine nutritionists and researchers know fructans should be fermented exclusively in the hindgut—the cecum and colon. New research, however, shows that the breakdown, but not necessarily the digestion, of fructans can actually start in the stomach depending on the type of forage a horse is offered.

“According to a group of European researchers*, this study and others like it are important because many diseases in horses are caused by misunderstood nutrition principles. By enhancing the knowledge of how different feedstuffs are broken down, digested, and fermented, horses can be fed to not only prevent disease but also maximize performance,” relayed Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutrition advisor for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...

Choose Natural Vitamin E for Horses

Horses require vitamin E in their diets for many biological functions. One of vitamin E’s most well-known roles is as a powerful antioxidant that promotes health of muscle and nerve cells. Because it is fat-soluble, vitamin E must be consumed with dietary fat in order to be properly absorbed in the body. Sources of vitamin E include fresh pasture, good-quality hay, and fortified concentrates.

Forms of Vitamin E..

Anhidrosis in Horses and Electrolyte Therapy

The sweat glands of most horses toil glitch-free for a lifetime, working tirelessly to moderate body temperature, excrete waste products, and help maintain the ecosystem of the skin. Occasionally, and often inexplicably, a horse will lose its ability to sweat, a condition known as anhidrosis. As with humans, sweating among horses is key to thermoregulation, so anhidrotic horses, sometimes called “non-sweaters,” pose significant challenges for their owners.

“The disease seems to be especially prominent in hot, humid climates, which makes the necessity of sweating all that more important,” said Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutrition advisor with Kentucky Equine Research (KER), Versailles, Ky. “It can come on suddenly or develop slowly over time and is most often associated with times when the nighttime temperature does not go below 80o F (27o C).”..

Electrolytes and Performance Horses: Is a Salt Block Enough?

The professionals at Kentucky Equine Research (KER) answer questions frequently about how best to nourish equine athletes, from low-level performance horses to Olympic hopefuls. The importance of daily electrolyte supplementation for high-performance horses is well known, as regular sweating leads to electrolyte loss, and without appropriate replacement, performance suffers. But what about other performance horses, those engaged in light or moderate exercise?

Would free-choice access to a white or mineralized salt block negate the need for a daily electrolyte supplementation?..

Vitamins for Bone Health in Horses

Young horses require vitamins for growth. Some vitamins must be provided nutritionally, while others can be synthesized by the healthy individual. While vitamin D gets the lion’s share of attention for skeletal contributions, other vitamins are just as important, including vitamins A, C, and K.

Vitamin A has a distinct role in equine growth with both deficiency and toxicity of vitamin A adversely affecting growth, body weight, and rate of gain in young growing horses. “In the growing horse, vitamin A supports the proper functioning of osteoclasts, or bone-resorbing cells, during bone remodeling,” said Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutrition advisor for Kentucky Equine Research (KER). “There is limited information on absolute vitamin A requirements for growing horses, but for horses grazing sufficient quantities of green pastures, vitamin A requirement can be met entirely by the carotenes in the forage.”..

Improving Horse Hooves: Four Tips

Seasonal changes can wreak havoc on hoof health, leaving them cracked, split, or tender. Why so? Prime culprits include increased work, annoying flies that instigate stomping and concussion on hoof walls, and damp conditions that sometimes leave hooves too moist for too long.

Horse owners can implement a few management strategies to keep hooves in tip-top shape in the summertime. Here are four tips:..

Turnout Tips: When's Best to Graze?

Proper turnout offers innumerable benefits. Turned-out horses are typically more fit due to increased exercise; show less anxiety with fewer stereotypies; have healthier, more robust respiratory systems; maintain strong musculoskeletal systems; and potentially have fewer gastric ulcers due to a longer, more sustained feeding pattern.

Nonetheless, not all horses can be managed 24/7 on pasture, and there are some that should not be allowed to graze willy-nilly for fear of laminitis. If your horse has signs of insulin resistance (IR) or has been diagnosed with either IR or equine metabolic syndrome then timing of turnout needs to be optimized to maximize health and minimize ingestion of fructans...

Water-Soluble Vitamin E for Horses Proven Superior

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) supplementation helps prevent various disorders affecting both the nervous and musculoskeletal systems, including neuroaxonal dystrophy/equine degenerative myeloencephalopathy, equine motor neuron disease, vitamin E deficient myopathy, and nutritional myodegeneration. These conditions can be prevented largely by providing adequate dietary vitamin E to horses, and recent research shows* that a liquid vitamin E supplement may be more beneficial than a powdered formulation.

“The current recommended daily dietary intake of vitamin E for adult horses is 1-2 IU/kg. Many horses obtain adequate vitamin E from pasture. When horses have limited access to pasture, either due to an underlying metabolic condition or during times of drought, and are instead offered hay, vitamin E levels may be depleted. In such cases, vitamin E supplementation could prove beneficial,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER)...

Electrolytes Vital for Performance Horses

More than one horse owner has asked herself this simple question, “Why don’t feed manufacturers put electrolytes in feed specifically designed for performance horses?” According to Joe Pagan, Ph.D., founder and owner of Kentucky Equine Research (KER), this is a reasonable question but one that is easily answered.

“A horse's energy requirement stays the same during consistent work,” explained Pagan, “but sweat losses change with weather, work intensity, and other factors. Horse owners need to be able to easily adjust the amount of electrolyte given based on sweat production.”..