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Horse Health

Digestive mal-function in the horse

By 01/12/2014April 13th, 2017No Comments

Whether a horse is going to have a long and relatively trouble free life or whether it is going to go through life accompanied by an ever increasing catalogue of problems will have much to do with its digestive system.

It is said that if the lymph system is circulating freely it is almost impossible for an animal to become sick, true but if one thing is going to upset the lymph system and then jeopardise the health status of the horse in general it will be some degree of digestive mal-function. The horse is also a very hepatically (liver) complicated animal, living for so long as it does with a highly worked organ smaller in comparison to its adult bodyweight than nearly any other mammal. Indeed this is something that we at Trinity Consultants are constantly reminded of by the thousands of litres of L94 we make to help the liver of the horse but again the reasons for undulations in liver function stem largely from the digestive system.

Along with the lungs the digestive system is where the outside meets the inside, it is the body’s reception desk and it’s the body’s first and most comprehensive filtering system. If everything goes well, all well and good, if not then it’s not just the digestive system that becomes impaired but the entire body. One of the reasons why it can go wrong surrounds the fact that the horse has evolved a quite unique mobile herbivore and developed a highly specific system of breaking down small quantities of fresh vegetation over long periods of time whilst accommodating a special need for speed on two counts, a speedier system of initially turning food into energy and the necessity for a more favourable power:weight ratio for speed of flight.

It has done this by developing a pre-conditioner to be in front of its fermentation system. Starting the digestive process monogastrically gives the horse a definite head start and in the wild a greater capacity to survive under extreme conditions, whilst no cattle could survive out on the mountains in 1947 the Welsh ponies endured a winter so bad and for so long that when the weather finally broke some were found still standing frozen to death. There are however certain evolutionary conditions to this advantage which clash with Man’s interests for the horse is of little use to man if it is allowed to just follow the growth of vegetation as it appears, grazing intermittently for at least seventeen hours of the day. With Man’s intervention horses become, on the whole less thrifty than cattle or perhaps more vulnerable because the rules governing their digestive system are broken more readily.

Unlike the cow that only has regurgitation to soften things up before fermentation the horses has a fully working acidification unit that preconditions food before fermentation, having a stomach so placed certainly helps speed up breakdown of food but there is also an ever present danger of acidification negating subsequent feed breakdown by fermentation. Of course evolution did not leave the horse without a fail-safe way of reducing the risk of acidosis, this it does by the injection of bile immediately post stomach to neutralise the acid but bile is the product of a healthy liver the existence of which is dependant on a healthy digestive system so somehow as it always does with the horse it comes back to the digestive system.

No one is arguing any disassociation between horse and man, the horse can no longer survive in this modern world without mankind but what must be argued is regardless of how accommodating the horse is and whatever its individual quirks and characteristics it is still a horse and whether it be due to stress, injury, disease or parasites, its finely adapted digestive system is easily upset; indeed every trauma and day to day disturbance means some form of change occurring in the gut. Most of the time such changes are within the parameters of the system to self correct but if there are too many at one time or there is a trauma beyond the capability of auto-regulation it can start a chain reaction that will be reflected in every organ in the body. Too great a volume of acid, too low a pH (stronger acid), too little bile can often be beyond the horse to correct without consequence and if so the small intestine and beyond becomes acididotic enough to result in mass death of those families of bacteria that help maintain an optimum working pH and are replaced by a proliferation of stronger acid producing bacteria that perpetuate a problem.

Immediately this occurs the horse feels a continually depressing discomfort and its attitude changes. If it continues, fissures start to appear in the protective mucosa through which toxins normally destined to be filtered out and passed harmlessly into the faeces leak into the liver. Such a situation becomes even more unsatisfactory as epithelial mucosa starts to be eaten away and unhealing lesions begin to form. Appetite becomes impaired and hepatic and pancreatic functions are more seriously affected. Food consumed journeying through the stomach and intestines impinge on sores helping to sooth but because of the situation only give transient relief before starting to encourage the secretion of the hormone Gastrin to trigger the release of even more acid so that at this point it may be found that although a regular and prudent diet may well maintain a good intestinal climate, it may not always be fully corrective at this stage and some intervention as an adjunct to such feeding is necessary to break the cycle of acid begetting acid.

This is where G59 DIGÉSTIF is most helpful giving relief in a matter of hours followed by REGAIN (see programme) a valuable convalescent to help re-inoculate the gut and set about helping many of the secondary problems including anaemia which is often an automatic consequence of acidosis. Finally should there be a need for a prophylactic, a sort of reliable gut guardian the formula U33 is ideal as it does not just soothe and heal but protects against ulcer formation.

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