I own a 15-year-old easy keeper that spends all of his time turned out. In addition to pasture, he receives about three-quarters of a scoop of a low-carb senior feed. He is worked little. Though he is a little chubby, I am OK with that. The feed contains alfalfa and soy-based ingredients. Could this be the cause of the recurrent dermatitis and cellulitis that my gelding suffers from? What else can I do for him nutritionally?
Equine pastern dermatitis, commonly referred to as “scratches,” has several causal factors that make diagnosis and treatment difficult, not to mention frustrating. Both pastern dermatitis and cellulitis are commonly associated with damaged skin defenses and bacterial infection. I am unaware of any reasoning why feeding alfalfa or soy would induce either of these conditions.
Minimizing environmental factors that can predisposed your horse to pastern dermatitis is the first line of defense. Care should be taken to make sure your gelding’s legs are kept as clean as possible, and this may mean offering a dry place for him to spend his days if pasture becomes too wet or muddy with rain or snow. Further, any compromise in the skin, even the most minor wound, should be tended to immediately and meticulously. Any sign of heat or swelling near the wound should prompt a call to the veterinarian, as scratches can quickly turn into cellulitis.
Evaluating your gelding’s whole diet is important. He should be receiving complete and balanced nutrition to support optimal health and well-being. Make sure he is consuming at least the minimum amount of feed recommended by the manufacturer. If you’re worried about weight gain, you may consider switching to a ration balancer, a product that provides all of the protein, vitamins, and minerals required in a concentrated form. Most ration balancers are fed at a rate of 1-2 lb (0.45-0.9 kg) per day.
Vitamin E and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in maintaining skin integrity and condition, as well as benefitting several other physiological systems such as immunity. Because your gelding is susceptible to chronic skin conditions, providing him with these immune-boosting anti-inflammatory nutrients may be advantageous.
Kentucky Equine Research offers two products that would benefit your horse: EO•3, a potent source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, and Nano•E, a water-dispersible, natural-source vitamin E.
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