July 2013
Pet Circkles.

"I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being." ~ Abe Lincoln.

DSLD: A Complicated, Increasing Disease in Horses.
By Redstone Publishing and Promotion.

DSLD, (Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis), recently renamed as ESPA (Equine Systemic Proteoglycan Accumulation) is a debilitating disease that was once believed to only affect the ligaments of horses and has recently been proven through further research to be a systemic disease with affects being found throughout the organs, eye and muscle tissue of the equine victim. It was also previously believed to be limited to the Peruvian Paso, but has now been discovered in Peruvian Paso crosses, Arabians, American Saddlebreds, American Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, and some European warmbloods. Onset is often in early adulthood.

DSLD is a failure of tendons and ligaments to maintain, remodel and repair themselves in a normal fashion. Over time, the normal rope-like structure of these tissues becomes distorted by accumulation of a large amount of proteoglycans, molecules of proteins linked to sugars. The blood supply to the tendons and ligaments progressively shrinks. The exactly cause for this failure and accumulation of proteoglycans has not yet been determined.
Stiffness, especially when rising, is common. It's not unusual for a DSLD horse to have a long history of lameness. The horse may have asymptomatic periods interspersed with times when symptoms are again obvious. As the disease progresses, changes in the fetlocks become obvious. It may strike the front legs first or the hind legs, may be worse in one leg but always involves more than one.
The first change is often swelling, followed by obvious thickening of the suspensory, usually in the suspensory branches. The joint pouches of the fetlock joint may be enlarged. Heat may be obvious. Palpation of the suspensories elicits a pain response and ankle flexion tests are positive, often extremely so and disproportionate to the amount of lameness the horse may be showing.
At this stage, there's still a pattern of "flares" of symptoms alternating with relatively good periods but over time the suspensories become progressively enlarged, painful and develop a mushy consistency on palpation when the leg is held up but may feel abnormally tight when it is bearing weight.
Conformation changes occur, with the fetlocks either dropping down and the horse becoming coon footed, or the opposite may occur, with the fetlocks becoming very upright. When a hind leg is involved, the whole limb may become post-legged. Eventually, the condition progresses to the point that the horse is constantly in pain, may even go down and refuse to rise. Euthanasia is often the only option for these horses.
In the later stages, many horses seem to age rapidly, with muscle wasting. In some cases, extremely stretchable skin, that may even hang loosely in wrinkles may develop. Some horses develop hard, boxy swellings along the sides and back of their hocks. Flexor tendons may slip out of position at the point of the hock. Many owners report their DSLD horses develop allergies for the first time in their life, and mares frequently abort. Whether these last two are directly linked to the disorder, or secondary problems caused by stress, has not yet been determined.

Mueller, Jaroslava Halper, MD, PhD, from the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine, and colleagues suggested ESPA as it better describes the condition as a systemic disease in which the proteoglycan decorin accumulates in a number of tissues throughout the body.
Decorin is a small proteoglycan intimately involved in collagen fibrillogenesis. That is, decorin plays an important role in the formation of the strong collagen fibers that are found in connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments.
"We hypothesize that the biochemically and biologically altered decorin found in ESPA leads to impaired regulation of collagen fibrillogenesis, secondary decreases in biomechanical strength of the affected tissues, with eventual tendon and ligament failure as the clinical consequence," explained Halper.

Mero, who has worked closely with pathologist Roy Pool DVM, a pioneer in the disease's research efforts, explained his school of thought on the basic mechanism by which the disease develops.

"Any minute of every day, your body tissues are undergoing wear and tear and a normal amount of repair that goes on. In the case of DSLD, the collagen is not being repaired so you see a ton of immature collagen overloading the tissue. Instead of seeing mature collagen, you see little, tiny fibrils of immature collagen, which are very weak," she explained. "You find connective tissue and collagen throughout the body. We see the disease predominantly in the suspensory tissue probably because that's a weight-bearing substrate, but when we look at these animals in necropsy, you do find it all over." In extreme cases, the normally uniform tissue may even contain pieces of cartilage or bone that have formed as a by-product of the malfunctioning repair system." What starts this system malfunction is not yet known. "But the end result is this blob of tissue. Connective tissue should be pliable and flexible and should have some give and take, and all of that is gone," said Mero.

To find some of these answers, two major research efforts analyzing different components of the disease are occurring at the University of Georgia and University of Kentucky. The Kentucky team is trying to find a marker that would identify carriers to provide a way to selectively breed against the disease.

"We're in the process of doing a genomic scan. We're testing the genetic markers that are spaced over all the chromosomes of horses, looking for differences between affected and non-affected animals in the expression of the markers," explained Gus Cothran, Ph.D., director of the University of Kentucky's Equine Parentage Testing and Research Laboratory.
Cothran said that the biochemical and genetic differences found in affected animals needs to be identified before the cause of the disease could be understood."Generally what happens is some enzyme or protein in the pathway that leads to the development, repair or whatever's going on, doesn't function right. Because some mutation causes the protein not to be built properly, it doesn't function right," he explained. The initial hope for this research is the development of genetic and blood tests that will identify DSLD carriers, which will help breeders stop the disease's propagation. But, obviously, the whole reason so much work is being done is, generally, if you can identify the cause, you can maybe find ways to develop a cure," said Cothran. "Until we know what it is, there's no way to know if there's something we can do or not."

A few horse owners claim to have cured or at least improved this condition by changing their horse's diet. The philosophy behind it being that if you give a horse proper nutrition, they can heal themselves and often do. Proper nutrition to some horse owners has a completely different meaning to others. Those that claim to have improved their equine's health regarding DSDL have taken their horses completely off of any sugary foods, such as sweet feed. Given them more pasture grazing instead of hay, and some herbal supplements to improve such things as digestion, cartilage building and pain. This is a relatively new disease among equines, so it stands to reason that it is something new we are doing in regard to their care, or a new genetic development. Since it is now affecting many more breeds than just the Paso Fino, it would be logical to assume that this debilitating disease does not appear to be genetic in cause, but that certain breeds are more predisposed to DSLD than others. In other words, it does not appear that genes are the cause of the disease itself, but makes certain breeds more susceptible to it because of their physical makeup. Therefore, horse owners should be looking more toward diet-related causes than breeding. Personally, some horse experts don't believe selective breeding is going to do much to stop this disease. They see it as spreading to a large variety of breeds and not being very breed-specific as time goes on.

In the meantime... if you believe you have a horse that may be susceptible to DSDL, or showing early signs, we recommend putting them on a diet that is as close to what they would be eating in nature as possible. Which means, 80% pasture grass if possible. Hay should be as high quality as you can afford and as fresh as possible to supply the nutrients your horse needs to build strong body tissue. Try to avoid your horse's chances of getting colic as much as possible in the spring. Do not feed oats or grains, as these could definitely be a reason for this condition due to the high acid content of grains which causes systemic inflammation. Horse owners tend to feed their equine companions way too much grain, and research has revealed this is a detriment to their health not a benefit. Horses are grass eaters primarily, with very little grain in their diet if they were in the wild. They certainly would not have access to sweet feed, commercial treats, high amounts of grain or any other additives we think they should get. I would suspect the horse's worst enemy is their owner, who thinks they are doing their horse a favor by spoiling them with all of these additives and extra feeds, when in reality, they are making their horses sickly because they are not eating a diet that their body's were designed for. If you must give your horse treats, make it an organic carrot or apple here and there, but keep these to a minimum as well. All the new diseases popping up in the equine world could very well be cause by GMO grains and grains/foods heavily laden with toxic, destructive chemicals. This is more than likely the leading cause of disease in any animal.

Herbs that a few horse owners have tried and that may help:
Horses will eat herbs on occasion if they are in the wild. My horses will eat dandelions - which are a kidney cleanser and blood purifier. Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is an excellent blood purifier and of course, horses love it, so you will have no problem getting them to eat it. It is a very handy herb to grow around the ranch. When we had an outbreak of West Nile virus in our area, several horses at other ranches that had been vaccinated against the virus still died, but when one of my horses started showing sign of rear leg weakness, I immediately fed him large amounts of red clover, rose hips for vitamin C, echinacea, and small amounts of garlic over a very short time span. He recovered completely and was never vaccinated for the virus.
Milk thistle seed will strengthen their liver and actually help to rebuild it if it has been damaged by toxin overload.
Rosehips contain natural collagen which may help strengthen the existing weak collagen in a DSLD horse.

To improve your horse's digestion: Decrease their grain intake, and preferably, eliminate it altogether. Many horse owners are now going the route of not feeding grain, and especially oats and corn, at all anymore and replacing it with good quality pasture and hay. A few horse people may argue that a DSLD horse needs more protein to build strong muscle tissue in order to combat this condition. That is true, but the type of protein must be considered. As mentioned above, grains cause a high amount of systemic inflammation and digestive disorders in horses, a much better source of protein would be small amounts of alfalfa and peas - which are widely used in Europe as a better protein source for equines. Feed no more than 2-3 flakes of alfalfa per week, as research has suggested that high amounts of alfalfa can cause destruction of white blood cells. You will notice your horse getting cranky or difficult to handle if they are getting too much alfalfa.



Dcon Poisoning in Pets.
By Redstone Publishing and Promotion.

D-Con and other forms of mouse or rodent poison are a very common accidental poison for dogs and cats. Many people do not realize it takes up to 2 days for the poison to kill the mouse, allowing a lot of opportunity for the mouse to leave the area and enter places where dogs and cats might find it, either alive or after death from the poison.

Rodent poison, such as D-Con, tastes good so many dogs will eagerly gobble it up if given the chance. Symptoms of weakness and rapid breathing can mean hemorrhaging rapidly into the lungs and chest leading to hemorrhagic shock. Usually by this stage, it is too late. In the case of anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning, it takes three to seven on average to see the effects because it takes several days to deplete your dog’s stored Vitamin K. After that time, life-threatening bleeding can occur.

An owner may notice an unusual blue green color to the dog’s feces from a nondigestable dye found in most rodenticides.

Signs to watch for:

 • Lethargy, weakness and exercise intolerance.

 • Anorexia (lack interest and/or refuse to eat).

 • Trouble breathing (due to lung bleeding).

 • Bruising.

 • Blood in urine.

 • Lameness.

If a dog is known to have recently ingested a rodenticide poison, get him to a veterinarian immediately. Vomiting can be induced if a pet has eaten it within the last four hours by giving a cat a dropperful of hydrogen peroxide and a dog a tsp to a Tbsp depending on size. The sooner after ingestion that vomiting is induced, the better the chance that all toxins will be removed from the dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Activated charcoal can be given to help bind the toxin that has gone into the intestine, so that it will not be absorbed. But how many people keep activated charcoal around?

Wildlife such as owls and birds that eat mice that consume Dcon and other rodent poisons will also be poisoned by eating the rodent.

FDA Pet Product Recalls for 2013.

Pets who look like their owners:


The Center For Public Integrity's study said pyrethroid-based flea and tick treatments are approved for sale by the EPA, and they are readily available in powders, shampoos, dips, sprays, and other forms,  "but they are also linked to thousands of reported pet poisonings, and they have stirred the ire of pet owners, the concern of veterinarians, and the attention of regulatory agencies." The agency also reported that pyrethroid spot-ons also account "for more than half of 'major' pesticide pet reactions reported to EPA over the last five years—that is, those incidents involving serious medical reactions such as brain damage, heart attacks, and violent seizures. In contrast, non-pyrethroid spot on treatments accounted for only about 6 percent of all major incidents."

Besides pyrethroid-based products, ingredients to be wary of are organophosphate insecticides (OPs) and carbamates, both of which are found in various flea and tick products.  The only OP currently found in flea and tick products in the U.S. is tetrachlorvinphos.  This chemical is classified by the EPA as being "likely to be carcinogenic to humans."  There are questions about the effects of long-term, cumulative exposures as well as combined exposures from the use of other products containing OPs and carbamates.  Permethrin is another chemical that the EPA has classified as "likely to be carcinogenic to humans" if ingested orally. 

Symptoms of poisoning by flea/tick treatments may include salivating, dilated pupils, tremors, vomiting, hiding, shivering, and skin irritation. Just because a compound is applied to or worn on your pet’s fur doesn’t mean it’s safe. Remember: what goes on your pet goes in your pet, by absorption through the skin or ingestion during grooming.

Natural Remedies:


DOG BREEDS- Characteristics and Concerns.
(We will get to cat breeds later.)

American Pitbull Terrier
The UKC gives this description of the characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier:
The essential characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier are strength, confidence, and zest for life. This breed is eager to please and brimming over with enthusiasm. Pitbulls make excellent family companions and have always been noted for their love of children. Because most APBTs exhibit some level of dog aggression and because of its powerful physique, the Pitbull requires an owner who will carefully socialize and obedience train the dog. The breed’s natural agility makes it one of the most capable canine climbers so good fencing is a must for this breed. The APBT is not the best choice for a guard dog since they are extremely friendly, even with strangers. Aggressive behavior toward humans is uncharacteristic of the breed and highly undesirable. This breed does very well in performance events because of its high level of intelligence and its willingness to work.
American Pit Bull Terriers have been banned from or restricted in several countries, municipalities, cities, counties and military bases under the notion that they are inherently aggressive toward people and other animals. Whether or not American Pit Bull Terriers are inherently aggressive is still debated.
In September, 2000 a meta-analysis conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was published which examined dog bite related fatalities (human death caused by dog bite injuries) over a 20 year period from 1979-1998. The study examined 238 fatalities in which the breed was known. The study was surmised to covered approximately 72% of known dog bite related fatalities during that period. Over a 20 year period, "pit bull-type dogs" were involved with more dog bite related fatalities than any other breed. However in the later half of the study Rottweilers accounted for more dog bite related fatalites than pit bulls.
"Despite these limitations and concerns, the data indicate that Rottweilers and pit bull-type dogs accounted for 67% of human DBRF (dog bite related fatality) in the United States between 1997 and 1998. It is extremely unlikely that they accounted for anywhere near 60% of dogs in the United States during that same period and, thus, there appears to be a breed-specific problem with fatalities... However, breeds responsible for human DBRF have varied over time."

Life Expectancy:
The average lifespan 8-15 years.

Health Concerns: Tends to have a higher than average incidence of hip dysplasia. They may also suffer from patella problems, thyroid dysfunction and congenital heart defects. American Pit Bull Terriers with dilute coat colors have a higher occurrence of skin allergies. As a breed they are more susceptible to parvovirus than others, especially as puppies, so vaccination is imperative beginning at 6 weeks and continuing onwards through their lifespan.
They are very prone to mange due to their short coat.

Looking for a Pitbull? Use our Petfinder tool below and search for an adoptable dog that needs a home in your area now.

To view breeds we've already written about, view our Dog Breeds on The Hangout. (Must be a Circkles member to view The Hangout.)


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