First a little business: Our latest #SpringhillEquine winner is June Begelman! Also, I had better see everyone next Thursday March 10th at 6:30pm for the Skin Funk Seminar. And now on to our main topic.
This past week has been sufficiently busy for my amusement. Dr. Lacher did a few dentals, ultrasounds for breeding, and a lameness exam. Dr. Vurgason took X-rays of a mini with a fractured face, and castrated another one of those cute (but loud) piglets. As I observe the horses that trail through the clinic, I have noticed a trend toward the slim, tucked-up, ribby look this season. Perhaps you too have noticed that your horse shed a few too many pounds this winter?
There are a few possible reasons for this phenomenon, but let’s rule out the easy ones first:
Has your horse had his teeth floated recently (at least within the last 12 months)? If not, he may not be properly chewing his feed for optimal nutrient absorption. Chewing is an important part of digestion, especially for animals who have to break down coarse feedstuffs like hay and oats. I much prefer bite-size pieces of tuna-flavored kibbles.
Has your horse been recently dewormed? In humans it is true that tapeworms living in the gut can eat the food intended for their host, and grow super long (disgusting!) In contrast, the internal parasites of horses cause weight loss by damaging the large intestine, which is where a lot of nutrient absorption normally occurs. Some parasites migrate through the blood vessels of the large colon, others encyst in the lining of the intestines. Either way, being “wormy” is definitely a reason why your horse could be losing weight. Maybe I should swallow a tapeworm to lose the rest of this holiday weight I’ve been holding onto…
Far and away the most common reason I see for skinny horses is something I like to call “a-groceri-osis,” or a lack of feed. So many horse owners are shocked when they hear how much grain our docs recommend for an underweight horse. I’m not talking about increasing your horse from 1 cup to two cups of Omelene 100. I’m talking 12 lbs (that’s two full coffee cans twice a day) of Triple Crown Senior. In my glory days, I could fit my whole body into a standard equine feed scoop.
For many of us, weight loss is difficult. But apparently for some creatures, weight gain proves more of a challenge. Keep in mind that you should always start with forage. Grass and hay should be the mainstay of any horse’s diet. As a carnivore, it’s hard for me to get on board with the green and leafy stuff, but they seem to like it. Next, it may be in your best financial interest to evaluate the type of grain you are feeding. Higher calorie does not necessarily mean higher cost. If you have a skinny horse, you will get more bang for your buck by switching to a Senior feed than feeding more of a Maintenance feed. My cat food is very expensive, but I’m worth it.
That being said, if your horse has had a dental, you have recently dewormed him, you believe you are feeding him enough to sustain an elephant, and he is still skinny, please have Dr. Lacher or Dr. Vurgason out to take a look! There are several other underlying medical issues that can cause weight loss in a horse; this is just what I’ve learned over the years from eavesdropping on the docs. Until next week, my friends!