Equine Vet Discusses Horse Supplements in General Horse Care

Horse Supplements or Horse Sense?

Anyone who owns, rides, or cares for equines should have a basic understanding of horse supplements. These supplements can benefit the health and physical appearance of any horse when used wisely.

Horse supplements include a variety of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients that can be added to the animal’s regular diet.

These supplemental agents are specifically designed to boost the health and vitality of a horse in much the same way that certain nutritional substances can benefit humans.

Horses can be subjected to a variety of stressors. This stress can affect their immune systems and physical condition. Instead of maintaining peak performance levels the horse can become weak and this will leave the animal susceptible to a number of illnesses and diseases.

The stress of long rides, show-ring performances or travel are just a few reasons that some horses are being depleted of minerals, vitamins and other nutrients. This makes them very vulnerable to a variety of physical and emotional upsets. Horse supplements are one way that a responsible owner can ensure their animal is receiving the healthy diet that they need and deserve.

The judicious use of horse supplements can reverse, slow or prevent the development of many equine health problems. For horses that are already suffering from some type of health issue the proper use of horse supplements can mean a speedy recovery.

Unfortunately most of the deficiencies that affect equines are not very obvious, especially in the early stages. It is important to realize that the use of some simple supplements may be all that is needed to resolve these types of problems.

Horse supplements can be added to the diet if the animal is suffering from health issues that involve the joints, bones, hooves or muscles.

There are even some dietary horse supplements that are designed to improve the animal’s level of performance, behavior and physical appearance.

If you have a horse that frequently suffers from digestive upsets such as gas and colic then a yeast supplement is generally recommended. Improving the level of ‘good’ bacteria in the animal’s GI tract can help them process the roughage and fiber in their regular diet. A properly functioning digestive system will reduce or eliminate problems such as bloating and colic.

Understanding horse supplements and how they work will enable you to quickly provide viable solutions to a variety of common health issues that affect equines of all ages.

For instance biotin is a nutritional supplement that produces stronger connective tissue. Feeding a horse a biotin enriched diet will promote stronger hooves, a glossy coat and healthy skin.

Essential vitamins, nutrients and minerals are recommended for any horse that needs to have their overall diet improved. The addition of these important nutrition sources can be of great benefit for any horse, but they are especially useful if the animal has a poor quality diet, an illness or a vitamin deficiency.

Metabolic problems, injuries to soft tissues and sensory problems are just a few of the health concerns that can be addressed with the proper dosage of high quality horse supplements. The amount and type of supplements that are needed will depend upon the conditions that are being addressed.

Vitamins include anti-oxidant compounds, bone strengthening nutrients and other essential building blocks that are required for optimal equine health. Among the vitamins most often included in quality horse supplements are Vitamins A, D and E.

Many horses are able to obtain Vitamin A if they are fed green forage and healthy hay. Since this vitamin is not water soluble it can be stored for future use. A lack of hay and fresh forage is the usual cause of Vitamin A deficiency for horses. This dietary deficiency can be easily corrected with supplements.

Supplemental feeds or dietary supplements such as roughage, grains, cereal and oils can provide the animal with the necessary amount of Vitamin E. This vitamin is necessary for a strong circulatory system and healthy skin.

Horses can obtain much of their required Vitamin D from hay that has been cured outside underneath the UV rays of the sun. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones and joints and is also available in horse supplements that contain cod liver oil.

Octacosanol is a horse supplement that is found in alfalfa, wheat germ and natural food oils. This supplement is being used for horses when additional energy, vigor, endurance and strength are desired.

In order to improve the overall performance, energy and health of a horse many owners have begun to discover the potential benefit of adding horse supplements to the animal’s regimen. MSM is being suggested as a compound that can alleviate joint and muscle discomfort. This dietary compound has also proven useful at triggering healthy growth of new hoof tissue.

Understanding horse supplements and how to use them properly could help you improve the health and comfort of your own animal. The key point to remember is that you should use these dietary supplements only as recommended.

Problematic Snake Feeding

Unfortunately, feeding any snake is not always as simple as putting a mouse in the tank to find it gone the next morning. Occasionally the snake will refuse to feed and it may be tricky to get going again. There are all sorts of feeding hints and tips; however there is always a reason why a snake is not eating. Below there is a checklist of reasons, and then solutions to the problems:

1) Unsuitable vivarium / box

2) Insufficient heat

3) No cover or hiding area

4) Unsuitable food item

5) Recently Wild Caught animal

6) Other

1) Unsuitable Vivarium / Box

Generally when a snake refuses to feed, the first thing you should consider, especially if it has been recently purchased is if the environment is correct. Is your vivarium too large? It is possible to have something too small but this is rarely the case, as snakes often prefer tighter surroundings. Many keepers are so eager to put their hatchling snake in a 3 or 4ft vivarium that they are shocked to hear that this sort of treatment can eventually lead to the death of the snake. The vivarium / box should gradually get larger as the snake grows. For a hatchling snake a tupperware box no larger than the length of the snake should be provided.

2) Insufficient Heat

All snakes should have a thermal gradient, meaning they can go to one end of the enclosure to warm up, and move to the opposite end to cool off again. If the snake is kept too warm, its metabolic rate will speed up which will generally not cause it to go off its food, but it will need more food to keep it going. If the snake is kept too cool, it may go off its food. Not only that, its metabolic rate will have slowed down causing the digestive system to function slower than usual, which may cause the snake to regurgitate any food which it may have swallowed.

3) No cover or hiding area

When keeping snakes in a tupperware box, a hiding place may not be totally necessary, especially if you have a deep layer of substrate for the snake to hide in. However, possibly the most crucial factor of keeping snakes is that they must feel secure. Whether you decide to use an ice cream tub, a cereal box or a naturalistic piece of cork bark, the snake must have an area to retreat where it feels safe.

The size of the hiding area is also important. It must be large enough to fit the snake in, with very little room for anything else. You may also use artificial plants and branches which cover a higher area in the vivarium. Some snakes may feel more secure among the leaves and branches.

If the snake refuses to feed with all these hiding places provided, it is worth placing the food in the hiding place itself, or in its entrance. The snake may feel secure, but not secure enough to venture out to feed. This technique often works with newly acquired specimens.

4) Unsuitable food item

There are many ways of offering your snake a food item. Firstly you need to figure out the size food item it needs. A rule of thumb is that the size of food offered should be no wider than the girth of the snake. If the snake refuses the food, try something smaller.

Below are some bullet points that explain different food items and your method of feeding them:

o Try offering mice and rats of varying sizes. If these fail, try chicks, gerbils, hamsters or similar sized rodents or birds.

o Many keepers believe certain snakes will only take particular coloured rodents. Try white, brown and black rodents or any other colours you can find.

o Scenting the food item with a lizard, frog, chick, fish, canned fish oil or a live mouse may stimulate its feeding response.

o Try using freshly killed mice, this will smell a lot more and should also still be warm. This method works in many cases and is worth considering.

o Try cutting the tip of the nose off the rodent to expose the flesh slightly.

o Braining is another method – this works by using a pin or a sharp knife and slicing the top of the rodent’s head, exposing the brain. For some reason brain smells real good to snakes!

o Do not touch the food item; occasionally if it smells the owner on the food, it will not go for it.

o Try heating up the rodent; put it on a heat mat for a few minutes, or dipping the head in boiling water. Be careful not to overheat the food item, as it may be so hot it will literally split the stomach, which is not pretty!

o Tease feeding is a method commonly used by many keepers; this involves a pair of long forceps or tweezers, and literally wriggling the food around in front of the snake, acting as if it was alive. If this fails, try lightly tapping the snake on the nose with the food, sometimes they appear to strike out of anger, then if it connects with the rodents head it will often coil round and constrict as a natural reaction.

o Live feeding is a method which should be the last resort. There are many keepers which are capable of getting almost any snake feeding without resorting to feeding live. However the more novice keepers may not be capable of trying all the tricks of the trade. Before resorting to feeding live, phone around a few known herpetologists and ask for help. Any herpetologist who is a member of some type of club or organization is usually more than willing to lend a helping hand. Live feeding is not a bad thing in its own right, but often a snake will take to live food and begin to refuse anything else. Unless you have easy access to live mice, this should be avoided.

5) Recently Wild Caught Animal

This could possibly be the trickiest problem to solve in terms of feeding. A wild caught snake will have been feeding on live animals all of its life. So, to take it out of its natural environment into unfamiliar surroundings and offer it a dead mouse is often just asking too much! Not only will it have only fed on live, but it will have come across almost every animal which it naturally co-habitates with, such frogs, lizards, small rodents, birds and bird eggs, plus other smaller snakes and many more potential food sources. The snake could have been feeding on a dozen or so food items throughout its life, so be sure to try as much as possible.

6) Other

Breeding season is a common time when snakes will go off their food. Males very often refuse to feed because they are thinking more about mating than anything else. This is well known with many snakes and generally starts from February through to May depending on the breeding cycle of the snake in question. Females rarely go off their food when it comes to breeding, as they need all the fat reserves to produce the eggs. It is not uncommon however for the female to stop feeding about a month or so before she lays her eggs. The reason for this is not quite clear, it could be because the eggs take up so much room in the snake’s body, it may become hard to digest and process the food. The only solution to this is to wait and keep trying, it should not last longer than 2-3 months and for a healthy snake, it will not be affected.

Stress is a big killer in snakes, and it can be bought on by many reasons. One major factor is over handling. Many owners buy a pet snake and all they want to do is play with it. This is commonplace, but the snake needs its own time just like anyone else. I suggest for a newly acquired hatchling snake it should be handled for no more than 20 minutes per day. This can be spread out into 10 minute intervals if you wish, but the less you handle it the better. As it grows older and becomes more accustomed to you; you can gradually handle it more and more. If the snake refuses to feed, the first thing you should do is to stop handling it as it just adds more stress.

Other methods for non – feeders

1) Drying the snake out – This method stimulates the snake to look for moisture which can be in a food item. Take the water bowl out for about a week and move the temperature up just a couple of degrees. After a week, soak an appropriate sized rodent in water to defrost, and offer it to the snake dripping wet. Make sure the snake is not offered the food item on a substrate such as wood chips or aspen. You should keep your snake on newspaper for this whole process. If the snake begins to look at all emaciated, place the water back in immediately. This whole process should be monitored extremely carefully.

2) If the snake is very young or small, try offering the tails of rodents, or chick legs. These are easier to swallow and may stimulate them to feed. If it will only eat these food items instead of pinky mice, you must coat them in a vitamin and calcium supplement. A good balanced vitamin supplement is Repton.

3) Try offering the food at different times of the day. Most snakes are primarily nocturnal; however they may prefer to take the food in the early hours of the morning rather than evening.

4) Place the food in different areas of the vivarium. Try up higher in a branch or underneath the hiding area. Many keepers have had success by placing a rodent in the middle of a toilet roll. The snake will feel secure in this and is a perfect hide area to safely eat its prey.

5) The temperature of the food is sometimes a stimulant. Keep the food at normal room temperature to begin with, but if this fails, place it on a radiator or something similar until the food item is hot.

6) If your snake is a hatchling, try and find a small, dark pot with a secure lid. The tubs which wax moth larvae are offered in are perfect. Place a pinkie and the snake in this tub together and then place in a warm area; but not directly on a heat source. Leave it over night and with any luck the food will have disappeared. Try also to use the braining method and placing it in the tub.

Feeding a Healthy Horse Feed Diet

One of your most important responsibilities as a horse owner is to make sure your horse is always well taken care of and properly fed. If you overfeed your horse with too much grain, you can give him gas colic, which is a horse’s inability to burp, which can be a serious problem. If the horse cannot burp, they will develop gas in their digestive system and they will experience very severe abdominal pain.

In order to avoid the problem of colic, be sure to feed your horse at regular intervals. You will need three smaller meals a day instead of one large one. Each meal needs to include plenty of fiber for the horse’s digestive system, so they will need a lot of good quality hay. You will also need to make sure that your horse’s water is frequently changed. If your horse is extremely active or even pregnant, you will have to put in horse grain or pelleted feed.

Fiber is extremely important for your horse. You will need to make sure that you have the right kind of feed for your horse at all times. You will need horse quality hay delivered to you to avoid getting hay that wasn’t cut or dried properly for your animal. In fact, if you give your horse bad hay, it can kill it. You will need to break a bale of hay open and smell it before you think about feeding it to your horse. If it looks or smells dusty with a musty scent, do not feed it to your horse. Hay that comes from the first or even second cutting is okay and has a lot of nutritional supplements. The third or even fourth cuttings are worthless to a horse.

Your horse will need to consume around three flakes of hay every day. If your horse is getting fat from lack of exercise, you can cut down to two flakes every day. A flake of hay is a substantial amount of hay that weighs roughly four pounds. Most of the time, you can mix timothy hay with alfalfa hay for your horse. If your horse ignores the timothy hay to get to the alfalfa, feed him his timothy first on the next feeding when he is very hungry. The timothy has more nutrition and is less fattening than the alfalfa hay.

If you don’t have a lot of storage room for hay bales, you can think about giving your horse horse fiber. The hay cube is one of the most popular versions of horse fiber. You can get tightly compacted cubes of hay that will take up a lot less room. The most popular version is the cubes made from alfalfa. You can also find cubes in pet stores, but generally, these cubes are for bunnies and other small animals, not horses. You need to ask for at least 50 pounds in hay cubes to get the best deal. You can also get pelleted hay, but experienced horse owners don’t typically prefer this option.

If you compete in horse shows frequently or prefer long trail rides, you will need to give your horse supplemental pieces to his diet, including more grain or pelleted feed. Most of the time, pleasure horses will just need a cup of grain a few times a week. You can talk to your vet about what is appropriate for your horse, but you shouldn’t give your horse grain every day or else you will end up with an overweight animal. Definitely ask your vet if your horse qualifies for vitamin or mineral supplements as well to make sure that all of his requirements are being met!