Dr. Cathy Alinovi – veterinarian, animal lover, and nationally celebrated author – knew she wanted to be an animal doctor since she was nine years old. Her mission then was simple: to make the world safe for animals. Relentlessly committed to her patients’ care, Dr. Cathy is quickly gaining national recognition for her integrative approach to animal health.
Dr. Cathy Alinovi began her veterinary education at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine and also holds a Master of Science in Epidemiology from Purdue, but quickly realized that conventional medicine didn’t meet all her patients’ needs. She went back to school and became certified in animal chiropractic. Since then, she has also been certified in Veterinary Food Therapy, Veterinary Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Therapy, and Aromatherapy.
Dr. Cathy Alinovi is the owner of Healthy PAWsibilities in rural Pine Village, Indiana, and Hoopeston Veterinary Service in Hoopeston, Illinois.
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Holistic veterinary advice. email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Our veterinary columnists respond to questions in this column only. We regret we cannot respond to every question. This column is for information purposes only. It is not meant to replace veterinary care. Please consult your veterinarian before giving your horse any remedies.
Q: Every time my three-year-old Thoroughbred goes through a growth spurt, she gets a bit ribby. She has access to great free choice hay, and gets a small portion of grain three times per day, but it doesn’t seem to be enough to consistently keep her in good weight right now. Is this normal, or do I need to be feeding more? She is not really in work – just lunging a few times per week.
The adjectives “ribby” and “gangly” do seem to apply to growth spurts, but there are things you can do to minimize them. Your free choice hay is lovely; fresh grass, when available, is even better and will give a little extra boost. High quality hay has higher protein content than mature hay, so be picky in what you choose to feed your growing girl. Alfalfa mixed in with the grass will add protein to her food. Be sure to keep it a mixture of grass and alfalfa – pure alfalfa has too much phosphorus and can lead to other nutritional imbalances.
Sometimes grain is not as well-rounded as we would like – it’s almost like a mouthful of candy rather than a granola bar. Instead, consider a flax-based supplement with non- GMO ingredients that will support her growing metabolism. Protein makes muscle, so supplements that help with muscle development will keep your young horse’s ribs covered.
Protein supplements include flax-based products and high quality hay with a little alfalfa, and should help your girl maintain flesh through her growth spurts. Most proteindeveloping products contain soy – the soy is usually GMO and a by-product, rather than the whole grain, which is more nutritionally balanced. Do your research when looking at protein-building supplements.
Q: Strangles has broken out locally, but since it is not a reportable disease we don’t know which barns have it. Supposedly, one of the barns is still letting horses come and go, as well as farriers, etc. What is the best way to protect my farm and horses?
Cleanliness and good immunity will protect most horses from cross contamination from a barn with strangles. Soap and water goes an amazingly long way to prevent the spread of disease. Clean hands and clean tools will keep farriers and handlers from spreading the bacteria (Strep equi equi is the bacteria that causes strangles). Hoses can hide the bacteria so water buckets should be filled individually by carrying them to the spigot, rather than filling from a hose.
Another great plan is for your helpers to have boots specific for your barn stored at your farm. This way they aren’t tracking possible “cooties” from one facility to another. At this point, trying to prevent problems by vaccinating may actually backfire – it takes two to three weeks for your horses to respond to the vaccine, and it may actually weaken your horses’ immunity right after giving it.
Q: Is there a way to manage a mild case of hives without steroids?
Most cases of mild hives will clear up on their own in 12 to 24 hours. Sometimes the pain associated with them needs to be treated, either with cool water or a nonsteroidal pain reliever like phenylbutazone.
For horses with chronic hives, several different routes can avoid steroids and the risk of laminitis. The first is to have your horse covered with a flysheet at sunrise and sunset, when the tiny bugs that can cause the hives are flying about. The second is to use herbal formulas that help with hives – such as Lung Wind Huang, also called Xiao Huang San. The third option might be to use LDN – low dose naltrexone. LDN modulates the immune system so allergic reactions are less likely to occur. Fourth, look at whole grains instead of GMO grains and extruded feeds.
Hives are an allergic reaction. Allergies are due to an inappropriately-responding immune system. Regardless of your method, once the immune system learns to respond properly, the hives should not occur.
Q: My gelding has been getting a little head shy lately, and I noticed he has some white chalky-looking growths in his ears. Could these be causing the issue, and what can I do about them?
The growths are called aural (ear) plaques (raised patches/deposits). They can be irritating. The problem is that if you try to remove them, they can become angry and turn into sarcoids – although they are not considered sarcoids at this stage in the game. They can respond nicely to a topical cream for genital warts in humans (called Aldara), the same treatment recommended for sarcoids. Some people have used different creams and pastes – Xxterra, antibiotic ointment, and cortisone cream – with different levels of success.
The big concern is that if your horse is already a bit head shy, anything that makes the plaques feel worse will make him more head shy for a while after they are cleared up. Some treatments can cause increased inflammation until the problem is cleared up, and that inflammation will increase pain.
Q: What is less of a choke hazard – feeding carrots whole, or cutting them into pieces? What about apples?
A choke hazard is more dependent on the horse’s teeth and TMJ (jaw joint/ temporomandibular joint) than on the size of the pieces of food. If your horse has great teeth and chewing motion, he should do well with any size of apple or carrot that he can bite into and break up.
When the teeth don’t meet sufficiently, or there are missing or rotten teeth, your horse won’t chew properly; he will also chew improperly if his jaw is sore and it hurts to chew. With either of these cases, it does not matter what the size of the treat – he may choke because he isn’t chewing properly. Horses choke on oats when their teeth are bad, and oats are certainly smaller than carrot and apple slices.