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Weight loss--causes?

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Roxane Martin

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Well, I did a search for weight loss on this forum and didn't see anything like my problem (but I didn't look thru all 22 pages!)

Here's what has happened. My mare (7 years old) began losing weight over this last winter. I had had her over a year and she had gone thru most of a winter with me before fine. There are 3 other minis in our "herd" and all are fed the same grass hay. At this time, she was fed 1/4 cup Legends 12 texturized (has beet pulp) twice a day and grass hay 3 times a day, as well as free choice vitamin-mineral loose salt mix (Equi-Min). This is the same amount the others were fed. She is slab-sided and had not been prone to being overweight, but still nice weight. Around November she started to feel like she was losing weight--muscle loss in neck in front of shoulder, chest, back and hips. Gradually upped grain to 3/4 cup and her weight loss slowed, but did not stop.

Her teeth had been floated in Nov, and she was in herd rotational deworming system every other month, including double dose/5 day Panacur in Jan. In March, her teeth were floated again and hooks were found--dentist thought that should do it. Mare continued to lose weight. Vet came for shots in April and I expressed concern over mare's weight--was told she was fine.

In June, she had lost even more (around 273 lb., 36 inches) and I called vet out again. Now she agreed that mare was too thin and took blood samples for Selenium and Vitamin E. Vet thought was due to deficiency in both and I was to supplement. When test results came back, she was over normal range in Selenium but low in vitamin E (119, normal >200, desirable ~500). Vet said that vit E needed for muscle development and that I should see a difference in 2-3 weeks. Had upped her grain to 1 cup per feed, using Vit E supplement and started Weight Builder (couldn't feed much, she didn't like).

Called a different vet out in late July for second opinion. Mare had not gained any weight and this was about a month from starting VitE supplement. Took more blood samples, which showed normal thyroid but muscle damage evident in results. Vet suggested starting with ration balancer for grass hay, Buckeye Grow N Win, which has higher protein and bio-available amino acids. After 2 weeks weight is up a bit, but haircoat is definitely darker (she is a silver dapple), more energetic and doesn't look as gaunt. Have not asked any exercise of her during this time so she not lose any calories.

So, looks like she's mending, but my question still is--what started this? She'd been in a stable herd with the same treatment for over a year. The others did not have an issue--in fact there is always a fight to keep from gaining too much weight. Second vet thinks that hay may have been too old for nutrients (even though still green) and that she is just a poor doer. Just seems odd to me that if it was a hay nutrient issue, why after feeding this, and why not the others?

My intuition tells me that there is some other cause, and that the weight loss is a symptom, but don't know what to look for, or if I want to spend a ton trying to find out if this program is working (the blood tests were about $500).

Ideas????

Thanks.
 

albahurst

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We use the Buckeye products and they have been very good for us. The Gro n Win is not a calorie source, however, so be sure to give your gal all the calories she needs. Here, I feed the Gro n WIn, beet pulp, grass/hay, alfalfa, oats (if needed for calories). All my horses require different amts of beet pulp, grass/hay, alfalfa, and oats. Some seem to do well just on the Gro n Win and hay. Others need additional calories so I add beet pulp, alfalfa, and/or oats. You will just have to experiment and see what your horse needs. Oh, we also feed chelated loose minerals along with the Gro n Win.

Hope you see some improvement soon!

Peggy
 

rabbitsfizz

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I think you could very safely just up all her feed.

Quarter of a cup is not worth feeding IMO, sorry....more BP, loads more, soak it well and give her what she wants within reason, and free choice hay, literally.

Is she on pasture at the moment?? In which case, just up the grain and BP and I think you will see a result.

If you have a baker near you you could beg stale bred...by choice brown bread...and feed up to one loaf, soaked, a day, that is a very good weight gainer.
 

Minimor

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Some horses just need more feed than others to stay in good shape. Just like with people--some people diet constantly & still can't take weight off, others can eat anything they want & never gain a pound.

Your other horses are probably easy keepers; this one mare may just need more of everything to give her what her body needs to maintain condition, IMO 1/4 cup is nothing in the way of feed--that is a treat only. Even 1 cup of grain is nothing to a horse that isn't an easy keeper. I've got one mare here that is a harder keeper--if she is on straight grass hay she loses weight and so I have to give her grain as well; she gets 3 cups of oats and one cup of 14% pellets twice a day.

At this point I wouldn't be too concerned about your mare having an underlying problem; I'd increase her feed more yet & see if she puts on a bit more weight--then if the extra feed allows her to maintain it, all is good. If you were giving her 1 to 2 gallons of grain a day & had her on alfalfa hay & she was still staying too thin then I would start to wonder just what else is going on with her, but as it is I wouldn't worry about that.
 

Alex

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I agree with minimor, your mare is a harder keeper that the others. 1/4 of a cup of grain is nothing and quite frankly I dont know why your vet didnt suggest more food first. My MEDIUM keeper gets 3 cups of 12%! My HARD keeper gets 5 cups. And coat supplement(lots of fat too)

I would have that mare on a complete pellet, getting tons more grain.
 

Irish Hills Farm

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Just wanted to say that I agree with the others that 1/4c of feed is nothing.

I feed oats and Born To Win. I weighed my feed at one time so I would know how much I'm giving and just to give you an idea 3 c of oats = 1 lb. So, you can see that 1/4 c really isn't anything at all.
 

Carolyn R

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You can up her feed and start adding corn or veg. oil to it. It adds the calories without the sugars. You cab start with a tablespoon and probably slowly up that to an ouce a meal (an ounce is only 2 tablespoons). IMO I would probably have a mare like that on (give or take) 2 cups of feed 2x's a day and free choice hay. If a horse is not getting what it needs it will start to eat things that were not intended for horses to consume (bark, sticker bushes,toxic weeds, chewing on wood, fallen leaves).

I am sure all she needs is some more calories in her diet.

Carolyn
 

Leeana

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Try adding Rice Bran Oil on top of their grain ration. Its normally 95% - 99% fat. It is what i add ontop of the grain when they need a tad more weight or muscle depth, also improves the coat. I also feed Omlene 200 (14% sweet feed), Oats, Beet Pulp and then hard keepers get Rice Bran Oil ontop.

This is the brand i use ..but there are many other brands out there or RBO, TSC carries it as well. This is just the brand my feed store carrys ...

http://www.mccauleybros.com/supplements/ricebranoil.cfm

I use to feed Buckeye Gro N Win as my main grain, but i like the way my horses look on a regular grain
. They get omlene, beet pulp and RBO am/pm ..then noon is lunh with oats and buckeye gro n win (they get 1/4 - 1/2 cup each). Then with the omlene they get anywhere from 3 cups - 10 cups 2x a day. Beet pulp 2 cups - 7 cups 2x a day.
 
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Roxane Martin

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Thank you all for your replies.

Yes, 1/4c grain 2X day is nothing--it's more to get them in and look them over than anything. They are all on dry lot with 2nd cutting grass hay fed 3X day, with pasure grass only available for limited turnout in summer. Having had a Cushing/foundered horse, I am very cautious about gras feeding.

The vets also were reluctant to just pour grain into her, for fear of starting other problems. These minis are idle--so don't have much energy demand. They actually didn't want me to go much above 1 cup grain per feeding--I suspect they have seen too many issues with overfed horses in their practice.

I tried corn oil and she didn't like it; nor did she like the taste of the Weight Builder supplement. I may try the rice bran oil though. As there are two of us that rotate feeding, and we both work full-time, soaking beet pulp, etc. will not fit into our schedules. Based upon your experiences, I will feel more comfortable in increasing her grain gradually.

I am still concerned as to what started this. I mean, she went from an easy keeper at 1/4c 2X day during summer and winter (OK, we increased some in winter, as well as more hay) to losing weight when given 3X the amount of grain as before--no other conditions had changed. I find it suprising that she went from being an easy keeper to a hard keeper so suddenly.

Our minis are out 24/7, with access to run-in stall and overhang and heated fresh water and are fed outside--giving free choice hay will result in the other 3 easy keepers getting obese. I have supplied hay for her to munch on in her stall while in there; but that's no long. We are all gone too long to leave them in stalls when they would rather be outside.

Curious, no one mentioned familiarity with Vitamin E deficiency for muscle loss--have you heard anything about that?
 

Alex

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As to why the drop in weight so suddenly? Could it possibly be that one of her buddies in the lot started to hog up the hay/grain on her? Is she lower in the peking order?

You dont have to soak beet pulp shreds.

Well, my advice would still to be up her grain. If you have to do it minutely, do it. 1c of grain is still not a lot of grain at all. 1c of grain 2x a day for an underwright mini is not overfeeding!

Good Luck!
 

Minimor

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To answer your question about Vitamin E--as I understand it, Vitamin E deficiency is rare in horses but can occur if the horse ingests something that destroys the vitamin. According to my vet book, two examples of something that could do that are weed seeds and cottonseed meal

Normally Vit. E is found in cereal grains, high quality hay and wheat germ oil, but some compounds (again, my vet book gives an example of unsaturated fatty acids) destroy Vit. E or prevent it from being used by the horse.

Some people believe that high doses of vitamin E improve performance and fertility, but I don't think there is any conclusive proof that this is actually true. I have never heard of a Vit. E deficiency causing a loss of muscle mass. What it can do is cause a muscle problem, specifically "tying up". Vit. E is often given as a supplement to prevent a horse from tying up. In a serious case of tying up the horse's affected muscle tissue may begin to break down, and this will show up in dark urine & I guess blood tests...Is your mare showing any symptoms of tying up? Tests run on horses that are badly undernourished will also show that the muscle tissue is breaking down; this happens when the horses body begins to "rob" from the muscle tissue to make up for the lack of feed.

Has your hay supply changed in the past year? Different hay could have different nutrient levels in it--even hay fed from one end of the field can be different from the hay from the opposite end of the field. Has your mare shown any signs of lameness? Any sort of discomfort? A horse that is in any sort of pain at all can drop weight drastically.

I know it can be a real pain to have to seperate one horse from the rest of the group in order to feed that one differently. However, if there is one horse that cannot maintain condition when fed in the group situation then there really isn't a lot of choice. We've been through that here--several horses might have to be rearranged to accomodate the one, whether we have to put one into a different group or in a corral by itself...but leaving it out where it doesn't get the specialized diet it needs isn't a good option. You might try adding a Vit. E supplement to this mare's ration & see if that helps her--if it does then you might be able to leave her where she is at, fed in the group as usual.

One thing I would note is that there are many people--vets included--who are so afraid of overfeeding that they actually underfeed their Minis. Vets definitely are not above falling into this trap; I know of one vet who has a Mini so underfed that he is thin to the point of emaciation and almost too weak to do the work asked of him. Overfeeding is no good, but underfeeding is not any more desirable.
 

Keri

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I had the same thing happen to a mini gelding of mine. He was a fairly easy keeper as a stallion, gelded him last august. He turned 7 this year. Noticed he was underweight this spring, so I upped his feed. I was pouring big horse feed amounts into him (6-8 cups soaked beet pulp, 6 cups senior feed, 1 cup power phat, oil, and unlimited hay). He still wasn't gaining. He was up to date on teeth and worming and vaccinations. We did 3 different bloodworks on him. They all came back showing slow muscle degredation and he has way high glucose levels on the first one, but the last two they were within range. Anways, since we couldn't find a whole lot, we started treating him as if he were positive for cushings. This was in May. Seems to be working. Cushings can happen in horses as young as 7 (prominant in ponies at younger ages), but its generally an older horse disease. I never did the bloodwork to officially confirm this since it costs $1000.
But I just keep the fats and sugars out of him (or in small amounts). He can go out in the pasture in the mornings since the sugars are low, grass hay and soaked beet pulp. No grain or fat supplements since its works against them. This is always an option for you since nothing else may be working???


Just wanted to add that my vet told me that young horses with cushings will not show the classic signs of the disease. They'll develop later on.
 
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Fantasia

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Vit E deficiency can be caused by over supply of iron or liquid parafin.

Did your bloods show excess iron levels by chance?

That could be a base cause......
 

Roxane Martin

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Again, thanks all.

I am giving VitE supplement based upon her bloodwork. Her bloodwork did also show that she has muscle degradation products--eating up her own muscle. She has had no lameness problems or anything like that, and her urine is normal color, so we figure her body is trying to maintain weight by robbing it of muscle.

Since putting her on the GrowNWin, she has put on some weight, her attitude has improved and her hair coat is now dark steel grey, whereas it was light before.

As to causes for decreased Vet E, our grass hay is about 1 year old, and even though still green, the vet said that VitE degrades quickly. I will be getting my hay from a different supplier this year so perhaps will get different nutrients from that.

As to causes listed--weed seeds, well yes I'm sure. Didn't really see any in the hay and this weight loss started in the winter, before any grass paddock turnout. Sure, we have weeds in the pasture, but they usually keep eating the grass portion. I mow about every 2-3 weeks to encourage grass growth.

Paraffin--don't know where that would come from.

Iron--no, didn't draw for that; not sure where that would come from either. But that is something to ask. I have seen her dig and eat dirt, and in areas where I have found old rusty nails, etc that surface after rains sometimes. So, maybe.

Cushings--did think of that and we may look at that. Thus all of this Southern States Legends 12 texturized (with beet pulp) would not help, but the GroNWin would be OK. I don't see other signs for that, but it's worth a look. I suspect that this is the reason the vets may be cautious about suggesting a lot of grain--as well as concern for laminitis.

Thanks again. As her condition is improving I'm encouraged, but will keep looking.

Another question--should she have any light work at all to help rebuild the muscle? Part of me says no--keep all the calories you can. But then I know to build muscle, it needs to be taxed some. Thoughts??
 

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