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Electrolytes or Cushings?

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  • Electrolytes or Cushings?

    So the insinuations are finally getting to me, and at this point I'm hoping to have some COTHers weigh in. I've just had the tenth person ask me if one of my horses has cushings and I'm about to go nuts!

    Some background, I bought the horse as an eight year old, he's a grey warmblood who had been around the barn some time before I actually began working with him and such. I never noticed him to have any unusual issues. The barn was always on the same diet, the old-school standard of pellet/sweet/Stress-Dex electrolytes mix. No one ever had any problems. Then I bought the horse and ended up moving South. New trainer decided for some reason, sugary electrolytes were bad for him and she had me put him on the Ex-Stress electrolytes instead. I didn't much complain because the horse did have somewhat of a nervous personality due to bad history with a previous owner. The Ex-Stress definitely brought about a noticeable change, he began coming out much calmer and overall just being much easier to "get through to".

    At this point however we began to notice that he is drinking about twice as much as he used to and thus urinating much more frequently. At first I just assumed he was having a harder time than the others acclimating to the summer heat and humidity, but the trainer made a comment that instead she "would swear he was a cushings horse in the making." I was a bit shaken but pushed it to the back of my mind, until his coat suddenly grew back that April (he had been clipped in January upon arriving at WEF). I'd never seen this horse have any coat issues before so I was stumped. A few others had agreed that he was probably just having trouble adjusting to the environment, so we clipped him again and that seemed to be the end of it. The excessive drinking still continued though, so we had him tested and everything came back normal.

    For another two years things remained the same until last July, his coat began to grow in thick again. We tried to no avail to get it to shed out, obviously as it was summer, but with no luck by August we clipped him again. By November his coat was back. This time I blamed the fact that there was a lady at the barn who just didn't grasp the concept of newly clipped horses needing at least sheets when the nights got cool. She was one of those with her own opinions who felt entitled to not only share with the rest of the barn, but when we opted to stick with our own methods, she'd take matters into her own hands and treat OUR horses as she saw fit because she didn't agree. (Another story for another thread.) Needless to say, the blankets would always mysteriously come off during nightcheck. So after changing barns we clipped him again -- just in time for winter. This time he at least got blanketed but we've just begun to notice his coat growing in again on his legs and belly. A visiting boarder came up to me during grooming and asked if he was a cushings horse.

    At this point I don't know if I'm just letting peoples' repeated suggestions get to me, or if there really is some merit to what they're saying. His coat isn't wavy or anything like what I've seen on legit cushings horses. It's just slightly thicker than the sleek short coat that everyone else has. The only other oddity is his drinking habit, to which some have suggested pulling him off electrolytes all together. I'm seriously considering it, yet I'm still somewhat unsettled only because it's always been "routine" for the horses to get their daily dose. He is only one of two on Ex-Stress, and I'd hate to take him off it as it's done wonders for him (other horse is another 11 y/o grey, very similar but no "symptoms".. a good "control"). I could put him back on the Stress-Dex, he really didn't seem to have any problems with it. It was just the new trainer who determined that sugar wasn't good for him for some reason. I've also just recently added freshly ground flax to his diet, total of 1 cup per day. I've seen the increased gloss and overall quality, but still no help with shedding out. So at this point I'm looking for more opinions. Should I swap electrolytes despite trainer's anti-suger rule? Pull him off all together? Does he really sound like a cushings horse? Or am I just being paranoid?

    Thanks everyone for reading. I hope I've been clear enough.

  • #2
    Sounds like it to me as well. Why not test him again?

    Comment


    • #3
      I don't think OP has ever had horse tested. But I do agree that I think you should test for it. Cushings is not something you want to let get out of control before you test the horse. With the excessive drinking though, I do think you should give him a break from the electrolytes for a while. I tend to think that electrolytes every single day is too much.

      Comment


      • #4
        Horses generally do not need electrolytes, unless you have an endurance horse that needs to replenish the electrolytes fast. Just providing salt should suffice for the needs he has.

        I would get him tested. The first test may not have been done properly, hence it looked normal. I would have the insulin, glucose and ACTH levels tested. This is all you need. Do not have a dex-supression test done - it is outdated and can push a horse inot a laminitic attack.

        ACTH levels should be checked in the spring to get a more accurate result. Now is a good time.

        You will find lots of helpful information on the Equine Cushings group - check their files section. http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/EquineCushings/

        God luck!

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm not going to say your horse doesn't have Cushing's, but I would check the thyroid function as well--that could account for the water consumption and the coat problem. In a horse younger than twenty I would suspect the thyroid first, then Cushing's....

          It could be that the thyroid problem eventually warps into Cushing's but even veterinary science doesn't seem to be able to unravel the Equine Metabolic Syndrome mystery at this point--but that is how it started for my Shetland pony. First his thyroid went, then he was diagnosed a couple years later with Cushing's, then he became insulin resistant....

          Unless your horse is sweating buckets I would not be supplementing him with electrolytes on a routine basis!!!!! A small amount (and I don't mean an ounce) of table salt in his feed on a daily basis should be enough to keep him drinking, or you might want to consider putting him on Source which may help support his thyroid.

          I'm not familiar with Ex-Stress, so I looked it up: http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.h...5-67ee90b03b63 . It looks like B-vitamins and magnesium--neither of which could be bad for your horse and that's probably why he's so mellow. Is this the "electrolyte" you say he's on or is that something else???
          "None of us can move forward if half of us are being held back." ~Anonymous~

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Cherry View Post
            I'm not going to say your horse doesn't have Cushing's, but I would check the thyroid function as well--that could account for the water consumption and the coat problem. In a horse younger than twenty I would suspect the thyroid first, then Cushing's....
            .
            Actually it is common for thyroid function to be suppressed in IR horses which usually resolves once the horse no longer has IR. Your horse may have had actually IR that was missed. Therefore the horse should be checked for IR first and thyroid function second if the horse turns out not to have IR .

            Comment


            • #7
              Actually it is common for thyroid function to be suppressed in IR horses which usually resolves once the horse no longer has IR.
              BTR, where is this written because I've never read that one anywhere....
              It appears to me that Equine metabolic syndrome is inextricably meshed and that if you test for any one of these problems (thyroid, insulin resistance, Cushing's) you might as well test for them all because no one can tell you which came first....
              "None of us can move forward if half of us are being held back." ~Anonymous~

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Cherry View Post
                Unless your horse is sweating buckets I would not be supplementing him with electrolytes on a routine basis!!!!! A small amount (and I don't mean an ounce) of table salt in his feed on a daily basis should be enough to keep him drinking, or you might want to consider putting him on Source which may help support his thyroid.

                I'm not familiar with Ex-Stress, so I looked it up: http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.h...5-67ee90b03b63 . It looks like B-vitamins and magnesium--neither of which could be bad for your horse and that's probably why he's so mellow. Is this the "electrolyte" you say he's on or is that something else???
                Yes, that is the electrolyte, which according to my trainer was "just a sugar-free version of the Stress-Dex". I don't claim to be a supplement guru, and she was the type to pop a tube if I ever questioned her about anything feed-related.

                I can't say he's sweating buckets either. Granted, we're down South, and doing hunter/jumper activities on a competitive level, so yes he certainly does sweat moderately.

                Now I'm a bit more concerned though if this Ex-Stress is not actually an electrolyte..

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Cherry View Post
                  BTR, where is this written because I've never read that one anywhere....
                  It appears to me that Equine metabolic syndrome is inextricably meshed and that if you test for any one of these problems (thyroid, insulin resistance, Cushing's) you might as well test for them all because no one can tell you which came first....
                  Check the Equine Cushings group - they have tons of info on that. They have consistently found that thyroid function returns to normal once the IR is under control.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    You are correct, Ex Stress is not an electrolyte. Is that what your trainer told you it was? It's for calming the nerves in the horse.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thank you to everyone who's suggested the Cushings group. I am looking into it.

                      Also, dwb.. yes, my trainer had said it was an electrolyte. "A sugar-free version of Stress-Dex" to be exact, as I was having a fit over her completely upheaving his diet to fit her rules.

                      Again, I'm not any kind of supplement expert, which will probably show by my thinking.. but what are the odds that this could be because he was suddenly pulled off electrolytes? I was reading the info on the Stress-Dex and it says it helps to fight dehydration. My thinking is that his drinking was completely normal while on it, then it all went haywire after coming to the muggy south and suddenly going without. Could he be drinking so much to compensate? Like, to "fight dehydration" on his own, without the "aid" of the electrolytes like he used to have? I hope I'm making sense.

                      One last note, I have been measuring his water intake, and the average seems to be between 5-9 gallons each day. His buckets get filled up to the 5 gallon line each day, and usually there's one with 1/4 left and the other has about 1/2. Only on hot, humid days in the summer will he go through both and need a refill, but he'll barely drink much after that overnight.

                      Thank you all again.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        electrolytes

                        How big is the horse? It is my understanding that a "big" horse (16'2 and up) should be drinking at least 10 gallons a day.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Cherry View Post
                          BTR, where is this written because I've never read that one anywhere....
                          It appears to me that Equine metabolic syndrome is inextricably meshed and that if you test for any one of these problems (thyroid, insulin resistance, Cushing's) you might as well test for them all because no one can tell you which came first....
                          If you check through The Horse, you'll find lots of references to the thyroid testing low in the IR horse, then testing normal when the IR issues are treated properly. SOMEtimes, the thyroid issue continues to be a problem, either to the same or a lesser degree, and that is when it's beneficial to put the horse on Thyro-L. I do not know, and have never read (not to say it's not out there) whether those situations are thought to be horses who *also* have a primary thyroid issue.

                          But in general, the thyroid should not be primarily treated in a horse who is also IR. Treat the IR first, and keep checking the thryoid. Nearly always the thyroid levels go back to normal.
                          ______________________________
                          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Just do the test, then you know for sure.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              How much alfalfa is your horse getting? Other types of hay? And what exactly is he being fed---feed brand, pounds of, other supplements, how often per day.....?

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I have used the ex-stress before and it is a calming supplement. That might be why you were getting a smoother ride. I also use the Perfect Balance Electrolite from the same company it is in a blue container. If your horse has been urinating alot more it could be the B- vitamins that are in the Ex-stress. I have always had good luck with the electrolytes and if your horse does have Cushings then you are going to want to stay away from the high sugar brands. Especially Stress Dex it is loaded with sugar.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by CRJ View Post
                                  One last note, I have been measuring his water intake, and the average seems to be between 5-9 gallons each day. His buckets get filled up to the 5 gallon line each day, and usually there's one with 1/4 left and the other has about 1/2. Only on hot, humid days in the summer will he go through both and need a refill, but he'll barely drink much after that overnight.

                                  Thank you all again.
                                  That's perfectly normal intake. If he's in work he should actually be taking in a little bit more than that. A horse not in work should consume 4-8 gallons a day.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    A good rule of thumb is 1 gallon per 100lb body weight. That's average. More is normal when the temps go up and/or he's working harder, or eating nothing but hay.

                                    So, 5-9 gallons is low for a 1000lb horse, and lower still if it's a bigger horse.
                                    ______________________________
                                    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Is your horse eating green grass? Sometimes they don't drink as much water when they are getting green grass.

                                      I agree, a thorough testing done all at once to check for insulin resistance, Cushings, and low thyroid is in order. Read the material on the Yahoo group to be sure you get the *right* test. Some vets are doing outdated tests and you want both an accurate result as well as something that is safe for your horse. There are recommended labs as well. Other thing I have noticed is vets recommending fasting before the test which is not correct or saying that grain is ok before the test. Doing the test wrong is throwing your money in the wind and ending up with nothing to help your horse.

                                      You need to be testing ACTH, Thyroid, Insulin and Glucose.

                                      For the time being get your horse off sweet feed! Sugar, molasses, starch...all not good for horses with IR and/or Cushings (often exist together). No alfalfa either. I would put him on a low starch feed immediately. As these conditions progress the risk of laminitis increases and you don't want that.

                                      Your horse does not have to have wavy hair or even crazy long hair. The excessive hair and slow shedding can be one of the last symptoms to show up and therefore not a good indicator of early Cushings.

                                      No need for electrolytes. I give them only when my horses have been very active in the blazing heat. I live in Alabama and is it hot/humid here. You can give a bit of salt to help encourage drinking. It doesn't sound like your horse is drinking an excessive amount but it is true a horse transplanted to the South can take awhile to adjust. Mine have adjusted in a year's time for the most part. If yours is not doing well you need to look into it. I would expect a horse in the South to be drinking more than 10 gallons per day when it is warm. My horses will drink 10 gallons at night alone...and then who knows how much out of the water trough during the day. Is your horse drinking outside from a water trough in addition to the buckets in his stall?

                                      Calming supplements are fine but you want to avoid those that are in a alfalfa base or contain sugar/starch. There are a couple of magnesium supplements that work to calm a horse and are good for horses with IR and/or Cushings. Quiessence is one and I think Remission is another. My vet told me that abnormal cortisol can influence a horse's ability to handle stress so this might be another indicator that your horse may have Cushings.

                                      Don't be afraid to change your horse's diet. It is your horse! Be prepared to buy the special feed, etc. yourself and provide storage containers for it at the barn. Make it as easy as possible to make the change and soothe any irritation of the B.O. It shouldn't be a big issue but some B.O. don't take well to changes and frankly it can be a royal pain the butt to carry several different feeds for one barn. Since he/she thought he seemed like a Cushings horse there shouldn't be an issue about changing his feed to be appropriate for a Cushings horse. Do your research and be prepared to explain not only so there is less friction but so the trainer or B.O. will understand how other things could impact his health and soundness (treats, hay, alfalfa, etc.)

                                      Good luck and do not delay delving into all the info the Yahoo group has to offer. It is invaluable and there are many files there to read through.
                                      Altamont Sport Horses
                                      Trakehners * Knabstruppers * Appaloosa Sport Horses
                                      Home of stallions: Ambrosius af Asgard "Atlantis" & Hollywood Hot Spot
                                      Birmingham, AL

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Pony View View Post
                                        How big is the horse? It is my understanding that a "big" horse (16'2 and up) should be drinking at least 10 gallons a day.
                                        He is just over 16.0

                                        Comment

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