May 16, 2009

Catching up: Isis’ insulin resistance flares up

I quit doing regular updates here when things in real life exploded. Isis’ insulin resistance flared up, my job stress went through the roof, and my back (then knee and hip) all had problems.

During the middle of March, Isis’ crest became more pronounced and she looked like she wasn’t feeling good. It took a few days to really register it, but the subtle symptoms of insulin resistance were back.

My first priorty was to get Isis’ IR under control by investigating her feeding program and upping her exercise. I started by reviewing the factors that had recently changed:

  • Warmer weather so she was using fewer calories
  • Isis was moved to a new barn in mid-February with different hay, but was still on Nutrena Safe Choice, a low-starch pelleted grain.
  • Her exercise program was inconsistent.
  • She was off grass and keped in a dry lot (a good thing).

When something is wrong with Isis, I focus entirely on her. Everything else goes on the back burner: it’s like a parent with a sick kid. You do everything you can and hope it is enough.

My first response was to review everything in her grain, any supplements, and research what the latest news on the Equine Cushings Yahoo Group mentioned. The more I read on that group, the more confused I became. Tons of information is available, some of it conflicting and most of it confusing. For example, IR horses are not supposed to have glucosamine but some people feed it. (Isis has been on a mild dose of glucosamine for years and has never had an issue with it.) Did I need to change her supplement because it had glucosamine in it? Just how much did I need to change things around?

Finding a grain was even worse. The “Safe Choice” Isis was on turned out to be 22% to 28% non-structured carbohydrates. Ideally horses with IR should be on 11% or less. This was not good. No wonder she had trouble. Even though she had been on the grain for months, it was during winter when she was using the calories more. At the end of February it was getting warmer, so she wasn’t using the calories. She had also been getting an apple a day (as all of the horses at the barn get). I didn’t realize that she wasn’t supposed to have apples. She had some times had apples or carrots but only sporadically. The apples were discontinued immediately.

I gave up trying to figure things out from the Equine Cushings group. The Equine Cushings group recommends having the hay, pasture, and grain all analyzed for nutrition, minerals, etc. These values are then compared to blood work on the horse to determine what is missing from the horse’s diet. Once the missing nutrients are known, you find a way to add them in by making a custom mixture. Ideally, this is the way to go. It can be complicated to prepare and use — not to mention getting a picky eater like Isis to ingest it.

I am going to do mineral balancing this spring, but at the time Isis’ condition came up we were in the process of finishing up hay and getting in a new order. I opted to go with a commercial grain and supplements until I have the money to do all of the testing.

I called my vet at the University of Tennessee vet school and asked them what they recommend for IR horses. I was told to get Purina Wellness L/S, which has an NSC level of 11-12%. Isis normally has trouble eating pellets, but she liked the Wellness L/S. At $25/bag (twice what her old grain cost), it’s a good thing she eats it. She has done exceedingly well on it.

The next thing I did was put her back on D-Carb supplement and begin working her 3-5 times per week. Within three weeks her crest returned to normal and she looked like she felt much better. She built muscle, moved better, and overall was making great progress with our riding lessons. I was so pleased with her!

When the farrier came out on March 13th, he said that her feet looked perfect, even though she had a cresty neck at the time. Her feet also looked good on the last farrier visit on May 9th.

Of course, right about the time Isis is doing better and we’re getting ready to ride in a dressage rally, my back had issues. Major issues. (More on this in another post.) I was off of her for over a month. I did have the trainer at the barn ride her a twice per week to keep her exercise up.

And when I did finally get back on, she was very stiff in her hips and back. She pinned her ears at me when we trotted. I am good at sitting a trot bareback so I should not have been jarring her at all. She moved and acted like she was uncomfortable. The trainer mentioned that Isis had been acting like she did not (or could not) get her back legs under her on her right side. I have always had some difficulty having her move under herself on the right side. She falls in and it’s hard work to get her to not lean on me when we ride in a circle. The trainer confirmed that he had the same difficulty — and pointed out that there might be a physical reason that she has so much trouble.

Yesterday I went out to the barn and recorded her trotting. If i can convert the video to a web format, I’ll post it here. She is so stiff and uncomfortable. Her action gets a little better as she warms up, but not much. She doesn’t work out of it. I’ve been lunging her for 20-30 minutes 2-4 times per week to keep her in shape but I haven’t been on her.

It’s like she can’t quite get her legs under neath her. She trots with her rear legs out behind her instead of reaching up and underneath. This is apparent at the trot more so than at the walk. When she canters, she barely flexs her back or her hocks.

The vet is coming out next week on Friday for a lameness exam. I’ll post what we find… meanwhile I’m using liniment on her and magnet therapy. Anything that might help…

It is so frustrating some times. I get one thing right for her and somethin breaks on me. I get that fixed and something breaks on her. I just want to give her a pain-free, happy life but nothing I do is ever enough. I keep trying and keep hearing Yoda in the back of my mind saying “There is no try, only do or do not.”

Thanks for that, Yoda.

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