Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Marla's Weight Loss

Marla's Weight Loss Journey: the beginning

   This might end up a huge post, no pun intended!
More frequently than not, many horses in a state of "rescue" arrive to their new homes emaciated or substantially underweight. This was far from the case for Marla! Her estimated weight on arrival was #1400+ on a frame built to carry about #1000! She registered as a 9 on Henneke Body Condition Scale. The Henneke scale provides equine professionals a way to visually and tactilely measure a horse's body condition and ranges from 1 (poor) to 9 (extremely fat). Horses that measure as a 9 can be characterized by an obvious crease down their spine, a cresty neck, and patchy fat behind withers, at their flank, inner thighs, and tail head. Marla had all of these, her crest felt rock hard, an indicator the  risk for a myriad of serious health issues that she might face. Laminitis topping the list of the potential conditions she could develop. The dorsal crease and fat patches are visible in the photo of her back that I took when I met Marla in mid November.

     Not only did Marla's weight put her health at risk, but her comfort had already been compromised. Upon my first appraisal of her, I found that she had trouble lifting her hooves, presumably from the difficult of loading and balancing on her other three legs. She showed moderate lameness in her front right hoof/pasturn, as well as mild compensating lameness in her left hind. It was hard for me to tell if her lameness was internal or more mechanical from the large patches of fat affecting her mobility. Probably both. Her previous owner had her vet take a quick look at the RF, he found no heat or digital pulse (good signs!) but described it as swelling at the top of the coffin joint due to stress from her obesity. Without x-rays the degree of arthritis starting in that joint would be difficult to diagnose. The doctor pronounced her comfortable enough to be transported. It was time to go pick Marla up!

          Now one good question you might ask yourself, and that I certainly pondered, is: How did Marla get so fat in the first place? Typically the formula for obesity is clear; too much food. However this was not the case for Mar. Her body condition was apparent, and her diet was sparse. She picked through her 6 flakes of hay a day and ate the chaffe, turning up her nose at the roughage. She had her supplements (the topic of a future post!) delivered on a cup of alfalfa pellets. That is it. I believe that much of her growing weight could be attributed to inactivity. Marla lived by herself for a number of years following the death of her companion. Perhaps a thyroid imbalance is to blame; she isn't necessarily a good candidate for Insulin resistance, IR, as excessive sugars or an improper diet did not contribute to her weight. At the time that I brought Marla to MeadowLark, I opted not to have her see the vet immediately (but scheduled an appointment for a few months down the road). The path forward was clear, LOSE THE WEIGHT!

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