Holistic Therapy for Founder in Horses

EquiSearch chatters learned about holistic therapy for treating founder in this chat with Dr. Joyce Harman.
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EquiSearch chatters learned about holistic therapy for treating founder in this chat with Dr. Joyce Harman.

EquiStaff: Welcome, everyone, to our EquiSearch Live chat with Dr. Joyce Harman, DVM, sponsored by HorseTech.com. Dr. Harman specializes in alternative medicine at her clinic in Washington, Va. Her services include acupuncture, chiropractics, homeopathy, herbal therapy and physical therapy, in addition to conventional diagnostic methods. The combination of these methods to reach the goal of a sound and healthy horse is called "complementary" or "integrative" medicine. Dr. Harman will be discussing founder tonight. Please feel free to ask questions.

Dr.Harman: Hi and welcome. We're going to be talking about laminitis tonight. Laminitis can be one of the more frustrating diseases to treat in horses. When you look in holistic medicine, there are a lot of things you can do to reverse the pathology--the problem. That involves using homeopathy, herbs, nutritional supplements, and supporting the foot itself--making sure foot has shoes or some sort of support on the bottom.

To learn more about laminitis in horses, download a FREE guide?Learn About Chronic Laminitis in Horses: The risk, prevention, symptoms and treatment of this hoof disease.

Gail: Hi Dr. Harman! Does acupuncture help with chronic founder? I have a 13 year old Arabian mare that grass foundered 2 mos. ago. She's hanging in there...but it's been a rough go. She's had good vet care, is in pads and we're trying to keep her feet dry (which is a trick in Florida right now)

Dr.Harman: Gail, acupuncture can be extremely helpful for founder. What kind of support do you have on the bottom of your horse's foot?

Gail: We started off with lily pads....then the vet made pads from some sort of dental material, building up the heels and leaving the toe open. We vet wrap them on leaving "air" room at the toe.

Dr.Harman: Gail, it sounds like you're on the right track for support for the bottom of the foot. Move on to the supplements. Provide coenzyme Q10 which is available from health food stores--it is expensive, but buy high quality, not the cheapest you can find. It is invaluable for healing the laminitis. One of the most controversial, but beneficial things is to NOT use bute. Most of these horses will get worse and then better. They will get a lot better.

Gail:What is the reason for not using bute?

Dr.Harman: Gail, bute is actually very toxic. In almost all cases, it causes inflammation in the gut wall in 5-10 days of daily use. You may not see symptoms--some horses tolerate it, but inflammation can still be there. The use of bute in many cases seems to be what keeps the cycle going.

Dr.Harman: Bute actually inflames the wall and allows toxins to keep crossing over--which reinfects. There are some homeopathic remedies that can help. American Holisitic Veterminary Medicine Association has links and information about the different modalities. You'll be connected to educated people. Homeopathic can help with the pain. You should also have some of the minerals available--mentioned before. Free choice minerals and salt separately. Also look at the post on nutrition.

Gail:Thanks Dr. Harman. I think we're on track with the nutrition/mineral aspects. I'll add the CoQ10 (how much are we talking about?) and I'll check out the sites. I'll also try to get brave enough to take her off the bute....

EquiStaff:We received this question via email earlier today: What diet do you recommend for a Cushingoid foundered horse?

Dr.Harman: For the Cushingoid question: To begin with, the most important thing to think about with the Cushingoid horse--what is really insulin resistance, similar to human diabetes--the first thing to do is remove all sugar from the diet. Get rid of sweet feed and molasses. Carrots and apples are OK, but moderation. Apples are actually better than carrots because they don't have as much glucose. Then, restrict grazing or other sources of rich food--things like alfalfa hay. For some horses you can't even feed them good quality grass hay, they can only tolerate lesser quality hay--hay that's cut late, but is clean. It has a poor color, but good smell. You can find that hay cheap from farmers--and it's great for the obese horses. Only use grains that are simple and don't have much molasses. All they need is a handful or two--to carry their supplements in. Then, after we have the feed taken care of, we need to provide minerals. These horses crave minerals. I use a free choice mineral that has no salt in it.

crescendo: Dr. Harman, do you recommend mineral blocks or loose supplement?

Dr.Harman: Crescendo, for a product to have no salt in it, it has to be loose. Products are bound together by salt.

Dr.Harman: For the free choice mineral, look for minerals from companies such as Rush Creek. There are a few other companies that have no salt versions. Provide salt seperately.

crescendo: I'm in Alberta, Canada. We're dealing with a major drought right now and the quality of hay is unpredictable. Can this affect development of founder/laminitis?

Dr.Harman: Crescendo--the weaker hay should be beneficial. That's the only good thing about the draught. The poor hay quality does not affect he overweight horses adversely. To supplement the lack of nutrition in the hay, use the good vitamin/ mineral supplements, and the horses will take what they need. When you get good hay, they'll eat less minerals.

Ruffian:I'm really disturbed about the recent deaths of high-profile horses from founder, and of course Secretariat years ago. What was the situation with Sunday Silence. How did an infection progress into founder? High-profile cases such as Sunday Silence and Steffen Peters' horse Udon make us wonder why founder is not more treatable. What can you tell us?

Dr.Harman: Ruffian, I don't know the details of the cases, but in horses, cases progress to founder when horses are on bute and banamine and more inflammation results. Horses, when they get an infection, their whole bodies become toxic. When that happens, toxins escape from the gut and lead to laminitis.

Dr.Harman: Ruffian, the biggest problem is that with conventional medicine, it is difficult to treat. It is a condition where whomever designed the horse goofed a bit. The horse species is the only one that is prone to laminitis. All they have to do is get sick--any kind--and they're likely to have laminitis. In conventional medicine, when it is practiced alone, bute is the answer. They don't always look for complimentary help.

Ruffian:Are any of the old treatments valid, such as standing a horse in mud when he shows signs of founder?

Dr.Harman: Ruffian, standing a horse in mud or sand can be good. Sand is very good. Research from Australia shows if your horse gets into grain, cool the feet immediately and you can ward off laminitis. Don't wait for signs. The signs of founder might wait for 48 hours. Horses with other health problems will signs earlier.

crescendo: I thought Bute was an anti-inflammatory as well as an analgesic? Just when it gets interesting, I have to leave. Thanks. Have a good chat.

Ruffian:Thank you for your comment on the historic cases. Has any of this led to intensive research? Can we hope to have a

Dr.Harman: Ruffian, the biggest problem is there isn't enough money spent on laminitic research. The best research being done is from Australia, but I don't know how they're funded now. I get my research from human research in functional medicine. What's called metabolic disease or syndrome X.

lleigers:What homeopathic do you use to remove the toxins?

Dr.Harman: LLeigers, the key to treating laminitis is to stop the gut leaking toxins. I use more nutrition than just homeopathy. The nutritional supplements are the enzyme Q10, glutamine (15 to 20 grams a day). That will help heal the gut wall. Then I use the free choice minerals which will help the gut soak toxins. But remember, the most important thing is to stop using bute.

Dr.Harman: If you use homeopathy, use it only for a few days, and if you aren't seeing results, consult a homeopathic vet.

Dr.Harman: Nux vomica can be very helpful if given the first few days after a horse has eaten too much grain or grass. Then, there's a remedy called belladonna that can be given when the feet are really inflamed and hot. It should only be given a few days. If you're not seeing a response, look for a homeopathic vet. You can confuse the situation by trying too many things at once.

Dr.Harman: Gail, the dose for Q10 can be anywhere from 100-200 mg for a small pony to 500-00 mg for a horse. Then, decrease the dose by 100 mg each week as the horse is doing better. If they need it, you can increase again. The only thing it will hurt is your pocket book.

Ruffian:Thank you. I've always done the mud thing. It's so easy to overfeed skinny Thoroughbreds.

lleigers:Can you get Q10 thru A.B.C.?

Dr.Harman: Lleigers, I think they carry it. Health food stores carry it. Do not buy it at Wal-Mart. Ask the health food store owner what their highest quality brand is. They usually know. It may not be the most expensive.

HoRsEcRaZy:Does sulfur help their feet?

SydneySS:Hi Dr. Harman... does that mean that when you feed good hay, your horse might not need/eat any extra minerals?

Dr.Harman: SydneySS, if the hay was grown on soil that has good minerals, the horses may not eat many minerals. There are some individual horses who need little minerals. 95% of the laminitic horses eat a lot of minerals when free choice without salt products.

revard:We are having very dry weather here in South Carolina, and recently one of my Shetland ponies showed signs of founder for no apparent reason. At first I though he was just foot sore from the hard ground, but now I'm wondering if the intense heat 100 to 105 index could be it.

Dr.Harman: Revard, most of the horses that get laminitis in the summer, when they're not getting much grass in the dry heat, have an origin of laminitis in the hormonal system. It's related to the pituitary and adrenal glands. The stress of the heat can make them show signs of laminitis. But, they were probably close on their own. Cushings has been used to describe these laminitic tendencies. The Cushings Disease seen in people and dogs is very different from what we see in the laminitic horses. The horses' show signs more closely related to syndrome X. When a horse eats something sweet or rich, it needs insulin to take glucose into the cells so it can be burned for fuel. In the horses that are having problems metabolizing glucose, it has difficulty getting into the cells, so they store it as fat.

Ruffian:Can you tell me more, in layman's terms, about metabolic disease or syndrome X? I had no idea human research was helping.

Dr.Harman: Ruffian, check out Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory. That has a lot of the human research. The simple answer is found above where we talked about insulin not getting into the cells.

lleigers: I have a horse that has lamini problems I know that sugars are a problem. What diet do you recommend?

EquiStaff:Lleigers, check some earlier answers from Dr. Harman re your question about diet.

babycat71:does sulfur help a horses' feet?

Dr.Harman: Babycat, sulfur as a mineral can be helpful to heal the hoof. MSM is the easiest sulfur to find and most commonly used. That can be helpful.

babycat71:ok thanks Dr .Harman.

Dr.Harman: You'll see horses get fat pads on their rear or necks. When the fat pads look like cellulite, you're in danger of founder. Some horses will founder without the cellulite-looking fat.

Dr.Harman: To treat them, we have to get insulin into the cells so food can be burned as fuel. This picks up what we talked about with founder at the start of the chat. What we'll do here, is get insulin in to the cells. We'll need essential fatty acids so the insulin can come in.

Dr.Harman: Essential fatty acids come from flax seed oil, or hemp oil and seeds. It's similar to fish oils, but horses aren't fish-eating animals.

Dr.Harman: With flax and hemp, flax is the most available. The oils need to be refrigerated. It's easier to use flax meal. Look for a company that preserves it naturally. Other nutrients useful are magnesium, chromium, and vanadium.

Redbo:how about a cresty neck? My horse gets a thick hard crest on his neck and then he foundered.

HoRsEcRaZy:how is sulfur helpful what does it do to the hoof?

Dr.Harman: Horsecrazy, sulfur is a nutrient building block for skin and hair and similarly, hooves.

Redbo: If MSM has sulfur how much do we give our horse or is it measured by body weight?

Dr.Harman: Redbo, you can dose according to horse size. Start with 2 tbl. of pure MSM, do that for 2 weeks, then give a maintenence of 1 tbl. a day.

EquiStaff:We received this question earlier via email from Diane: Do you have any advice for bringing back a foundered horse with a pre-existing stifle problem?

Dr.Harman: Diane, you have to limit exercise to what the most severe problem can tolerate. If the stifle is the problem, you have to go slow enough for the stifle.

Dr.Harman: Redbo, cresty necks are the classic pre-founder symptom. It's similar to the cellulite described above. You can put horses like this on flax meal, magnesium, and free choice minerals and reduce the chances of founder.

Dr.Harman: In other cases, you'll need the help of a homeopath. You can reverse that trend if you catch it before it happens.

Ruffian:Tough question: how can we prevent founder?

Dr.Harman: Ruffian, in the metabolic founders, adjust diets. In the grain founders, start the homeopathic treatments we just listed. And, stay away from bute.

Redbo:My horse is foundered now Dr. he has 1/4 rotation and on padded shoes. So I should buy him MSM and flax meal? Beau is also eating oats and Meadow Herb. About 5 lbs. per day

Redbo:And what exactly does flax oil do?

Dr.Harman: Redbo, flax oil makes the cells more permeable to insulin and kicks in the fat-burning metabolic pathways in the liver.

Dr.Harman: The MSM is probably less important than the flax and minerals.

revard:You hit that on the head doctor, my pony does have Cushings, and is being treated for it by our Vet, with pergorid (i know i spelled that wrong), will MSM still benefit him?

EquiStaff:We're about to wrap up--

Redbo:Great Thank you so much Dr.

Redbo:A salt block ?

Dr.Harman: Redbo, it depends on if your horse needs that many oats. If your horse has a tendency to be fat, cut the oats out, or limit them.

Redbo:oh no he is not fat. 5 lbs. of oats and meadow herb combined

Dr.Harman: Revard, MSM will benefit him, but you won't see much change. If you want to see change in the Cushings horse, follow the diet advice we already talked about.

littleox:Sorry, I got knocked off as Ruffian. Dr. Harman, great chat. EquiSearch, PLEASE run this chat transcript. Too much information for me to take in so quickly.

Dr.Harman: Redbo, a salt block is fine in the pasture, but also have to have your free choice minerals.

Redbo:OK thank you Dr.

Dr.Harman: Thanks, Little ox. There is a lot of information here!

EquiStaff:Thanks, everyone, for attending this chat--and thanks to Dr. Harman and HorseTech.com for sponsoring the chat.

Redbo:Thank you, Dr.

Melis:thank you

Dr.Harman: Thanks everyone! You can consult any of the holistic vets on the American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Association Web site for more information. I do some telephone consultations. You can call the appointments line at 540-229-1855.

Redbo: Thank you very much. The info was very helpful.

EquiStaff:Please check out the August 2002 issue of Practical Horseman for more information from Dr. Harman. Good night, everyone!

Dr.Harman: Good night!