Talking with Dr. Susan Albright

Dr. Susan Albright (University of Illinois Veterinary Medicine, 1985) has practiced in Chenoa, IL for over 30 years, using integrative modalities to provide many healthcare options to her clients and their pet families. Essential oils were introduced into her practice in 2001 and have become an integral part of her work to facilitate optimal health for her animal patients. Dr. Albright has lectured throughout the United States on the appropriate use of quality essential oils, and encourages fellow veterinarians to learn about this exceptional adjunct to traditional veterinary medicine.

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Holistic veterinary advice, email: Our veterinary columnists respond to questions in this column only. We regret we cannot respond to every question. This column is for information purposes only. It is not meant to replace veterinary care. Please consult your veterinarian before giving your horse any remedies.

Can clover cause founder?

A: Founder is the commonly-used term for "laminitis". When inflammation occurs in the folds of tissue (laminae) that connect the pedal bone (P3) to the hoof wall, a serious and painful condition results. Worst case scenarios happen when the pedal bone rotates downward through the sole, due to the lamina separating and being unable to support the proper positioning of P3 within the hoof. While often seen in the front feet, as signified by the characteristic "rocked back" stance, all four feet can be affected.

The word "inflammation" describes the end result of many causative factors or situations. Some common causes of "inflammation" that can affect the feet include: rich, lush pasture at certain times of the year, metabolic disorders, post-colic or infection, medication reactions, retained placenta, sole trauma, and lameness resulting in abnormal weight-bearing on the limbs. With these causes in mind, clover may fit into the pasture and/or metabolic categories.

Clover can be a good source of protein, energy and fiber for horses. Like grasses, clover can have a high soluble sugar content, especially during rapid growth times in the spring and sometimes again in the fall. The sugar content in clover usually decreases as the plants mature, so limiting pasture time during the spring may be considered. Avoiding grazing areas with a high clover population until later in the season may be an option.

Clover can be afflicted with several kinds of mold, resulting in undesirable consequences including "slobbers" and even liver damage. Certain temperature and humidity conditions may promote any clover baled in hay to mold, increasing the risk for adverse reactions.

Most horses will tolerate clover well, but you need to know your horse and be mindful of his health and hoof histories. To avoid problems, know what is in your pasture throughout the grazing season, and watch for any moldy clover sections in hay.

What does marbling a mare involve, and does it actually help prevent heat cycles?

A: "Marbling" a mare refers to putting a glass marble ("shooter size") into her uterus to fool her body into thinking she is pregnant. Having a mare "think" she's pregnant without actually breeding her may be desirable for many reasons. Is she one of "those" mares you don't want to be around when she's in heat? Is there a show schedule to keep? Is an owner unable/not wishing to use drugs to keep the mare on a more even keel from a behaviorial standpoint? Does she scald herself with excessive urination during her heat?

When a mare is in heat, her cervix is open. A sterile 35mm glass marble is inserted just after she ovulates. Various studies have been done to determine how effective this is and if there are any changes to the uterine tissue that may hamper future breeding and conception. One study showed that only 8% of mares ceased cycling after having a marble placed into the uterus, while another study showed 42% didn't return to having heat cycles. Results are inconclusive for conception problems after the marble is removed.

While this can be an inexpensive method to keep a mare from cycling, here are some things to consider:

The mare may expel the marble and return to cycling.

Retrieval of the marble is not always as easy as it may seem.

Introducing a foreign body into the uterus comes with the 

possibility of complications from an infection or scar tissue formation.

I had a personal experience in which a breeding farm called me in to examine a mare that had been repeatedly bred and was still cycling. The mare had not been palpated during the times she was bred. Imagine the owner's surprise when I could feel "something round, hard and moveable" and visualize a perfect circle on the ultrasound exam! He had purchased this mare from the track with an unknown breeding history, considering her to be a maiden mare. The marble (as a foreign body) was creating an environment in her uterus where implantation could not take place. I did not detect any other abnormalities during the exam and as it was late in the season, he chose to take her home and work with his veterinarian to remove the marble at her next heat cycle. Moral of the story - buyer beware!

My horse has been having some intermittent lameness issues and we recently discovered (via x-rays) that he has quite advanced changes in his hocks for a horse his age (11). My vet wants to put him on Previcox and polyglycan for the rest of his days, and even then he may not be sound enough to do much more than be a pasture ornament. Is there anything else I could be doing for him?

A: Sometimes relatively "young" horses can have radiographic issues in their joints that affect performance and overall comfort levels. The changes your vet is seeing may be related to your horse's past and current work history. Previcox will help decrease his pain level and the polyglycan will help with the normal building and repair (maintenance) of his joints. There may be some special shoeing or barefoot options that may be helpful. Other things to consider include chiropractic and acupuncture treatments. With many cases, essential oils and Chinese herbs can also be beneficial in addition to these other suggestions, and combine well with traditional treatment protocols. Working with an integrative holistic veterinarian can be a plus for your horse and help him be more than a pasture ornament.