Equine Nutrition FAQ’s – Nutritional Related Diseases & Allergies

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I have a 26-year-old Arabian that has Cushing’s and is underweight. Can you tell me how much Integrity Senior (No Molasses) feed per day I can give him to help him gain weight? He weighs about 800 pounds.

Integrity Lite No Molasses is the lowest sugar/starch Integrity formula. With Cushing, I am very cautious in providing any feed that includes additional sugar, starch and fructans to a hay diet. I would need to know more about your horse and current feeding program such as:

  • Is he hay fed? If so, how many pounds per day?
  • Are there any other feeds being provided?
  • Is he on any medication?
  • What’s the severity of Cushing disease?
  • Is he active or just a companion?

Another option is to add a hay grass pellet that includes nothing else in the pellet but hay. Usually grass hay pellets are from a more mature grass, thus lower in sugar/starch. You can mix a grass hay pellet with liquid oil (any vegetable oil, no rice bran because bran is starch) and a generic vitamin/mineral supplement. You may need to soften the hay pellet with water for easier digestion.

My poor Paint horse developed dandruff when we moved from New River to Dewey AZ. It's EVERYWHERE including his hocks. I've tried every oil, corn, hemp. coconut and lots of supplements for skin problems. Also, topical shampoos, like head and shoulders, etc. Do you have any idea how to treat this? It doesn't seem to bother him; except he does have periods of rubbing down to the skin. He was losing weight, so I now feed 2 flakes bermuda in the morning and 2 flakes alfalfa in the evening along with 16 oz. of a “ration balancer” and 1 cup diatomaceous earth.

As you already know, living in a dry, low humid environment contributes to dryness of any body tissue. Also, through the years I have observed that Paints and some Apps seem to be more susceptible to skin issues including dryness. Turnout should be late afternoons/evenings and not during the high sun. Granted these observations do not help your immediate concerns.

Other thoughts… Bathing horses removes natural oils from the skin even with a “dandruff” type shampoo. Grooming to remove dirt stimulates the skin’s sebaceous glands, a positive. I understand the historic use of DE, but there is no science to support claims and is not an ingredient that I recommend.

Omega 6 fatty acids are the type of fat that influence (nourish) the skin. Add oil (any vegetable oil works, i.e. corn, soybean, canola) at 1/3 cup per day. This needs to be a sustained effort for about 4 – 5 weeks for any potential benefit. I would also suggest feeding a balanced formula, such as Integrity Lite or Adult/Senior, that is modest fat. The added fat and a balanced formula will also add calories and help with body weight. I do not consider “ration balancer”, a concentrated source of protein and selective minerals, as a balanced approach in feeding horses. There is a fact sheet in Dr. Bray’s Corner on ration balancer. Food should not be considered as a treatment of a disease or condition, but a balanced diet is obviously important, hence the recommendations for a balanced feeding approach.

Relative to the Integrity line, the Adult/Senior or Lite are two balanced formulas for consideration. Adult/Senior is higher fat (7.3%), lower fiber than Lite but I would need an understanding of the activity/work level of your Paint to suggest which formula and amounts.

Our twin geldings have Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy, a gene disorder that affects their muscles. Their muscles can't process the glucose, and so they "tie up" pretty severely when they have high sugar content, high carbs, etc. They can't even have green grass and no orchard grass hay that has higher levels of sugar. Do you carry any supplements that are low carb, low starch, low sugar, but high in proteins, fat, etc.? They can't have, of course, anything with molasses in it.

Fats are energy dense and provide a different form of energy than grain carbohydrates thus fats will not directly increase blood glucose and insulin levels. The use of high fat feedstuffs such as corn/soybean/canola oil is an alternative to fueling the horse. The amount of oil fed will depend on the balance formula being fed and what you are doing with the horse. Integrity Lite is our lowest sugar/starch formula and is 6% fat; the starch and sugar content of Integrity products are listed on Integrity.com.

Addressing dietary needs of horses with PSSM involves supplying feeds that can maintain low blood sugar and low blood insulin response. Grains and texture/pellet feeds with grains must be eliminated from the diet. Most all feedstuffs (except for oils) contain some level of starch and sugars. The goal is selecting a balanced formula that contains a blend of feed ingredients to provide a balanced formula and is low in starch/sugars and high in fat.

You also indicated that rice bran was added to their diet and beet pulp was eliminated. Beet pulp is a soluble fiber source and rice bran is a fat source. Rice bran (20-22% fat) is high in starch/sugars and rice bran products can approximate 17% starch and 7% sugars.

Fat and grass hays need to be the primary fuel sources for your horse; the hay of course is necessary for fiber intake that promotes gut health. A general rule is that hay (baled) is fed at 1.5% of body weight; so, if your horse weighed 1000 lbs. then a minimum of 15 lbs. of hay would be fed each day.

My horse is insulin resistant. She's 30 years old and was doing fine until the last two months. I want to give her a low starch feed that has a complete feed profile. Teff hay would be the forage in the equation unless a different hay is better. Does Integrity Senior w/no molasses fit this scenario?

Yes it does, but given the age I am assuming the riding activity level is low, so Integrity Lite No Molasses, which is lower sugar/starch, would be my recommendation. Keep in mind that the forage is the major contributor to the diet thus the major contributor of sugars and starch. I just viewed some hay analysis numbers on a recent load of teff hay and the numbers were low for starch/sugar.