Thursday, August 24, 2006

EPSM: Another piece of the puzzle

Obviously, when Lutine arrived she was very thin and wasted but even though she put on weight quickly with a proper diet, she still lacked muscle development. On top of that, she sometimes used to do this weird thing where she hiked up her back legs as though she had a cramp. She would snatch them up and wave them in the air uncomfortably until stamping them down. I used to watch her do this and think 'hmmm, what IS that about?'. Anyway, by chance I was reading about a condition known as EPSM on the internet one day, as you do, and lo! they could have been describing my horse to a T. I read several articles concerning EPSM from the website, written by Dr Beth Valentine, an American veterinary pathologist and they seemed very relevant so I emailed Dr Beth with Lutine's story, her symptoms and photos. Dr Beth's comment was that EPSM was a 'strong possibility' for her and that a diet change could help. EPSM can only be confirmed by muscle biopsy, which I will have done later in the year when there are less insects about, and in the meantime the dietary changes were simple to make and not dangerous.

EPSM stands for Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy and it's basically a metabolic condition where horses can't use energy in the form of muscle glycogen (I think that's the right way to describe it). What it means in practical terms is that Lutine shouldn't be fed cereals and starches/sugars and she needs to get at least 25% of her calorific intake per day from oil, with the rest from fibre- or protein-based sources. Dr Beth thinks that EPSM may have come about as we've bred more and more high-performance horses; I've spoken to several different equine nutritionists who think it can actually be caused by inappropriate diet, high in cereals, leading to mineral deficiencies and damaged gut walls. Either explanation could fit to Lutine.

In any event, we started her on the high oil diet and she has gone from strength to strength, literally. I've also now just started her on a feed balancer by a company called Top Spec ( plus their 10:10 Joint Support supplement. When I spoke to Nicola Tyler, Top Spec's senior nutritionists, she explained how high cereal diets acidify the horse's hind gut and lead to the gut walls becoming more permeable. This allows undesirable toxins though in to the bloodstream, which can negatively effect the horse's system in all kinds of ways. On top of that, by not having the necessary minerals and trace elements in such an unbalanced diet, Lutine's cells did not have the necessary tools for correct metabolism and in itself this could create the inability to use muscle glycogen, inappropriate glycogen storage in the muscles etc. The food I am giving her now gives her optimum levels of all vitamins and minerals for cell metabolism, plus a hi-tech yeast and another ingredient called a mannan oligosaccharide (MOS) both of which help to restore and maintain gut health. Nicola thinks there's a possibility that Lutine's gut will heal in time, though it may not. However, I think we're on top of this issue now.
She's looking extremely well these days compared to how she looked in the photo above but I'm hoping for even better! (p.s. sorry for weird paint effect on photo. Something must have gone wrong during upload but you can still see how wasted Lutine's muscles were.)


Blogger CadencedHoofbeats said...

Wow, very interesting story about your horse! I love learning about equine nutrition, and I've heard of EPSM before. How is your horse doing on the high-oil diet? How much oil do you feed? Do you think her gut has healed? That's interesting that the high-cereal diet actually could have damaged the gut.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Lulu's friend said...

Hi there, Lutine's been doing really well on the high oil diet. She has 600ml of sunflower oil a day, split into two feeds, along with D&H Fibergy, alfalfa pellets, unmollassed sugar beet, the Top Spec Comprehensive Balancer and the 10:10 Joint Supplement. She's been on the high oil part of the diet for just 3 months now and the biggest improvement has been in her energy levels. She can now even catch up with my horse, Crystal, who is a bit of a speed freak and loves galloping around! With the addition of the balancer, she's also growing a nicely rounded bottom - her butt looked like it belonged to a whippet before!

I've no idea about whether her gut has healed yet. I spoke to Nicola Tyler at length about Lutine and all her problems. For example, she was prone to swelling in her legs whenever she got a small scratch and had been treated for cellulitis a couple months ago. Nicola said that the 'leaky gut syndrome' can also predispose horses to this kind of oversensitivity. Certainly, we've not had a relapse of the cellulitis so far (touch wood!), despite various small abrasions - but who knows...

Regarding the EPSM, Beth Valentine says that horses that respond well within the first 3 months to the high oil diet often go on improving for up to a couple of years, so she might just go on improving. Fingers crossed!

Thanks for your comments

12:39 PM  

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