Health Up­date

Foal X-rays could pre­dict joint trouble; fre­quent feed­ing may min­i­mize ul­cers

Practical Horseman - - Contents -

What if you could view X-rays of a young foal and pre­dict prob­lems that he might have as an adult? That might give you time to take sup­port­ive mea­sures to pre­vent the prob­lems from oc­cur­ring. That was es­sen­tially the goal be­hind a study con­ducted by El­iz­a­beth M. Santschi, DVM, DACVS, pro­fes­sor of equine surgery at Kan­sas State Uni­ver­sity’s Col­lege of Veterinary Medicine, and her team. They wanted to de­ter­mine if in­com­plete for­ma­tion of min­er­als re­quired to grow healthy bones (min­er­al­iza­tion), in this case knee and hock bones, in foals could pre­dict prob­lems later in life—such as de­vi­a­tions in limb straight­ness, mis­shapen bones and os­teoarthri­tis— that can neg­a­tively affect ath­letic per­for­mance.

For the study, re­searchers se­lected 100 full-term Thor­ough­bred foals liv­ing on horse farms in cen­tral Ken­tucky. The team re­viewed X-rays of the foals’ knee and hock joints taken dur­ing their first week of life and again at 110 to 301 days of age.

In the first-week X-rays, re­searchers eval­u­ated the level of min­er­al­iza­tion of the joints’ car­ti­lage that would even­tu­ally turn into full-size bone (cuboidal bone growth car­ti­lage). They found that min­er­al­iza­tion was com­plete in only 46 per­cent of the foals.

The team then re­viewed the X-rays taken when the foals were older and iden­ti­fied any ab­nor­mal­i­ties. In com­par­ing their find­ings from the younger and older X-rays, the re­searchers dis­cov­ered that foals whose joints had not fully min­er­al­ized tended to demon­strate ab­nor­mal­i­ties (like those men­tioned above) in their hocks at the later age. In­ter­est­ingly, no such re­la­tion­ship was shown in the knee joints.

The re­searchers con­cluded that there is an as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween lack of min­er­al­iza­tion and later is­sues, at least in the hock joints. Since X-rays can show in­com­plete min­er­al­iza­tion in very young foals, they could be use­ful in early iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of po­ten­tial trouble. And that, says Dr. Santschi, would al­low the foal’s owner to ini­ti­ate mea­sures—such as lim­it­ing ex­er­cise for the young­ster—that could help re­duce the risk of fu­ture prob­lems.

Fre­quent Feed­ing May Min­i­mize Ul­cers

The horse’s diges­tive sys­tem is de­signed for a diet of high-fiber for­age eaten in rel­a­tively small amounts through­out the day. In other words, graz­ing. But many mod­ern com­pe­ti­tion horses live in stalls and are fed just two to three times per day, of­ten on di­ets with high lev­els of starchy grains. Past re­search has shown that these prac­tices play a role in the in­creased num­ber of gas­tric ul­cers seen in to­day’s per­for­mance horses.

Feed­ing more of­ten is too time-in­ten­sive for most horse care­tak­ers. But what if au­to­matic feed­ers came into play? That’s what Luke Bass, DVM, MS, Dipl. ABVP, set out to dis­cover with his team at Colorado State Uni­ver­sity’s Col­lege of Veterinary Medicine and Bio­med­i­cal Sciences.

To test the premise, the re­searchers se­lected 31 2-year-old Quar­ter Horses who were be­ing prepped for CSU’s an­nual auc­tion. The horses were ac­cli­mated to the des­ig­nated diet for 10 days be­fore the study be­gan. They were also moved from dry lots to in­di­vid­ual stalls and dur­ing the study pe­riod they were all started un­der sad­dle and ex­er­cised at a mod­er­ate level.

All horses were fed the same type and amount of grain. They were ran­domly as­signed to one of two grain-feed­ing reg­i­mens: 15 horses were fed grain twice a day and the re­main­ing 16 horses were put on a “frac­tioned-fed” pro­gram—re­ceiv­ing their grain in 20 equal feed­ings de­liv­ered ev­ery hour for 20 hours via an iFEED au­to­matic feeder. Af­ter each 20-hour pe­riod, there was a four-hour break be­fore feed­ing started again. All horses also re­ceived grass hay equiv­a­lent to 2 per­cent of their body weight.

Re­searchers per­formed gas­troscopy, where a small cam­era at­tached to a long tube is passed through the horse’s nose to give a view of the stom­ach, on the horses at Day 0 (be­fore start­ing ac­cli­ma­tion to the grain), at 30 days and 60 days.

Re­searchers used an estab­lished grad­ing sys­tem to score each horse for two types of gas­tric ul­cers: squa­mous ul­cers,

which ap­pear in the up­per re­gion of the stom­ach, and glan­du­lar ul­cers, which ap­pear in the lower re­gion of the stom­ach.

At the start of the study, there was no dif­fer­ence in squa­mous ul­cer scores be­tween the two groups. At the 30- and 60day checks, the scores for the frac­tionedfed horses had not changed, but scores for the horses on a tra­di­tional feed­ing plan had sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased (show­ing more signs of ul­cers).

In ad­di­tion, at Day 30, the frac­tionedfed group showed a lower pro­por­tion of glan­du­lar ul­cers than the tra­di­tion­ally fed group. But at Day 60 there was no dif­fer­ence be­tween the two. The team thought this could be due to stress as the horses grew ac­cus­tomed to their new lodg­ing and feed­ing reg­i­mens. Un­for­tu­nately, the team couldn’t con­tinue re­search be­cause the horses were sold at auc­tion.

The team also eval­u­ated the horses’ weight and body con­di­tion score bi­weekly. These two at­tributes showed no sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences be­tween the two groups through­out the study.

In con­clu­sion, the re­searchers say that the re­sults sup­port the the­ory that go­ing long pe­ri­ods with­out eat­ing plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in the for­ma­tion of gas­tric ul­cers. De­creas­ing that time by pro­vid­ing fre­quent meals—a task that can be aided by au­to­matic feed­ers—may re­duce the in­ci­dence of some gas­tric ul­cers.— Sushil Du­lai Wen­holz

In a re­cent study with Thor­ough­bred foals, re­searchers found that a lack of min­er­al­iza­tion (needed to form healthy bones) could cause fu­ture is­sues with hock joints.

Re­searchers dis­cov­ered that pro­vid­ing horses with fre­quent meals—a task that can be aided by au­to­matic feed­ers, such as the iFEED model shown here—can help re­duce the oc­cur­rence of gas­tric ul­cers.

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