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Urine testing
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Evermore
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 Posted: Tue Jun 5th, 2012 08:18 pm
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Thank you, DD and Pauline, for sharing all this information on the ph of the horse. I am very curious since I live in an area of acidic water if that is the cause of a few issues we are having. 

If the water the horses drink is acidic do I just assume their ph is on the acidic side, too, or is it important to test the urine before adjusting the ph of their water source? I have ordered test strips but would like some advice on the urine testing-how do I manage to test their urine? What about saliva?

And while I'm asking questions: since becoming more aware of minerals and forages, I swear one of my horses' head doesn't look so big anymore. I thought he always seemed a bit out of balance. Could I be crazy or is there a correlation between removing toxins and balancing his system and a more normal size head? His old pasture, which he has been off for nearly a year, contained clover and milkweed. (I highly recommend the Poison Plants CD.)

Thank you so much. 
 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Jun 5th, 2012 10:50 pm
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About the head, my dear, I can't believe there's been any change. ONe of the advantages of "habitually" photographing your animals at regular -- say six months -- intervals. I keep a file in the computer.

You cannot change the disease 'big head' after it has already deformed the head, and your horses do not have 'big head' I am certain -- unless you write back to say they've been on high-oxalate grasses, i.e. setaria spp.

As to testing urine: I have trained my gelding to urinate on command, so collecting an unadulterated sample is easy for me. You can try to encourage a horse to urinate if:

(1) You time it to just prior to his regular feed time; in fact, have him in the halter and at that time let him see his hay being placed in the manger. Most horses urinate right before they start a feeding sequence, so you're going to take advantage of this timing.

(2) Don't let the horse eat the food he knows is there, but rather take him to stand right over his favorite urination spot, whether that's in stall, pen, or paddock; or else take him to moderately deep fine gravel or sand, or over a fairly lush patch of grass; the idea being to park him over a substrate where, when he urinates, it won't splash his legs (they dislike this).

(3) Stand over the 'good' spot and wait....hold the halter rope fairly short and lift his head a little bit and pull forward a little bit, to encourage him to stretch. Do not let him lower his head or leave the good spot.

(4) And wait. And wait. And pretty soon, he'll start stepping forward with his forelimbs and back with his hind limbs, and then he'll pee.

(5) Don't do anything to disturb him. Let him pee all he wants until he's empty, and then REWARD him for it with a bit of carrot or a horse cookie, and then take him directly to his dinner.

(6) Come the next day at the same time and do exactly the same thing.

(7) Come the third day at the same time and do exactly the same thing, except this time, once he's well started, you can quietly step around to one side of him and pet him softly while he's peeing. Never mind if it splashes YOU.

(8) Come the next day and do the same thing, and pet him, but on this day you can have your cup ready in your pocket and then quietly reach under and collect your sample.

This is how to teach a horse to urinate on command.

You can also, of course, wait around until you happen to see him pee on his own, and quick run out there and try to dip your tester into the puddle on the ground. The reading you get from this may or may not be any avail, because it will of course reflect at least as much the pH of the soil or dirt as it does the pH of the urine -- it will be somewhere halfway between.

Saliva testing I would think would not be of much use, unless there is a "scale" which I don't know about by which readings could be compared. Pauline might know about this. But meanwhile, not a bad thing anyway for you to go out and teach your horse to urinate on command. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

Evermore
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 Posted: Wed Jun 6th, 2012 12:27 pm
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Thank you for the info on developing a protocol.

After I sent the inquiry I did wonder at the head change and if the different look about him is that he is losing his braced posture and carrying himself better. But I decided not to edit the question in case there was something about clover and/or milkweed that would be of significance.

It is a great idea to photograph at intervals.

Thanks again, Dr. Deb!

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Thu Jun 7th, 2012 06:15 am
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Hello Evermore

I do think it's important to accurately test the pH of your horse's water supply. Rainwater is most likely to be less than neutral, but you'll need to know precisely what the figure is in order to make adjustments. Other factors can also influence the result, eg if the water is stored in an older concrete tank there may be some leaching of calcium from the concrete into the water.

Although not everyone is able to get a urine pH reading from their horses, I really think it's advisable to do so. When I first started investigating this idea, my own 3 horses were all eating the same diet and drinking from the same pH 6.0 water source. Their urine pH readings were 6.0, 6.0 and 8.5. After adding sodium bicarb to the water to adjust it to about 7.2, the two acidic horses slowly increased their urine pH over a couple of weeks but the third horse did not change, his urine pH remained at 8.5 (normal for horses is considered to be 7.9). Every horse is different so I think it's best to know the pH status of each animal before making adjustments. Excess alkalinity is just as bad as excess acidity.

Another matter to consider is the presence of any inorganic forms of calcium and/or magnesium that the horse is consuming from processed feeds or supplements. Dolomite, limestone, calcium carbonate, magnesium oxide, etc are all poorly absorbed with the residue being excreted through urine. These minerals may cause the urine pH to be artificially high and so may not be a reflection of body acid/base balance. I know of some horses who were drinking pH 6.0 rainwater, yet their urine pH was 9.0. When the inorganic minerals were eliminated, the pH went down to 7.5.

When given a choice, it seems that most horses show a clear preference for drinking the water with the bicarb added. I'm hearing reports about some horses who have lifelong been observed to only drink small amounts, then beginning to drink deeply and regularly after adding bicarb to the water.

I did play with saliva testing, but never got anything other than 7.5 from any of the horses despite their urine pH varying significantly. I suspect this is due to the influence in their mouths of the green (alkaline) grass that is their staple diet. Would be interesting to know if it were any different for horses on a high-grain diet.

Best wishes
Pauline

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Thu Jun 7th, 2012 11:00 am
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Since ‘bighead’ has come up in this discussion, I thought Dr Deb and others might be interested in the set of ‘before & after’ photos below. The horse was grazing on lush kikuyu pasture, and was diagnosed with ‘bighead’ by a veterinarian attending the horse for a respiratory infection. As this occurred a couple of years or so ago, understandably the owner does not recall the exact timing of events, but does remember that the horse was given a mineral supplement that contained calcium and magnesium after the diagnosis. All visible signs of facial swelling disappeared quickly, within 3 to 4 months. From then on, the horse received only magnesium whilst remaining on the same lush kikuyu pasture. There was no return of any ‘bighead’ for the more than 12 months the horse continued to be kept on that property.
It’s not easy to see this type of change on photographs, but hopefully readers will be able to pick out the mild swelling of the lower facial bones and protuberances on the lower jaw. I’m told the change in ‘feel’ of the face was quite extraordinary.

This one good result does not prove anything, but the significance is that it would appear magnesium alone was able to protect the horse while she continued to feed exclusively on oxalate grass.

I don’t know if magnesium alone would help horses with longstanding, severe ‘bighead’ but over the next few weeks I’m hoping to be able to start working with such a horse whose condition has not been resolved by calcium supplementation. If this transpires, I should be able to get good documentation throughout the process.

Attachment: Before:After Bighead.png (Downloaded 212 times)

Evermore
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 Posted: Fri Jun 8th, 2012 03:14 pm
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I will be interested in reading about the progress of the horse you will be working on. I wish I had taken some good photos of the horse whose head I think has "shrunk" to a more normal size. It wasn't to where people would notice, just my observation.

He has also become very easy to bridle. Now that could be due to the Mannering and the work with his Birdie. But he does seem more at ease and to my eye of limited knowledge, looks better.

I had started paying more attention to my own dietary needs - including the ph of foods and how the human body needs to be in balance - so it is interesting this is coming up here for the horses.

As always, thank you.

 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Jun 10th, 2012 04:55 am
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Everyone -- my Email has been on the fritz for the past week, so once again I'm sitting out in my back yard scarfing the WiFi off my neighbor's unit, and that means I can't post file photos of 'big head' until I get my mainframe fixed tomorrow. What I want to point out is that although the photos Pauline has posted may indeed be of horses that had 'big head', this is not the manifestation of 'big head' that I am familiar with. In other words, perhaps I only understand the disease in its later form, where the entire cranium and face become disfigured, and where the enlargement is in fact entirely bony.

So perhaps what Pauline is showing us here is an earlier phase of the disease, because none of the photos show any bony involvement at all. What the photos do show is a 'drying out' of the flesh of the lower part of the face and muzzle, such as I would associate with electrolyte/salt balance/edema. I can well imagine that this might really be an early phase or prequel to later, much more serious, deformation of the bones of the skull.

And Evermore, I want to say also that Pauline is reasonably pointing out that if this is what you thought you saw, you saw something real, and that's certainly valid. I was not thinking of what Pauline's photos show when I answered you; I was thinking of the bony changes, which cannot be reduced, in other words, even if the horse is taken off the high-oxalate grasses or weeds, and even if he is given supplemental magnesium, if the bones of the skull have already been deformed, they don't return to their original or natural shape. -- Dr. Deb

Evermore
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 Posted: Sun Jun 10th, 2012 01:59 pm
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As the discussion grows, I will say that my original use of "big head" is not accurate. I did look up the disease and this horse does not present the symptoms of the pictures/descriptions of horses with the disease. I would look at him in the past and ask myself 'why does his head look big?' Now it fits his body. It wasn't to the extent that anyone looking at him would notice; it was just enough that it made me wonder.

I put an adjustable grooming halter on him yesterday that I have not used for over 18 months. (I know it has not been on any other horse.) I had to adjust the muzzle and the cheek pieces smaller.

Your response on an electrolyte balance/edema is very interesting. I will add, too, that the poll joint is loosening up; twirling the head is easier. Now whether that is just progress from what I am learning here or a combination of that and his body responding to the salt and MgCl plus being off the pasture with so much clover I cannot say.

Now that I am thinking back, too, I have always had lumbar issues with this horse. It was always considered a lameness issue or a mystery disease by the vets. He doesn't present soreness over that area any more. In fact, he's gone from not enjoying grooming to relaxing while I brush and fuss over him. Could this edema problem have been affecting his kidneys?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jun 11th, 2012 03:12 am
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Evermore, the kidneys are involved in salt/electrolyte balance, but soreness of the kidneys themselves would not show up during a grooming session, even if you were very rough. The horse's kidneys lie beneath the transverse processes of the lumbar vertebrae and are not affected by pounding or pressure, despite popular rumor or legendary beliefs to the contrary.

If your horse flinches when you're grooming him, it's either because he's not psychologically or emotionally comfortable/accepting of you being around that body zone -- in other words, the animal is not broke or safe -- or else it is because the perivertebral muscles, that is the longissimus dorsi muscles, are sore.

In toto, it sounds to me like your animal has had mineral or electrolyte balance problems, and possibly toxicity problems due to wrong pasture, to which clovery pasture can contribute. But you are also telling me that you've been taking steps to improve all of this and that you can see and feel improvements.

I am always happy when people raise their standards, which is overall what you are doing Evermore. A person raises their standards when their eyes are opened -- when they become aware that the dull coat, the jumpiness and hypersensitivity (or else the lethargy) that their horse had been exhibiting are abnormal and that you don't have to live with that or settle for that. A person raises their standards also when they remember that nursing their horse was not why they bought a horse; instead their dream was to have the most beautiful, easy, and mellow ride in the world. So the person stops settling for a horse that doesn't know how to do anything, and starts searching for a teacher who can show them how to show their own horse how to focus properly and release the braces that are what are blocking the animal from being able to either learn or perform.

So wherever you are in the world, I hope you will go find Buck or Harry or Josh, because that's more help even if you only spectate than I can give you over the Internet. -- Dr. Deb

barbarac
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 Posted: Wed Dec 7th, 2016 10:48 am
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I have read of the importance of a good quality reliable testing of ph and urine, that said, any suggestions on machine /kits/supplies. I am just getting started with all of this and waiting on the ancient mineral flakes to arrive and would like to test the water and urine ph. Thank you for all you do and the time you devote to the people and the horses they love.

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Sun Dec 18th, 2016 10:54 am
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Hi Barbara
There are many ways to test water pH and body fluid pH - ranging from simple test strips that change colour when dunked in fluid, up to expensive and complicated electronic pH testing machines that must be calibrated with each use.

I do not believe it is necessary to make this a matter of complex, 100% accurate measurements. We are wanting a general indication of the water pH so we can then decide whether or not to add sodium bicarb. Accurately measuring the amount of acidity or alkalinity (not the same as measuring pH) in the water is not meaningful for everyday purposes. Simple litmus paper-type test strips are inexpensive and available from pharmacies or online stores. Some will be specifically for assessing water pH, others can be used for saliva and/or urine testing.

Pauline

barbarac
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 Posted: Mon Dec 19th, 2016 05:37 am
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Thanks I purchased the paper test strips. It tested right around 6.5 . So not terrible.


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