Supplementing Chronic Conditions in the Senior Horse

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).
  5. 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 F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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