Supplementing Chronic Conditions in the Senior Horse (from AAEP Ask the Vet)

What supplements are prudent–and not overzealous nor likely to interact adversely–for a 20-yr old, still showing (dressage), gelding with these four chronic conditions:
1. Equine Cushings (endogenous ACTH=75, starting peroglide this month, no textbook symptoms, new diagnosis)
2. Hock arthritis (IA injections, oral joint supplements)
3. Multiple allergies (Skin Test -based hyposensitization therapy since 2006)
4. Equine recurrent uveitis (cyclosporine implants and on TID topical NSAID, EDTA and eye lubricant drops).
Diet: 4 pounds Purina “Eq Senior”, 1-2 pounds alfalfa cubes, vit-min supplement, and near-free choice grass hay. S

Dear S,

I’m not sure whether to sympathize with you or congratulate you for dealing with all these issues in your horse! Obviously you work closely with your veterinarian to not only maintain your horse but also continue to compete him. I’m not sure that I can or should recommend anything else than what you’re already doing, because if it ain’t broke, we don’t want to fix it!

Regardless, I do have a couple of ideas, but I strongly encourage you to run them by your veterinarian first before implementing them, because they may interfere either with your horse’s preexisting conditions or your current management of those conditions. By the way, what led you and your veterinarian to test for Cushing’s when your horse was not showing any signs? Sometimes the diagnostic testing, especially the ACTH test, can be falsely positive. I encourage you to have him retested with the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test, just to make sure he really does have Cushing’s disease.

Here are my ideas:

• Plant adaptogens – to help your horse’s metabolism return to homeostasis

Omega-3 fatty acids – to reduce inflammation in your horse (specifically his allergies and his uveitis)

MSM – another anti-inflammatory, unless this is already in your joint supplement

Pre- and Probiotics – to assist your horse’s aging GI system in extracting nutrients

Vitamin C and the B Vitamins – older horses make less of these, just when they need them more

Vitamin E and other antioxidants – to combat the oxidative stress associated with diseases like Cushing’s

When starting new supplements (especially for a horse with allergies like yours), I always recommending adding one at a time and watching your horse closely for any changes.

Lydia Gray, DVM MA, is the Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other events. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr. Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. She enjoys training and showing her Trakehner, Newman, in both combined driving and dressage, and is a USDF “L” Program Graduate (with distinction). Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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