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Discussion on Chronic Diarrhea- Hereditary Alfalfa Intolerance?

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Betty J Zimmell
Member
Username: Juheefa

Post Number: 6
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Saturday, Apr 22, 2006 - 1:21 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hi,
I have been battling chronic diarrhea with my 25 year old mare (I've had her since she was 6) and her 3 year old colt/gelding for the past 2 years and under the care of my vet. I tried many different treatments including banamine initially due to shooting watery diarrhea (almost clear watery) when the colt was 10 months old. I have tried beet pulp, sand clear(psyllium), probiotics, kaeopectate, panacur power pak, metronidazole twice- all with some good results but the "cow patties" return and they would have liquid stools running down their legs. They would only have fairly normal stool 2-5 days, then mushy again. They ate and drank well and had normal temps. Stool check and lab work were all negative and the vet really had nothing more to offer. My horses are wormed regularly.
I fed sweet feed (with alfalfa pellets in it) and grass mix hay. There was only a very small amt of alfalfa in the hay and I only used the first cut because the second cut had a lot of alfalfa. A friend recommended no sweet feed or molasses and recommended Buckeye Endurance 101 (an extruded feed- has no alfalfa in it) that helped her horse that coliced frequently and had diarrhea at the same time. Another friend said to give them some "ear corn". The Buckeye feed seemed to help some (and I gave some corn with it). Then I got hay from another source that had absolutely no traces of alfalfa in it (none planted in their field). About 2 days after completely switching to the new hay(no alfalfa at all in their diet now) their stools were about 80% normal and in less than 1 week completely normal. My gelding has had completely normal stool for almost 2 months now with no staining on his legs. They are getting a 4oz scoop of cracked corn twice a day and if I cut down on that my mare started getting a little loose again!?!? I have 3 other horses that were on the same feed and pasture as these two with no digestive problems (the others are still on the sweet feed). I am thinking the mare and her colt have an intolerance to alfalfa and that it is a hereditary thing??
I thought I would post this because I have spent so much money in vet bills, medications and treatments not to mention the stress, time and worry about their care and health. It looks like my problem was only a dietary one. They are on NO psyllium, beet pulp or anything extra.
Something to think about if tests are all negative. I'm not saying alfalfa is definitely the cause here but it sure seems like it for my horses.
Sorry so long but thought this may help someone else were everything is testing negative and nothing is helping.
Betty
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: Dro

Post Number: 15441
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Sunday, Apr 23, 2006 - 10:28 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hello Betty,
As we point out in the article on diarrhea overview, many horses are loose on alfalfa and this is not an intolerance, at least there does not seem to be an inflammatory component. It would appear to be a result of incomplete digestion and absorption of the nutrients creating a osmotic gradient that keeps fluid in the bowel.
DrO
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Betty J Zimmell
Member
Username: Juheefa

Post Number: 7
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Sunday, Apr 23, 2006 - 6:10 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Thank you Dr.O,
Do you know what it is about alfalfa vs a grass hay that causes the digestion/absorbtion problem? My horses were more than just loose they were cow patty to watery with liquid running down their legs even between stooling. They also had very frequent audible gut sounds, obviously due to the amount of fluid in the bowel. With absolutely no alfalfa my gelding is now normal. My mare is almost normal but she is 25 now and maybe has some age related digestive problems?? Also she always did get a little loose off and on with alfalfa but was never really a problem. But the last 2 years has been bad. Maybe the hay had a little more in it?? Could the loose stools over the years from incomplete digestion and absorption have done damage to her bowel and be causing her problems in her old age? I am having trouble keeping weight on her and she is having muscle wasting on her top line. She eats good and had her teeth floated last fall.
Also, I suppose this absorption/digestive problem must be hereditary?? as these two are related and the other 3 horses have no trouble-- what do you think?
Thanks, Betty
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: Dro

Post Number: 15449
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Monday, Apr 24, 2006 - 7:28 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

No we don't know but I have seen others with your degree of diarrhea that responded to removal of alfalfa and we do not know specifically what causes this however we don't think it damages the bowel. Hereditary(?) perhaps. Now that you have corrected the big problem with the older mare if she does not come around you could retry some of the other management ideas in the article.
DrO
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ilona armoni
Member
Username: Ilona

Post Number: 57
Registered: 4-2005
Posted on Tuesday, Apr 25, 2006 - 11:06 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

One of our horses is completely alfalfa intolerant, a Peruvian Paso. I have taken all the horses off alfalfa completely and they all do better now. (with the exception of enteritis, but I understand that is not feed related) Their temperament is also more gentle and they aren't so 'hot' on trail. Maybe its the concentration of protein in relation to the other nutritional components that is the problem for some horses. Just a guess, unhampered by expert knowledge.
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Del Blackburn
New Member
Username: Pidgeon

Post Number: 1
Registered: 1-2006
Posted on Tuesday, Apr 25, 2006 - 8:38 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I've followed with interest the comments on chronic diarrhea because my 6 year old ApHc gelding has had mild diarrhea almost always. I suspected feed, alfalfa in particular, but grass hay only did not clear it up. I wormed regularly with Zimecterin rotating occasionally with a strongid wormer. Looking at a map showing parasite distribution, I noticed tapeworms are a possibility in my area. I switched to Zimecterin Gold and to my surprise, no mare diarrhea. I can now feed alfalfa grass mix, he is gaining weight and has had no problems for 3 months. I intend to be much more careful about rotating wormer for all my horses. I wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience.
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Betty J Zimmell
Member
Username: Juheefa

Post Number: 8
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Tuesday, Apr 25, 2006 - 10:15 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Del, I've been wondering a little about the tapeworm issue also. My gelding completely cleared with removal of alfalfa but my aged mare was still a little loose yet(but not near as bad). I wormed with Combocare 4/15 and she seemed to be improving more after that. Actually she was normal the last day or so. Hope it continues and I hope she starts picking up weight. Thanks Dr.O, I think I'll keep some of the Sand Clear on hand. That seemed to help some before and maybe will be enough to get her back to normal now if she gets a little loose.
Dr.O, Do you think there is anything to the feeding of corn?? Someone told me to give them corn for loose stools. I had added this with my feed changes and they improved. I was giving two 2oz scoops twice a day. I started cutting back to 1 scoop twice a day, thinking they shouldn't really be having it for the warm months but my mares stools got looser so I'm back to 2 scoops twice a day. The corn may have absolutely nothing to do with it and just be coincidence but what I have them on right now is working great and I don't want to change anything.
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: Dro

Post Number: 15465
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Wednesday, Apr 26, 2006 - 7:50 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Del and Betty you should follow our program for controlling parasites. There is no reason I know of why the corn oil would help Betty but it will help with the weight problem.
DrO
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Chris Stevens
Member
Username: Stevens

Post Number: 22
Registered: 8-2002
Posted on Tuesday, May 2, 2006 - 4:14 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I had a chronic diarrhea problem with my oldest horse from the time he was 20 or so until he was about 28. It was particularly fun since he'd been a Western Pleasure horse in the 70's and had his tail muscles cut so he can't raise his tail up when he "goes". Consequently, I spent a lot of time washing his butt.

Anyway, switching him from alfalfa to oat hay helped but the real change was when someone noticed him standing in his stall EATING, not licking, his salt block.

I removed his salt block and within 2 weeks, the diarrhea was gone and has stayed gone for the last 3 years! He currently gets oat hay, a couple of pounds of a senior feed with 2 big scoops of 50-50 oat/alfalfa pellets.

Good luck.
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