How safe is your horse’s feed?

If the feed is milled at a plant that also manufactures livestock feed containing ionophore, there’s a risk it could possibly be fatal to your horse.

Ionophore antibiotics are added to feed to improve weight gain and control protozoan and bacteria infections in ruminants, swine and poultry. Several ionophores are approved for use in the United States with the most common being monensin, salinomycin, lasalocid, laidlomycin and narasin.

Horses are much more sensitive to ionophore poisoning than other species. For example, the safety zone for monensin in horses is 2 to 3 mg whereas cattle can tolerate 20 to 34 mg and poultry 90 to 200 mg. When higher-than-acceptable concentrations of ionophore are found in equine feed, a horse could be dead in less than 24 hours after ingestion.

Ionophore toxicity inhibits sodium and potassium ion transport across cell membranes, which can kill cells—especially muscle cells—leading eventually to total system failure and death. Signs of ionophore poisoning include poor appetite, diarrhea, muscle weakness, depression, wobbling, colic, excessive urination, sweating, lying down and sudden death.

Ionophore intoxication damages the kidneys as well as the skeletal and heart muscles. There is no specific treatment for a poisoned horse and those that survive usually have permanent heart damage.

Prevention is the best method for preventing ionophore toxicity. Do not allow your horse access to feeds for other species, and it is essential to store away any feed containing ionophores from equine feed.

To ensure your horse’s feed is never put at risk of contamination, only purchase products manufactured at an ionophore-free mill. Don’t confuse an “ionophore-free” with an “ionophore-safe.” For example, ionophores are not used in any feeds manufactured at the Bluebonnet mill, making it “free” of all ionophores. However, a mill that produces some of its feed with ionophores will use a series of flushes to clean the system and make it “safe” to manufacture horse feeds. But no matter how efficient the flushing procedure is, there is always a risk of cross-contamination.

Fall Comforts

This stir-fry is easy to make and has a burst of flavor from the chicken, apples, and fennel bulb. It’s a great, easy meal idea and delicious for breakfast as well.

If you’re looking for a fast and inexpensive dinner idea as you come in from the barn, give this a try.

Chicken Apple Stir-Fry
3 chicken breasts or the meat from 1 whole roasted chicken
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
2 apples
1 onion
1 bulb of fennel
1 teaspoon each of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and basil

Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. If chicken is raw, heat butter/coconut oil in large skillet or wok until melted. Add chicken and cook on medium/high heat until chicken is cooked through (If chicken is pre-cooked, cook the vegetables first, then add chicken). While cooking, cut the apples and onion into bite sized pieces (1/2 inch) and thinly slice the fennel bulb into thin slivers. Add all to skillet or wok, add spices and continue sautéing until all are cooked through and fragrant. This will take approximately 10-12 minutes.

Courtesy of the Wellness Mama (

Vet in Your Pocket

Horse Side Vet Guide (HSVG) is a brand new app for iPhone users that is designed to help caretakers of horses (and other equines) make better health-care decisions for their horses.

POI_App_11_13Importantly, HSVG is observation-based. It is all about what you actually see, not what you assume you see. It is about making you the best observer you can be, and then guiding you as to what to do once you have made those observations.

The app is powered by an extensive and ever-growing knowledge base on everything from common problems to rare diseases: lists of observations, skills, how-to videos, veterinary diagnostics, diagnoses, treatments, and so much more- available to you “Horse-Side”.

Horse Side Vet Guide is intended to increase the quality of communication between you and your equine veterinarian – for the benefit of your horse.

Toxic Treat

Horses can safely eat many fruits and vegetables, but in the case of some innocent-POI_avocado_11_14seeming produce, the ingestion of even a few pieces can cause a serious toxic reaction. One such fruit is the avocado.

Persin, a substance derived from fatty acids contained in avocados, is believed to be the toxin responsible for health problems in horses and other animals that eat the fruit. In horses that ingest avocados, the toxin can cause colic, irregular heartbeat, respiratory distress, neurologic dysfunction, edema, and other signs of illness.

True or False? Test Your Knowledge

Most horse owners around the country are fully aware of the threats posed by diseases such as West Nile virus (WNV), rabies and Equine Herpesvirus (EHV-1). But fewer horse owners know about Potomac Horse Fever (PHF), its inherent risks and how to determine whether or not their horse is at risk and should be vaccinated. Here’s a short true or false quiz to help separate fact from fiction.

PHF is only found near the Potomac River.
The name of this potentially debilitating disease is misleading. While the initial PHF outbreak in 1979 occurred near the Potomac River in Maryland, since then the disease has been identified in 43 states, three Canadian provinces, parts of South America, the Netherlands and France. Horses grazing on a pasture near the Shasta River in the 1940s showed similar clinical signs, resulting in some referring to the disease as Shasta River crud.

PHF is caused by bites from various insects.
Unlike other insect-borne diseases such as WNV and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), PHF is not caused by the insect actually biting a horse, but by the horse ingesting infected aquatic insects such as damselflies, caddis flies and mayflies, which are commonly found in areas near creeks and rivers. This can happen while horses graze in proximity to those creeks and rivers, or when they ingest dead aquatic insects in their water buckets or hay.

The clinical signs of PHF can include fever, decreased intestinal sounds and diarrhea.
True. PHF can be difficult to diagnose as its clinical signs are subtle and mimic other diseases, in particular salmonellosis. Fevers can range from 102 – 107°F at the disease’s onset. Within two weeks of infection, the fever may be accompanied by clinical signs of colic, mild to severe diarrhea, absent appetite and depression. As the disease progresses, some horses suffer from toxemia and dehydration.

One of the most devastating effects of PHF is the possible development of laminitis.
Frequently, horses develop laminitis several days after the diarrhea starts. Approximately 40 percent of horses diagnosed with PHF have subsequently developed laminitis.

Horse owners can take measures to reduce the populations of insects that can be infected with the disease.
Good farm management practices include keeping your horse’s food covered, restricting grazing near creeks or other bodies of water during the peak season for PHF (spring, summer and early fall in temperate climates) and using repellents to decrease fly and other insect problems in your barn.

Veterinarians are the best resource for determining whether or not to vaccinate a horse to help protect against PHF.
While not considered a core vaccination by the American Association of Equine Practitioners, Potomac Horse Fever is a disease that should be considered as a risk-based vaccination. Your veterinarian can help you evaluate whether or not PHF poses a significant risk and make a recommendation.

It’s Show Time

 Summer is peak season for horse shows and events, and Colorado State University veterinarians remind riders that it’s important if traveling to take steps that will help prevent the spread of equine infectious disease.

Recent cases and outbreaks of equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1), which can cause potentially fatal neurologic disease, have drawn attention to the need for prevention. Influenza, salmonellosis and strangles are some other infectious diseases of concern, said Dr. Paul Morley, director of infection control at CSU’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

In a new video, “Preventing Infections in Horses Attending Shows and Traveling,” CSU equine experts outline specific, low-cost precautions for horse owners. View it here:

“Some advance planning and a few low-cost, common-sense preventative measures will help keep horses healthy while traveling,” Morley said. “Protecting the health of your horse makes these steps well worth the time and thought.”

CSU veterinarians advise horse owners to thwart infection by understanding and watching for symptoms of illness. They also recommend precautions including disinfecting trailers and equipment, and preventing contact that could spread pathogens.

Morley recommends that riders traveling with horses take the steps outlined below; these tips are discussed in more detail in the CSU video.

• Prepare for a trip by properly cleaning the horse trailer and consulting with your veterinarian about your horse’s present health, vaccinations, diseases of concern and any other relevant issues. Pack all cleaning equipment and health supplies needed on the road.

• Avoid strangers, and don’t borrow or share. Contagious diseases are transmitted through contact – meaning direct nose-to-nose contact among horses, as well as your horse’s contact with surfaces that an infected animal might have contaminated with saliva, respiratory secretions or manure. Bottom line: Separate your horse from other horses, and use only your own tack, grooming, feeding and watering equipment.

• Create a clean environment for your horse during a show or event. If possible, set up portable panels to confine your horse on event grounds, or fully clean and disinfect on-site stalls before housing your horse at an event.

• Monitor your horse for signs of illness. During an event, keep tabs on your horse’s temperature; monitor feed and water intake to ensure it is normal; and watch for other signs of illness. Ask your veterinarian for health information and how-to demonstrations, if needed.

• Segregate the traveling horse upon return home. A horse that has been at a show or event may be incubating illness, so keep the horse apart from others for five to seven days and monitor for any illness that might arise before returning the horse to the home group.