A friend has an older horse. His age is unknown but he is at least in the mid-20's. He is having trouble putting and keeping weight on. He has always had diarrhea to one degree or another, she has managed to manage it more or less but it gets better, then worse, then better. She has tried all the usual things for it in terms of supplements and such.
I have suggested that she stop feeding grain thinking he just can't digest it (like in the manner that an EPSM horse would have trouble with grain) which would require a substitute such as beet pulp and oil which I suggested. ONe of the horses in my barn had projectile diarrhea forever until he was finally put on an EPSM diet which has helped. The vet nixed both those ideas. The oil she thought could make his diarrhea worse (it's liquidy when it's bad) and said beet pulp was not good for an older horse because it could be hard on the kidneys.
I've never heard that one before; I'm wondering if she was thinking of alfalfa and excessive protein. Or could she have meant too much calcium would be hard on the kidneys? I have always thought that calcium was an issue of balance but not total dietary amount. Has anyone heard this before? Her suggestions were hay stretcher pellets, which doesn't seem like enough calories to me to do the job.
ETA: she also nixed rice bran but I don't know the reason why.
Hmmm...well, my old guy lived on quite a bit of beet pulp in combination with senior feed for several years when hay became scarce. He lived to be 33 before Cushings got too chronic for him. I have had several other geriatrics in their 20's on beet pulp with no repercussions. I believe at one point, my vets recommended I put one of the oldsters on beet pulp when that particular horse lost some teeth and hay was becoming difficult for him to chew. As far as the oil tho, I could see how it might be a bit too much of a lubricant. But I'd still be tempted to try a little beet pulp and work up to a larger amount for any older horse.
Don't get confused between my personality & my attitude. My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.
We have an old guy that's 36. He's had no hay for about 7 years. He's fat and sassy living on beet pulp, a small amount of alfalfa pellets for flavor, and a quart size scoop of senior feed (all soaked). He's fed twice a day and we adjust the level of beet pulp by what he eats. It varies by the season. He has cetrtainly outlived all expectations. If you have an old timer that needs weight I would check a little further into adding it into his diet.
You'd hate to think a vet (or anyone else) would throw out a term like that without a specific reason, but it does seem that "it's hard on the kidneys" gets to be a boilerplate criticism for "I don't like this particular feed, don't use it" sometimes. Just looking at what's in it gives me no particular clue as to why it would be considered hard on the kidneys (again, whatever that means!) and I suppose if I were really curious I'd a) ask the vet for specifics, b) check the horse's actual kidney function and c) maybe give it a try, keeping a close eye on things and seeing what happens.
The internal medicine gal taught us this in nutrition. It was a finals question, and I always thought it was odd. I understood it better reading as:
Beet pulp may complicate kidney function in an already compromised horse.
From the horse:
""If kidney function is reduced, renal and bladder stones of calcium oxalate are more likely to occur, as well as an increase (potentially lethal) in blood calcium. Horses with kidney failure should be put on a low calcium diet (less than 0.5-0.65%). Protein and phosphorus should also be restricted to less than 8-10% and 0.03%, respectively."
Good quality grass hay and corn might meet most, or all, of the above requirements. Horses suffering kidney failure, however, should not be fed legumes like alfalfa, clover, or beet pulp because of their high calcium content. They also should not be fed wheat bran or excessive phosphorus (greater than 1.0%) or protein (16%). Liver failure generally results in loss of appetite and weight in older horses, but it also can cause lethargy, jaundice, and an intolerance of fat and protein in the diet. If severe, the horse might show behavioral changes, including irritability, aimless wandering or circling, or pressing its head against objects. Affected horses require increased sugar sources to maintain their blood glucose levels, and their diet should emphasize starch intake (grains or concentrates) and fiber (hay or beet pulp) to avoid gastrointestinal dysfunction. "
That said, our oldest horse eats a LOT of beet pulp and his bloodwork is fine.
Our kidney failure horse also eats beet pulp, and has eaten alfalfa in the past for specific reasons, and his bloodwork has been as expected. Every diet change I make with the kidney failure horse, I ok with a vet. He looks like a million dollars and surely isn't dead yet
I'm not sure how this helps this thread...but when I got a kidney stone my doctor gave me a list of things to avoid eating. On that list was beets.
Do we know enough about horses to say that beet pulp causes kidney stones??? You got me
I have recommended she get a second opinion. It sounds like it was a knee-jerk type reaction to older horses and kidneys because the horse shows no signs of kidney or liver problems (unless diarrhea is one). It was interesting that you mentioned bran also, FP, because she also nixed that. It almost sounds like she is reading straight out of the book without evaluating the circumstances. She's new in the practice and maybe right out of school, I don't know.
This is where vets and nutitition gets frustrating, they do seem under schooled in this aspect.
One more thing, the horse is a manure-eater which I don't think she has mentioned to the vet yet. He gets probiotics regularly. And he dunks his hay all the time FWIW.