March 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.

To Feed Grain or Not to Feed Grain.

by Linda J. Creapeau CNH, Circkles Staff Writer.

Horse owners have been feeding their horses grain for years because they believed that they were doing their horses a big favor and improving their health. Well, this may be an eye-opener to some of those old-school individuals. Recent findings are starting to reveal several adverse, long-term health conditions associated with feeding grain to horses, specifically corn and oats. Oats are known to cause high levels of lactic acid in the body, a main cause of laminitis. Corn, known for years as being the cause of many animal allergies, is popping up all over as the leading cause of skin irritations such as seborrhea, loss of hair, itching etc., in not just dogs and cats but horses as well.

The heavy use of oats came about with the professional horse industry as a way to bulk-up a horse for competition and as an unfounded concern arose regarding whether the confined horse was getting enough protein - instigated mainly by the commercial feed manufacturers as a way to increase sales. Wild horses only eat grain that is left on the heads of the grass and only in very small quantities. Some domestic horses have a tendency to eat too much of the seed heads and end up with colic because of it. Wild horses also rarely find oats in their natural habitat and never come across wild corn. They are far more athletic than most of their domesticated relatives, leading any half-way observant person to conclude that feeding our horses grain is not only unnecessary, but could be harmful and counterproductive to their health.

When you weigh the adverse effects of feeding grain to horses compared to any nutritional gain, the drawback to feeding grain doesn't seem worth it. Horses are their healthiest when their diets are kept as close to what they would eat in their natural surroundings as possible. The wild mustangs do not eat sweet feed, corn or oats - in any sizeable quantity - and suffer fewer ailments, hoof problems, disease and illness. They rarely, if ever, suffer from colic or laminitis, two illnesses that plaque their domestic counterparts. Whether performance horses in vigorous competition need the extra protein is still controversial in research terms, but I would have to say no. I see everyday people feeding their everyday horses way too much grain because they were led to believe horses need it. Not true. Feeding an animal anything which is not in their nature is going to result in some kind of side-affect eventually, as we are now finding out. More and more I am coming across ranchers and horse owners who are no longer feeding grain to their horses but a higher quality hay and good pasture instead. The wild mustangs that roam the southwest survive on some of the most barren land the United States has to offer and they are healthier for it. I say, feed your horse a good quality, fresh grass hay and you are doing him more of a favor than by feeding him grain.

A few years ago, I discovered this knowledge first hand with a yearling that had developed a severe case of seborrhea - a skin condition in which dry, scaly yellowish patches appear anywhere on the body and can often be accompanied by the horse scratching more than usual. Also, hair will fall out in these areas. I had asked several qualified people about the skin condition and none of them could give me any real advice, including my vet who simply said, "it could be caused by many things." (That was a big help).
My knowledge as a nutritionist and herbologist told me that the type of skin condition I was witnessing was probably a type of allergic reaction to something, so I immediately took the yearling off of all the supplements I was giving him and re-introduced them one at a time until the seborrhea returned. I found the yearling was extremely allergic to corn. Just one feeding of corn and he would break out in just 24 hours. He has never had corn since I made this discovery, and his seborrhea has never returned. As far as oats are concerned, I also know from my nutritional & herbology training that oats are high in lactic acid, and since lactic acid causes laminitis, that was a good enough reason for me to take all of my horses off of oats. Consequently, none of my horses have ever had laminitis or colic.

I strongly believe that the best insurance against illness in any animal is to keep them as close to their natural diet as possible. It is in altering their existence from what they would experience in nature that health problems will surely arise. To be honest, I do not see any reason to feed a horse grain. Sure, it has been done for years, but that does not make it right, as we are now finding out. If you have a performance horse and are concerned about him getting enough nutrients to sustain him in his strenuous activity, grain is not the answer, and horses not only do not require high protein diets, but we are also finding out that high protein diets may not be good for horses. Once again, wild horses lead by example and they are far more active then most performance horses. Give your highly active horse a high quality hay in the winter and good quality grazing in the summer and you will more than likely see an improvement in your horse's health, abilities and attitude above and beyond when he was on grain. But if you just cannot get over the habit of feeding grain, or simply cannot get good hay or pasture, at least go with rolled barley instead of rolled oats as it is lower in lactic acid, and definitely avoid corn since it offers nothing in nutritional value and causes allergies in most animals. Four cups of any grain per day is plenty for an average size horse. Any grain supplementation should be just that, treated like a supplement and not a meal.

Alfalfa is very nutritious, and I would recommend giving it to your horse, but in very small quantities; not more than a flake of alfalfa every 3-4 days. I have also witnessed the overuse of alfalfa, which, in large quantities can cause a breakdown of white blood cells. If your horse is cranky, irritable, high-strung, and a little mean or ill tempered, check his alfalfa consumption. Most people I have come across feed their horses alfalfa every day, which is far too much. It is best not to buy the alfalfa and grass mix hays, since you have no way of regulating just how much alfalfa your horse is eating. I prefer to buy the majority of my hay- 80-90% of it- in a high quality, straight grass hay, then I buy 10-20% straight alfalfa or alfalfa mix hay which I ration with the grass as needed, about a flake every 3-4 days for the average size horse.
If you are ever in doubt as to what to feed your equine friend, just refer to Mother Nature, she has been right far more than man has and for a far longer period of time.

Peas are not commonly used in horse feed in North America, but they are used extensively in Europe.  Peas are an excellent protein source, have two to three times more protein than other cereals with a considerably higher Lysine content (an essential amino acid).  Peas have a biological value equivalent to soy protein, and are a very useful source of protein. I grow peas in my garden every year. I eat the peas and when the plants are done producing for the season, I clip them down to within a couple inches of the ground and feed the pea plant to the horses. They love it and often I can get a second crop of peas when the plants shoot off new growth in the fall from the vines I clipped. Then....I can feed the horses another helping of pea plants in the fall when the vines are done for good.


Humdinger Horse Cookies.

2 C. organic unbleached flour
2 C. organic rolled barley
1 C. organic finely chopped carrots
6 Tbsp Brewer's Yeast (excellent multi-vitamin and supply of trace minerals, makes coat soft)
3-4 Tbsp garlic powder (helps deter flies)
2/3 C. organic molasses
1-2C. water (just until moist)
1/2 C. crushed rose hips
1-3 Tbsp flax Oil 
1 C. alfalfa, dried peas, or wheat germ

Mix above ingredients. Bake on a greased cookie sheet @325 degrees until crunchy but not too hard or browned, break into bite size pieces. When cool, store in a jar with a lid in the refrigerator for up to a month.


Cat Scratch Fever.

Cat-scratch disease (also commonly known as cat-scratch fever) is an infection caused by bacteria known as Bartonella henselae. Although about 40% of cats carry the bacteria in their saliva at some point in their lives, cats that carry Bartonella henselae do not themselves show any signs of illness. Most people contract the disease after being scratched or bitten by a cat.
Since these bacteria may also be present on cat fur, it is possible to contract the disease from petting a cat and then rubbing your eyes. Kittens are more likely than older cats to carry the bacteria and to transmit the infection to humans. Sometimes people who get cat scratch disease do not recall ever being scratched or bitten by a cat.
Symptoms may not appear for several days after exposure and may last for several weeks. Although cat-scratch disease usually subsides without treatment, antibiotic and/or antimicrobial therapy may speed recovery or be necessary for individuals with immune problems. Approximately 22,000 cases are reported in the United States each year, although more mild cases may go unnoticed and be resolved without treatment.

In people who have a normal immune system, cat scratch disease is usually not a serious illness. A small papule (a little raised lump) develops at the site of injury within 10 days. The signs and symptoms that follow may include:
Lymph nodes, especially those around the head, neck, and upper limbs, become swollen. Additionally, a person with CSD may experience fever, headache, fatigue, and a poor appetite. Rare complications of B. henselae infection are bacillary angiomatosis and Parinaud's oculolandular syndrome.

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Pets who look like their owners:

Ear Infections.

Certain dog breeds, especially the Shar-Pei, Cockers, Chow and ferrets are prone to ear infections or ear mites. Tea Tree oil is a very good home remedy for ear problems due to its potent bacterial and microbial fighting ability. It is also gentle and non-irritating. You can find Tea Tree as an essential oil in most health food stores. Put a couple drops on the end of a Q-tip and rub it all over the inside of the ear covering all the little ridges and crevices. Apply every day until the condition clears up. Also put a couple drops with an eyedropper into the ear canal if necessary and rub it around from the outside with your finger. Clean the ear well with mild soap and water before applying the Tea Tree oil and in between each application to clean out any wax and dirty residue from the mites or infection. Use a clean Q-tip between each cleaning and on each ear to avoid just recontaminating the ears or spreading the problem. Symptoms should clear up within a week to 2 weeks.


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

Cocker Spaniel:
With a good level of socialization at an early age, an American Cocker can get along with people, children, other dogs and other pets. This breed seems to have a perpetually wagging tail and prefers to be around people; it is not best suited to the backyard alone. Cockers can be easily stressed by loud noises and by rough treatment or handling.
It is a happy breed with average working intelligence, although by being bred to a show standard it is no longer an ideal working dog. Members of the breed suffer from a wide variety of health ailments including problems with their hearts, eyes and ears.
Members of the breed were originally used as hunting dogs, but increased in popularity as a show dog. It was bred more and more in conformation with the breed standard, resulting in certain attributes, such as a long coat, which no longer make it an ideal working dog

Life Expectancy:
American Cocker Spaniels in UK and USA/Canada surveys had a median lifespan of about 10 to 11 years, which is on the low end of the typical range for purebred dogs, and one to two years less than other breeds of their size. The larger English Cocker Spaniel typically lives about a year longer than the American Cocker Spaniel. In a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey, the most common causes of death were cancer (23%), old age (20%), cardiac (8%), and immune-mediated (8%).

Health Concerns:
American Cockers previously high popularity resulted in the breed frequently being bred by backyard breeders or in puppy mills. This indiscriminate breeding has increased the proliferation of breed related health issues in certain bloodlines.
American Cocker Spaniels are susceptible to a variety of illnesses, particularly infections affecting their ears and, in some cases, their eyes. Although the number or percent of afflicted dogs is not known, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), glaucoma, and cataracts have been identified in some members of the breed. Autoimmune problems in Cockers have also been identified in an unknown number or percent of the breed, including autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA). Ear inflammations are common in drop-eared breeds of dog, including the American Cocker, and luxating patellas and hip dysplasia have been identified in some members of the breed. Heart conditions such as dilated cardiomyopathy, where the heart becomes weakened and enlarged, and sick sinus syndrome, which is a type of abnormal heart beating which causes low blood pressure, have been identified in the breed. Phosphofructokinase deficiency is a condition caused by a recessive gene in the breed which prevents the metabolism of glucose into energy, causing the dog to be extremely low energy and unable to exercise. The gene which causes this appears in around 10 percent of the population, but DNA testing can prevent two carrier dogs from breeding and thus creating puppies with this condition.
American Cockers are also prone to canine epilepsy and the related condition known as Rage Syndrome. The latter is a form of epilepsy which can cause a normally placid dog to engage in sudden and unprovoked violent attacks. Initial research shows that both conditions appear to be inheritable.

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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