Can cider vine­gar pre­vent en­teroliths?

DI­GES­TION Can cider vine­gar pre­vent en­teroliths?

EQUUS - - Contents -

Q:I was rather sur­prised upon read­ing “What to Do About En­teroliths” (EQUUS 481) to see that adding ap­ple cider vine­gar to a horse’s feed is sug­gested as a pos­si­ble so­lu­tion to pre­vent­ing en­teroliths. How does this in­crease acid­ity in a horse’s gut?

Re­cently, while re­search­ing the ben­e­fits of ap­ple cider vine­gar, I was sur­prised to learn that it leaves an al­ka­line residue when it is di­gested. I also read that, when ap­ple cider vine­gar is di­gested, the gut does not have to re­lease as much acid to ab­sorb it, and so a more acidic pH is not achieved.

Since, in ad­di­tion to swal­low­ing for­eign ob­jects, risk fac­tors for en­teroliths in­clude a diet ex­ces­sively rich in min­er­als and a gut pH that is too al­ka­line, how is ap­ple cider vine­gar a so­lu­tion? Miriam G. Cun­ning­ham Par­rish, Florida

A:Th­ese are ex­cel­lent ques­tions on a topic that is not well un­der­stood. As the ar­ti­cle you ref­er­enced de­scribed, en­teroliths are rock­like con­cre­tions that can form in the gut of horses with cer­tain risk fac­tors, in­clud­ing the swal­low­ing of for­eign ob­jects, a min­eral-rich diet and a higher (more al­ka­line) gut pH.

You are cor­rect that ap­ple cider vine­gar is be­lieved to have al­ka­lin­iz­ing ef­fects “in the body.” How­ever, it is a highly acidic sub­stance with a pH be­tween 3.1 to 5. (A neu­tral pH is 7, and more ba­sic, or al­ka­line, pH val­ues are higher, from 7 to 14.) Per­haps the al­ka­liza­tion is oc­cur­ring af­ter me­tab­o­lism and ab­sorp­tion.

The rec­om­men­da­tion to feed a horse ap­ple cider vine­gar in an ef­fort to re­duce the risk of en­teroliths is based on two stud­ies that di­rectly mea­sured the ef­fect of this prac­tice on the acid­ity of the gut con­tents.

In the first, re­searchers from Cor­nell Univer­sity re­ported that the ad­di­tion of 112 ml (3.8 ounces) of ap­ple cider vine­gar to grain fed twice daily to ponies caused an in­crease in acid­ity in the lower gas­troin­testi­nal tract and that this drop in pH “seemed to pre­vent en­terolith for­ma­tion.” They also noted that ap­ple cider vine­gar seemed to work bet­ter than dis­tilled vine­gar.

How­ever, th­ese re­sults must be viewed cau­tiously be­cause they were not pub­lished in a peer-re­viewed pub­li­ca­tion but only re­ported at a sym­po­sium---specif­i­cally, the 1989 Pro­ceed­ings of the Equine Nu­tri­tion and Phys­i­ol­ogy Sym­po­sium. In ad­di­tion, the feed­ing of grain alone will re­sult in some de­gree of acid­i­fi­ca­tion of the lower gas­troin­testi­nal tract.

The se­cond study was one of my own. Six horses---three known “stone for­m­ers” and three with no his­tory of en­teroliths---were fit­ted with fis­tu­las in their right dor­sal colons. This gave us easy, con­tin­u­ous ac­cess to the con­tents of their colons for sam­pling. Twice daily, I fed each horse ei­ther grain with eight ounces of ap­ple cider vine­gar or grain with no vine­gar. The horses who con­sumed the ap­ple cider vine­gar had a small, but sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant, drop in gut pH com­pared to the horses who ate grain alone.

Nei­ther of th­ese stud­ies tried to de­ter­mine ex­actly how ap­ple cider vine­gar acid­i­fies the equine gut, so we can’t an­swer that part of your ques­tion. We also don’t know for sure whether this ex­tra acid­ity in the gut has any ef­fect on the for­ma­tion of en­teroliths. But we are cer­tain that feed­ing ap­ple cider vine­gar to horses does acid­ify the con­tents of the gut to some ex­tent. Diana Has­sel, DVM, PhD,

DACVS, DACVECC Col­orado State Univer­sity Fort Collins, Col­orado

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