Questions and Answers Regarding Leg Problems
(DOD–Developmental Orthopaedic Disease) in Foals and Weanlings
Q: How does the average horse owner and breeder prevent DOD through nutritional management of mares and young horses?
A: There are several different DOD problems including angular limb deformities, physitis, acquired contracted tendons, OCD, bone cysts, and Wobbler’s Syndrome for us to consider
Cartilage has a very poor blood supply and therefore, does not heal well. Tendons change in their biochemical makeup as they age. Thus, by the time foals are long yearlings, you cannot expect their tendons to stretch and/or become normal again. Therefore, knock-kneed or bow-legged yearlings most likely will remain that way.
Keep in mind that DODs are "abnormal" happenings in the young horse. You cannot expect a young horse with "abnormal" development to grow up to excel in performance events or stay sound while doing it.
Unfortunately, there are aspects involved in DOD that we cannot control, which include trauma or injury and genetics. However, nutrition is one aspect that we can control. To assure that nutrition is not the limiting factor when dealing with DOD, you can follow these guidelines:
- Begin a balanced nutrition program designed to meet prenatal requirements at conception or before. Keep the mare on this higher plane of nutrition through the entire pregnancy, keeping only calories at maintenance levels until the last trimester. The first trimester is just as important as the last trimester when speaking of mineral/vitamin nutrition.
- Increase the nutrients (calorie and minerals/vitamins/amino acids) in the mare’s diet after foaling to meet the heavy demands placed on her while nursing and potentially trying to conceive again.
- 3) Provide the suckling a milk-based foal feed that is formulated to complement mare’s milk – not forage! Nursing foals under the age of three months are not able to properly digest forage or feed grains. If and when young nursing foals consume measurable amounts of hay and grain, the result may be an unbalanced diet, which may lead to various forms of DOD and often diarrhea.
- During the transitional phase between three and four months of age, a foal’s digestive system becomes more efficient at utilizing hay and feed grain. At this point, it becomes important to provide feeds that are fortified enough to meet their needs for growth and development and that the feed is balanced with their increased intake of hay in mind.
- Monitor the foal’s growth rate each month and provide the minerals/vitamins/amino acids necessary to compliment their individual growth rate. Only increase the calories if they need more condition. Do not try to speed up growth or slow it down. Genetics will determine how fast or slow the foal grows and we cannot change genetics. Our goal is to nutritionally support whatever genetics are there. If the foal is fast growing, he will need more vitamin/mineral/amino acid to support the rapid bone/cartilage/tissue development than a slow growing peer.
Following these guidelines will help a breeder to minimize the nutritional causes of DOD and reduce leg problems on their foals and young horses
Q: We have a newborn foal that has crooked legs. The foal can stand to nurse, but has trouble getting around. Currently the mare and foal are turned out on pasture, so what can we do to help this foal improve?
A: First of all, make sure the mare is on a diet that is balanced for pasture, that is fortified enough for a lactating mare and that the mare is eating the appropriate amounts to meet a lactating mare’s requirements.
Additionally, we want to start treating the foal once daily with a mineral/vitamin product like Progressive Nutrition’s Rejuvenaide® to support proper cartilage and skeletal development. It is recommended not to start this product until day five. At that point, double dosing the foal for the first two weeks should help to speed up the improvement of the leg issues. After that point, dose the product based on the weight of the foal until normal leg development is observed.
Q: I have a foal that has contracted tendons on her front legs. She is about a month old and has been developing this problem over the last couple of weeks. What could be causing this condition and what can I do to improve it?
A: There are a number of factors that can contribute to acquired contacted tendons including inadequate minerals in mare’s milk and/or the foal consuming an imbalanced diet such as hay or the mare’s grain. Providing Rejuvenaide® to the foal will increase the amount of essential vitamins and minerals needed for proper leg development. If the foal is eating the mare’s feed, we recommend elevating it so the foal doesn’t have access to it. Remember, it is meant to complement hay and is not balanced for a suckling foal. The foal may become increasingly hungry, so providing Foals First Starter & Creep will encourage optimal growth and development by providing a feed for the foal that is balanced and fortified enough for a suckling foal.
Q: We have a pen of thoroughbred weanlings (5 months old) that have knots/swelling on their ankles above their fetlocks. We started to notice this at about three months of age and hoped that when we weaned them they would grow out of it. The weanlings are on good quality alfalfa hay and 12% sweet feed What can we do to fix this?
A: First, get the weanlings on a balanced diet. Alfalfa hay can be tricky to feed to youngsters due to wider calcium to phosphorous ratios. It is imperative to use a feed or grain specifically meant to compliment only alfalfa hay. Make sure each weanling is consuming the required amounts in order to meet their requirements for growth. If the weanlings get too fleshy on those levels, find a feed specifically for growing horses that is lower in calories, but higher in minerals and vitamins. In addition to balancing the diet, administer Rejuvenaide® on the affected horses until the swelling subsides.
Q: I have a four-day-old foal that is slightly contracted and is showing signs of being over in the knees. Our vet bandaged him and gave him a shot of oxytetracycline. He seems better today. Our vet recommended stall rest for another day or two In addition to stall rest, what else can we do?
A: Continue the stall rest and put the foal on Rejuvenaide®, starting on day five. Follow the dosing directions on the package. If you see no response after seven days, try double dosing the product for another seven days. Rejuvenaide® is available in a premixed liquid and in a paste form that work well to orally dose young foals.
Q: I have a very nice foal with super upright pasterns that seems to be going over on his ankles and knees. The farrier is helping to keep his heels in check. What is causing this condition?
A: Upright pasterns can be a genetically inherited condition, but it can also be indicative of nutritional deficiencies and imbalances. If the foal has been weaned, you will need to evaluate your feeding program to ensure that the diet is not contributing to the problem. Upright pasterns and contracted tendons are often associated with feeding an imbalanced diet or a diet too low in some of the essential minerals. In addition to evaluating and correcting the diet, provide Rejuvenaide® to help alleviate some of the pressure on your horse’s tendons. Work closely with your farrier to slowly bring the heels down and to make sure the toes aren’t breaking off, as this will impede healing.
Q: We have been experiencing a number of leg problems with our foal crop this year. We started on Rejuvenaide® a couple of weeks ago and are seeing some improvement. How long should we continue using Rejuvenaide®?
A: Typical time frame for improvement with Rejuvenaide®:
• Sucklings Within 2 weeks
• Weanlings Within 4 weeks
• Yearlings 6 to 8 weeks
The length of time to use Rejuvenaide® is dependent upon the severity of the problem and the age of the horse. In more severe cases, we would recommend doubling the feeding rate initially to shorten the time to see a response. Generally we recommend continuing the use of Rejuvenaide® for two weeks after the horses legs return to normal.
Q: What is physitis or epiphysitis?
A: The term physitis, also called epiphysitis, is basically an inflammation of the growth plates on the ends of the long bones or epiphysis. Physitis is commonly recognized as a painful swelling at or near the joints. Often described as “boxy looking” joints or knots on the ankles, knees or hocks. There are many causes of this condition, but nutrition may be the most important condition that we actually have control over.
Q: What is Rejuvenaide®?
A: Rejuvenaide® is a nutritional supplement that contains vitamins and minerals, including calcium, phosphorous, copper, zinc and selenium, which are imperative for proper skeletal and cartilage development. It is recommended for foals and growing horses experiencing growth related problems.
Q: What growth problems does this relate to?
A: The most common growth problems are contracted tendons (over in the ankles or knees), weak tendons, boxy or swollen ankles or knees and angular limb deformities (crooked legs). These may be present at birth or develop later.
Q: What causes growth problems and DOD?
A: Many factors are involved, including nutrition of the mare during pregnancy or lactation, nutrition of the suckling and weanling foal, genetics, management and even trauma Rejuvenaide® addresses the nutritional component of these leg problems.
Q: How does Rejuvenaide® work?
A: Rejuvenaide® supplies essential nutrients lacking in the foal’s system that promote normal growth and development of cartilage and bone.
Q: How is Rejuvenaide® given?
A: Rejuvenaide® is available in three forms Rejuvenaide® Paste, Rejuvenaide® Powder and Rejuvenaide® Plus Liquid:
- Nursing foals: Use the Rejuvenaide® Paste to administer orally. Administer Rejuvenaide® Plus Liquid orally using a syringe (no needle). Mix powder with distilled water and administer orally using a syringe (no needle).
- Weanlings and yearlings: Administer Rejuvenaide® Paste orally. Top dress Rejuvenaide® Plus Liquid or Powder on the feed or grain or use a syringe to orally dose Rejuvenaide® Plus Liquid or reconstituted powder once daily.