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  • Q:

    I have a 21-year-old gelding that has been diagnosed with navicular disease and other soundness issues, including arthritis and laminitis episodes. He receives plenty of good-quality hay twice a day and a balancer pellet. I provide him a glucosamine-based joint supplement and a hoof-health product as well as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for his lameness. We moved him to a new barn a few weeks ago and he recently developed hives. The hives came about right after a dose of antibiotics were given for an open skin wound. We treated the hives with dexamethasone. The hives recurred several times, and dexamethasone has always worked. The vet suggested allergies as a cause for the hives, possibly triggered by the changes in his environment. We are interested in any suggestions you may have for keeping the hives away, taking care of any potential hindgut issues, and providing relief for the ongoing lameness issues.

  • A:

    The digestive tract contains important components of the immune system. Nutritional support for both gastrointestinal health and immunity would benefit your gelding.

    Antibiotics can cause a change in a horse’s gastrointestinal microbiome that can lead to digestive upset, though often this resolves quickly after cessation of antibiotic therapy. Supplemental probiotics may be beneficial in repopulating and supporting beneficial microorganisms and overall hindgut health.

    Horses receiving daily NSAID therapy may be at greater risk of developing NSAID-related digestive conditions. The NSAID mechanism of action results in a reduction of protective properties that may lead to ulcer development. Based on your information, I would recommend supplementing your gelding with a total digestive tract buffer, such as RiteTrac. RiteTrac contains EquiShure to support hindgut health, as well as fast-acting antacids and coating agents for stomach well-being. KER recommends RiteTrac supplementation for horses on chronic NSAID therapy as prophylactic digestive tract support. (In Australia, look for these proven digestive supplements.)

    To address your gelding’s allergies, I suggest starting daily supplementation with long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) found in fish oil, such as EO•3. Omega-3s, especially DHA and EPA, can help reduce inflammation and modulate the immune response to allergens, reducing the severity of allergic reactions. In addition to using corticosteroids and antihistamines as directed by your veterinarian, omega-3 supplementation may help reduce the hypersensitivity your horse is experiencing, though identifying the allergen and reducing exposure is also needed for effective management.

    EO•3 is a concentrated source of EPA and DHA, and 2 oz or more per day may be needed to be therapeutic. A Canadian study found adding flax at 1 lb (0.45 kg) per day was effective at reducing allergic skin reactions in response to bites caused by Culicoides midges. EO•3 should offer the same or greater benefits, as fish oil is a direct source of DHA and EPA, where flax is not.

    Long-chain omega-3 supplementation has shown promise to support many inflammatory conditions. Adding EO•3 to your gelding’s diet may help alleviate symptoms of digestive and joint discomfort as well as supporting a healthy immune system.

    Consultation with your veterinarian is important when you are thinking of making any change that may affect your horse’s comfort. RiteTrac and EO•3 may be added as adjunct nutritional support to your current program.

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