Dr. Lacher’s Trip To Purina

Dr. Lacher’s Trip To Purina

Tuesdays with Tony

I eat Purina cat food. Dr. Lacher told me she was going to the Purina research facility, so naturally I felt I should get some food out of the deal. Turns out Purina horse and Purina cat aren’t the same thing, so I didn’t get anything out of this deal. However, Dr. Lacher said she learned a ton, so read on to hear about her trip to St. Louis. Here’s what she said about it:

The first thing I’m going to say about this trip is that Purina was all about the science. While they flew us to St. Louis, put us up in an amazing hotel (check out the St. Louis Grand Central Station Hotel), and fed us very well, the information presented wasn’t about Purina. Instead, it was about the science behind fueling and caring for horses. They also talked about how they use that science to make better feeds, and how they make sure the research they do gets published so horses everywhere can benefit.

Horse vet FloridaWe started off the evening by meeting these guys: Rascal and McGee. I have been around the Anheuser Busch Clydesdales before but I find their size awe-inspiring every time. I also find their tolerance for the crazy stuff they are asked to do pretty impressive. Rascal and McGee spent two hours standing in a hotel lobby (on a red carpet with padding underneath) being incredibly bored while 250-300 veterinarians and technicians oohh’d and aaahh’d over them, took selfies, marveled at their feathers, their extreme level of clean, and how they did their hair, and never once lost their cool. I can’t get Vespa to calmly stand on crossties in the barn at home reliably!

The next day I learned how hard it is to treat ulcers in horses. Don’t get me wrong, I know we have the chronic offenders. Those horses we treat for ulcers again and again and again. Now, thanks to an incredibly scrappy Australian, I understand why it’s so difficult to get some of these horses managed! Gastrogard is difficult to give correctly, and some horses produce lots of acid no matter how much Gastrogard you give them, and some horses get ulcers in the glandular part of the stomach and they need a whole different plan.

To get your money’s worth from Gastrogard (and it’s a lot of money):

  1. Keep your horse in a stall overnight
  2. Give no food after 10pm (although they can have a flake of hay at 10pm)
  3. Give Gastrogard in the morning BEFORE feeding
  4. Wait at least 1 ½ hours to feed
  5. Repeat for three weeks.

In the afternoon we all piled into buses and drove about an hour away to the Purina Research Farm. This is about 1200 acres of beautiful rolling fields dotted with cows, chickens, goats, sheep, horses, and even a research pond! Here Purina begins the process of making their feed better. They take an idea, turn it into a feed (or add it to an already available feed), and put it to the test on actual animals in real world situations! They can tell if horses are eating big bites or little bites of grain, how fast they are eating, do they eat hay and then grain, or grain and then hay, and even do they like this better than that down to 0.01 pounds. At this point I was thinking being a research horse for Purina is a pretty cushy job. Then we went to the treadmill barn.

The treadmill horses tell Purina if their feed improves performance in an actual test of performance. These studies are over a prolonged period, sometimes as long as 8-12 months. During that time the horse’s fitness is tested by a myriad of machines. They look at heart rate, return-to-resting heart rate, what they breathe out vs. what they breathe in, and if it’s a marker of how a horse’s metabolism is working, they measure it. This takes the guesswork out of knowing if a tweak to a diet makes a real difference. Science tells them yes or no. Here’s the cool thing: if the answer is no, no matter how badly they want it to be yes, Purina doesn’t make the change.

The final stop on the Purina Farm tour was what they call the Microbiome Barn. Everyone agrees the microscopic critters on and in a body (horse or human) are important in ways we never dreamed. However, no one is really sure what bacteria, fungus, and protozoa are involved, how to influence these critters, if we even can influence them, and do good or bad (or nothing) things happen when we do try to influence them. Purina has a group of horses dedicated to this research. They are in the very early phases, but it’s pretty exciting stuff!!

Sunday was another day of science!! I am often frustrated by the horse who seems to have weird GI stuff going on: diarrhea for months or years, weight loss in the senior horse, and the repeat offender colic horse. We talked about diagnosing and treating these horses. Then we talked about how different components of the diet can impact these horses. Sure, there were suggestions on which Purina diets had these ingredients, but the overriding message was about ingredients, not diets in particular. Needless to say, I learned a lot this weekend!!

There you have it. I’m glad Dr. Lacher learned a lot and enjoyed herself, but next time I want food! That’s reasonable, right?

Until next week,


Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Tuesdays with Tony – Ulcers

Tuesdays with Tony – Ulcers

  I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we have a pretty exciting event coming up this Thursday, September 7th at 6:30pm! Our very own Dr. Lacher will be telling the world everything they ever wanted to know about stomach ulcers in horses! I’m more than a little ticked off that this event will be held at Canterbury Showplace on Newberry Road, rather than the Clinic, because it means I can’t stalk the attendees for attention, and solicit treats from them that exacerbate my diabetes. It’s a free seminar, as always, so bring a friend!

Why do horses get stomach ulcers?

   No one, not even the omniscient Tony, knows quite what causes ulcers to develop in one horse compared to another. But, with a quick glimpse of their brilliant anatomy *sarcasm* you can understand why horses are so prone to this painful condition, also called EGUS (Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome). You see, horses, like most other animals, use acid to help digest the food in their stomachs. Logically, most of their stomach is coated with an acid-resistant lining. However, the top 1/3 of their stomach lining is uncoated, and when acid splashes on it, *surprise* they get ulcers.

When should I treat my horse for ulcers?

 Some signs of stomach ulcers in horses are obvious, while others are more subtle. When Dr. V’s horse bucked her off because she tightened his girth… that was a pretty obvious sign. But as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you can anticipate stress-inducing events for your horse, it is much easier and less expensive to prevent your horse from developing ulcers in the first place, than to treat them once they are already established.

    For example, Dr. Lacher’s horse just underwent major surgery, and will be on stall rest for an extended period of time. Dr. Lacher has her horse on Gastrotech and Ranitidine to protect him from developing ulcers. Our amazing office assistant, Mallie, has a mare who just weaned a foal and moved to a new farm. Mallie has her on Ulcergard to prevent stress-induced ulcers.

We know that exercise, illness or injury, hauling anywhere, and change in routine are all events that have been linked to ulcers in horses. In general, it is best to treat your horse for ulcers BEFORE you think he has them.

What should I treat my horse’s ulcers with?

    You have probably heard of Gastrogard and Ulcergard (which incidentally are exactly the same product, just marketed differently), but there are a myriad of other ulcer treatments out there. One of the most promising areas of recent ulcer research is in feed and supplements that prevent ulcers by raising stomach pH. Legends Gastrotech and Purina Outlast would be examples of these. Remember from high school chemistry, low pH=acid, high pH=base. In lay-cat’s terms, that means any feed, supplement, or medication that raises stomach pH is going to inhibit ulcers.

How can I learn more about ulcers in horses?

  I’m so glad you asked! Simply come to my event this Thursday, Sept. 7th at 6:30 pm; don’t forget it’s at Canterbury Showplace. I can personally guarantee that every question about equine gastric ulcers will be answered in great detail. I wish I could say I will see you there, but I’ll be stuck holding down the fort at the Clinic with Teanie. Now then, if you’ll excuse me, it’s nap time.

Springhill Equine ulcers

Tuesdays With Tony – Stomach Ulcers

Tuesdays With Tony – Stomach Ulcers

Stomach Ulcers

    Wow, that was some race last weekend! I had a great time hosting our annual Kentucky Derby party with our Wellness Clients here at the clinic, and sampling the delicious food from O Sole Mio. When I see the hats that you people wear to watch a horse race, it makes me even more glad I’m a cat! It looks like a lot of work to make one of those things, and then carry it around on your head. I have people that do the work Dr. Lacher, Dr. Vurgason, and Tonyfor me, so that’s really not my thing at all. Anyway, the race was very exciting, especially the saddle-bronc bucking display coming out of the gate! Thoroughbreds are certainly majestic and athletic creatures. But, as a cat who works at a vet clinic, I can’t watch Thoroughbreds without thinking about stomach ulcers. Comes with the trade, I guess!

Could my horse have stomach ulcers?

  Short answer: yes. Long answer: horses of any breed or discipline, horses in and out of work, young horses, old horses, horses with a history of ulcers, and horses who have never been sick a day in their life… any horse can develop stomach ulcers. Did you know that 92% of racehorses in training have stomach ulcers? That being said, barrel racers, hunter/jumpers, reiners, eventers, harness horses, and cutting horses all have over 50% prevalence of GI ulcers as diagnosed by endoscopy. FYI, endoscopy is when a vet sticks a fiber-optic camera down your horse’s throat and into his stomach to actually look for ulcers along the stomach lining. That’s pretty cool!

But my horse isn’t stressed!

   How do you know? Did you ask him? The truth is, even if your horse has the life of a pampered prince that you could only dream of, he may be stressed by his normal daily routine. Did you know that keeping a horse in a stall for half a day, and feeding only twice a day can be stressful for your horse? When I get diabetic, the docs only feed me twice a day, and trust me, that’s not the way I like it! Spending hours grooming your horse may be relaxing for you, but it likely gets on his nerves to stand still in the cross-ties for that long. Hauling your horse anywhere, even to the park for a “leisurely” trail ride, is always a stress-inducing event.

OK, so how do I know for sure if my horse has stomach ulcers?

   The only way to know for sure if your horse has stomach ulcers is to have an endoscopy performed. But, I recommend simply starting with an exam by one of our awesome docs. They are highly experienced with the signs of stomach ulcers, and chances are with a thorough history and physical exam they can tell you whether your horse likely does or does not have GI ulcers. Also, they can help you navigate the confusing maze of ulcer treatments to pick the best option for you and your horse.
   Boy, I think all this learning is giving me an ulcer! Time for a cat nap. Until next week!