As a population we have been educated by the pharmaceutical industry that any discomfort can be soothed by a pill
It seems that everywhere I look these days (magazines, television, educational seminars) everyone is intent on treating symptoms. As “Holistic” practitioners haven’t we decided to do what is best for the whole animal?
DD Palmer (father of modern chiropractic) outlines three causes of “dis-ease”: trauma, stress and toxins. I wonder what he would think of the amount of toxins in the environment today. How many do YOU worry about with your horses?
The current popular symptom in the press seems to be insulin resistance diabetes in the horse. I know most people think this is a disease. With this condition, blood sugar goes up because the ability of insulin to work at a cellular level decreases. We often forget this is the body’s normal response to stress and is what allows your horse to quickly run away from a predator. In a “normal” animal, this response should last no longer than 10 to 15 minutes.
Let us look at a typical IR horse and see if we can determine any stress in its life. Usually these horses are overweight (symptom or disease?). Most overweight horses live a sedentary lifestyle and are fed diets with too many carbohydrates. To keep them from gaining more weight we place them in an area with no available grazing (treatment or increase in stress level?) and feed them only a handful of complete feed instead of the amount required to meet all of its vitamin and mineral needs (treatment or increase stress level?).
Horses have evolved to be a grazing animal that moves slowly over the entire day, consuming low grade forages and adding saliva (buffering) to the gastrointestinal tract. Lack of buffering to the system can cause irritation of the lining of the GI tract, resulting in chronic low grade pain (translation: chronic low grade stress). Lack of movement due to confinement in a stall for the better part of the day will cause the joints of the body to stiffen up and not move quite as freely, resulting in chronic low grade pain (again, low grade stress). Most horses who develop IR are kept in an environment that restricts their ability to see long distances and identify unknown noises, causing the animal’s flight response to remain “on” (translation: low grade stress).
This is just the beginning of the process that involves many more systems, leading to many more symptoms. I hope this reminds us as “Holistic” practitioners to look at the health of the entire animal before we start to treat symptoms as diseases. The only true cause of dis-ease in the animal is lack of proper cellular function. Our goal needs to be to restore this function in the entire animal without causing further damage.
Dr. Wm L. Ormston may be seen with his partner Dr. Amy Hayek on Harmonizing Your Horse’s Health, Dish Channel 9411 Saturday and Sunday mornings. Dr. Ormston practices in the Dallas TX area; Dr. Hayek in the Summerville SC area. Contact these holistic veterinarians at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com