So, just the other night I released the news of an EHV-1 outbreak. Just as I had so many times before whether it be EHV-1 or one of many other challenges we as horse owners were facing and needed to be concerned with.
Let me say, for horses, pets, and people nutrition and preventative health have never been more important than today. Imagine 100 horses in a herd exposed to NHV-1, some will get sick and some won’t-why? Imagine 100 people exposed to influenza, some will get sick, some won’t-why? I know it is scary to think about either situation, but similar scenarios are actually occurring right now in each of our bodies. The battle is health versus sickness and battle never stops. It is constantly raging and we are the effect of it. Or could we really be the cause of it?
If everything were well and wonderful everyday then I imagine we would be well and wonderful, but I think that it goes without saying that that is impossible!
Stress is a major cause of illness but how does this relate to our horses? First let’s define a working definition of stress. My way to describe stress, right or wrong, is “being the effect of something or someone you feel you have no control over”. Anybody stressed?
Unfortunately for our equine friends stress is a part of life.
Showing, trailering, training, breeding, it seems there is always stress in horses’ lives. But, since they ARE at the effect of us it is our responsibility to keep them “less stressed” lest they will get sick. Let’s face it, though, we can’t quit showing , performing, trailing and breeding etc. etc. I guess some of us could just be professional petters, myself included, but these guys really prefer to work, right? Probably just keeping them in a stall and not letting them perform or work is the most major stress of all. So with reason, let’s assume we keep going about our normal business, but consider that there other ways we stress our horses though without knowing it.
Personally, I absolutely think that we inadvertently stress our animals everyday, and the bad thing is we do so with the best of intentions. Take vaccinations for instance, are they really that important? Most folks in the “real world” would argue YES, but I have to ask myself, could the cure be worse than the disease, especially if the disease is very, very rare? And what if the disease were treatable anyway and what if I could prevent it with good nutrition including antioxidants? What longterm effects could these vaccinations have? I ask these seemingly ridiculous questions because I think our horses have changed for the worse since my 21 years in practice. I believe they are weaker today, less resistant than in the early 80’s and just seem to have much more cancer, colic, founder, pulmonary disease, allergies etc. So I question: WHAT HAS CHANGED? A good example of this change is EPM. Why after million of years does the horse suddenly have a problem with possum manure? I don’t claim to have the answers to this but I have some theories... and yes, real-life experiences.
Certainly we do vaccinate much more then when I first started my practice. We didn’t even vaccinate for rabies then, but then one or two horse came down with it and whammo … millions vaccinated. The same was true for Encephalitis and Strangles, West Nile and even EPM... with provisional vaccines, no less, that may or may not even work when all the facts are gathered. Have you ever vaccinated a horse for influenza and it later came down with it? How about vaccinated for Strangles and in a few short weeks it was leaking pus all over the barn? How about, heaven forbid, Rhino and the mares later aborted. I have – plenty of times. In fact, so much so that now I don’t vaccinate at all. We have several Rocky Mountain Horses and we are vaccine free for close to a decade now – and we very seldom get sick horses. No more abortions after horse show exposure. No more strangles (knock on wood). Our horses are just healthier and their immune system less comprimised.
Another thing I don’t do is deworm every 2-3 months. (see: WormCheck.com) Foreign substances like deworming chemicals and vaccinations just confuse the bodies’ healing mechanisms to the point where it has no clue what is supposed to be part of the body and what is not. It seems to just start reacting to everything.
Take for instance the allergy tests on those horses with hives. Every one of them I have seen the results on seem to come back allergic to everything. Like hay, grass, dust etc. – you know, those things you can’t keep horses away from anyway. The best you can do in most of these cases is wet the hay right? Anyone have a horse sensitive to flies? Come on, horses are supposed to live with flies not break out in sores and hives. What has changed? The answer to deworming, by the way, is to simply check to see if they even have worms before deworming. All horse don’t have worms – we check hundreds of samples in our office. TRUE all horses are exposed to worms but guess what? SOME ARE RESISTANT, or so it seems! In my early years of practice we used to always check first with a fecal sample because we had to pass that nose tube and that was potentially risky business. That was a “known” risk, I believe an unknown risk is even worse. Could it be that overzealous use of pastes could be just as risky? Worse yet are daily dewormers! I have no doubt that some day we will have super worms that are resistant to everything! Daily dewormers are not helping. Paying for a colic surgery is a great marketing stategy, especially if it keeps you using drugs and chemicals, isn’t it?
I know I am stepping on toes here but it may be time to reevaluate. This is tough when one has blinders on and just follows the norm without question. I understand and I could be completely wrong, BUT….Understand too, that I used to make my living as a “conventional” veterinarian using vaccinations, steroids, antibiotics and other such routine stuff. How could I have made such a drastic change?
Thank goodness I have seen changes in the mainstream since I've been on my soapbox! For example, small animal practitioners are being advised to no longer vaccinate just by the “calendar”, (i.e yearly), but to consider the individual needs and actual likelihood of exposure. True, this is very controversial, but a real step in the right direction. Such recommendations will be forthcoming for equines as well, but my concern is that all the fear about the “new diseases” will greatly hinder this coming. A major equine publication not so long ago proclaimed, “Looming Disaster with Our Current Deworming Practices”... citing such concerns as chemical toxicity and the resistance factor I already mentioned. But then another major equine magazine said Garlic was potentially toxic because they didn’t know the difference between an onion and garlic! So go figure!
Bottom line is, it is our responsibility, not the industry’s in general, to do what is right for our horse. Everybody has their own agenda. In the Garlic article, by the way, if you questioned it, you were referred you to a major university toxicology hotline. It cost $ 45 for a consultation. While you waited for the veterinarian, the recording attempted to sell you a book on Natural Toxins in horses. I paid the $45 for a search on garlic toxicity – never had they had a reported case, plus, with ALL their research material at hand, they could not find one substantiated reference to garlic toxicity –Onions yes (5 pounds), Garlic NO! I did have quite a conversation so the $45 was worth it for me to get to the bottom of the adgenda and it did go to a good cause I am sure, but I didn’t buy the book. I apologize for being so sarcastic here but Horse and Rider just blew that one in my opinion back in the day. At the time it was such a shame for such a good magazine.
So we have talked about vaccinations and deworming – what about these “non toxic” chemicals?
You know the kind for flies and such, that you, too, breathe each time you spray them or spot them on. Sure these substances are “nontoxic” but what about subtoxic? After all, “toxic” is the amount of the chemical or substance that is needed to kill an animal or person. What about the subtoxic effects that might increase viral and bacterial infections by weakening the immune system “function”, (i.e. lowering the white blood cell count, slowing white blood cell movement, destroying the mechanisms the white blood cells use to locate and destroy virus and bacterial cells, etc.). What about lowering production of the essential immune system regulator interferon or weakening or damaging antibody production? One such chemical on the market today is 65% permethrin. You can’t use any amount on you and you sure can’t use malathion, lindane or even furacin – that yellow stuff for wounds - but it is OK for equines!
By the way, PLEASE read the label on furacin – it has carcinogenic warnings all over it. Again, I used to use it by the gallons. So please understand I am not being critical, I guess I am just trying desperately to spread the message that “if there is an alternative, find it and use it”. And if you can’t find it …. Keep looking!
Please... we as practitioners don’t heal anything, none of us do, the best we can do is trigger the body to heal itself. It is as simple as that! The problem with so many drugs and chemicals is that they so badly confuse the bodies’ healing by taking over, leaving only another problem to deal with from the compounding effect of NEVER having been healed in the first place. I hope this makes sense and I hope you will help me on this mission.
Diets that we feed our horses are another major factor in preventative health. Our horses did not eat grain in the wild, especially so much corn. Why do we have to add so much molasses to their feeds? Perhaps because they don’t like the feed? Or is it because it is really not good for them?
Corn, for instance, has the same glycemic index as sugar. In other words, a tablespoon of corn has the same effect as a tablespoon of sugar. Molasses essentially is a sugar. Just imagine the blood glucose rising after the first meal of the day. Now imagine the blood sugar crashing to a low level. Herein lies the problem- a sugar low equals “starving” to the horses’ metabolism. The metabolic system does all it can to get the blood glucose back up. The pancreas, adrenals, thyroid, all kick in. These glands literally are worn out by the vicious cycle day after day of high and low sugar levels. Imagine asking your horse to act while on a sugar low. This is probably the number one cause of moody and hyper horses.
I also believe this daily metabolic stress is the reason we have so much founder and colic today. Even when a minor stress comes along they have no reserves left, because of the weekened adrenals and thyroid. The weak links are the gut and the feet, hence colic or founder.
This same scenario even happens to dogs and cats. Have you seen the amount of corn in pet foods lately? Based on the number of doughnut shops, bagel shops and high fructose soda pop machines around, a lot of people are destroying their “stess resistance” with carbohydrates and sugar, too. The answer for people is 25 grams of protein first thing in the morning of quality flax oil or virgin olive oil (two tablespoons).
The answer for horses is a good oil top dressed on the grain which slows the absorption on the grain and prevents the high spiking sugar levels in the first place. I don’t use flax oil in horses only because I find it difficult to maintain the freshness. Rancid or spoiled oil is worse. And heaven forbid if you know anyone using corn oil, alias syrup, please suggest they stop! For horses I prefer a quality GMO-FREE soybean oil. Our's is called Weight Check Oil and I believe what I was able to put toherther is uncomparable! My favorite grain to top dress it on is oats. And I prefer whole oats.
What else can we do to tip the scale to the side of wellness?
Use antioxidants! They are the scavengers of sickness, the buzzards that clean up all the messes in our bodies; the rustolium that prevents the rust in the first place, or better yet that which stops the rust dead in its tracks! The rust, or oxidation, is what turns the apple brown when you cut it in half. It is oxygen gone bad, free radicals bombarding everything it finds. Bottom line, if you want your animal friends to live longer and healthier lives, give antioxidants daily and take them yourself. It’s already been proven that antioxidants are beneficial. It has been since the 60’s.
Every day our animal friends, as well as ourselves, are bombarded with pollutants. We eat them. We drink them. We breathe them. Even horse feed (not to mention our food) has pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, hormones, etc. in it! Water has chlorine, trihalomethanes, alum, lime, and potassium permanganates just to name a few! My goodness, just smell the air as you travel down the polluted highway. I believe you get my “drift”!
If I only had one thing that I could do to help tip the scale to wellness it would have to be to use the antioxidant and natural “antibiotic” Garlic. It is an awesome antioxidant, a tremendous source of sulfur for the body and a tremendous bug powder when mixed with the a few other ingredients. Sulfur is one of the most basic substances needed to rejuvenate tissue. Do you know that at one time garlic was used successfully to prevent polio? It was also found to be a more potent antibiotic than penicillin, ampicillin, doxycyline, streptomycin, and cephalexin- some of the very same drugs used to treat Anthrax. It was even effective against some strains of E. coli,
staph and other micro organisms. [Fitoterapia Vol 5, 1984]
Other sulfur-bearing antioxidants, Alpha lipoic acid, N-acetyl Cysteine, Taurine, and Vitamin C have been shown to elevate levels of Glutathione. This, too, is a potent antioxidant and also has been shown to counter the toxicity produced by anthrax. [Molecular Medicine, November 1994; Immunopharmacology, January2000; Applied Environmental Microbiology, August 1979; Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health].
And don’t forget Grapeseed Extract, one of the most potent antioxidants known to man... and I was the first to provide in supplements for the equine industry.
Well, I guess if you are still reading this you are either ready to shoot me, you are saying, “yea”, or maybe “boy, that guy is nuts!” Regardless, I ask you one more thing… if you are not familiar with homeopathy, I suggest you please check it out. It, in it’s truest form, is the answer to our situation today. And yes, there are even remedies for symptoms of anthrax, smallpox, radiation exposure, plague, etc. Though there are new strains now the symptoms these diseases produce are nothing new. They were here last century and often treated successfully with homeopathic remedies, even then. I for one won’t be lining up for vaccination - but I will be doing everything I can to help my body help itself. The correctly chosen homeopathic remedy simply triggers the body to do just that - heal itself. But it goes without saying that all healing depends upon good nutrition. If the body doesn’t have the nutrition it needs, it is like a car without the gas, it simply won’t run.
I hope the above was helpful to provide the reassurance to know that you are on the right track or helpful as you consider being more naturally proactive with the wellness regimen you have in place for yourself, your pets and your horses.
Dr. Dan Moore