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Equine Vet
Equine Vet, Horse Veterinarian
Category: Horse Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 206
Experience:  I have worked with many types of horses, from racing Thoroughbreds to Grand Prix jumpers.
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Hi , my horse has just had a full blood test done, the results

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Hi , my horse has just had a full blood test done, the results showed that her blood was spot on (she is a race horse, up to racing at this time) but her liver had problems . LOw on urea, and her beliruben was also down, it also show she had no potassium in her system. Is there any way of replacing the potassium into her system as quickly as possible. maybe a drench or something.
Is your horse showing any signs of disease at this time or was the bloodwork done to obtain baseline values for your horse? Low potassium values on the chemistry can be misleading, especially if the horse has received Lasix (furosemide, the diuretic used for bleeders) or a bicarbonate "milkshake" recently. Both of these things can cause decreased values. Other things that can cause low potassium values (hypokalemia) are the potassium moving into the cells from the extracellular fluid so that it appears low on bloodwork, excessive sweating, diarrhea, or anorexia. If your horse is not showing any clinical signs I would not be overly concerned. Feeding good hay and grass and offering a salt/mineral block will help to restore potassium values; if your vet is concerned about overly low values without an obvious cause, he or she would be able to administer an appropriate IV fluid balanced to meet your horse's needs. I don't think that giving a potassium "drench" is something that you should do, as your horse likely does not need it and you would be unable to determine the proper amount of potassium to give (and could cause more problems than good). I do not know of any products formulated for this purpose, although there are probabaly companies selling this type of thing.

Low BUN (blood urea nitrogen) can be caused by hepatic insufficiency (although this is a really variable indicator in horses), anabolic steroids, low protein diets, and adminsitration of large amounts of IV fluids (or it may be low for no appreciable reason at all). Most of the time we are not concerned about low BUN values, it is the higher values that worry us as they may indicate kidney disease.

Low bilirubin in horses is also not much of a concern to us (we worry about high levels, although horses that are off feed for a day or two can also have high bilirubin levels). I cannot think of any good reasons why hypobilirubinemia would be significant.

Horses with liver disease will show high values of GGT, CPK, SGOT(AST), bilirubin, and bile acids. They will often be sick and may show signs of photosensitization. I assume that since you didn't mention these things that they were normal on the chemistry.

The main point is that you can't look at the individual values on the bloodwork in isolation. You need to put all the parts together to see if they make sense and mean something real, and I don't think that they specifically do in your horse's case (although I would be unable to say for sure with examining your horse). If your horse seems otherwise healthy, I would not worry so much about the things you have noted here. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Customer: replied 8 years ago.

hi, my horse is'nt showing any outward significant signs of disease. She raced last saturday, and although track conditions where not to suit, I expected her to go better than what she did. Her race was 1200mtrs and because she didnt like the heavy track only cantered up the straight, finishing 20lenghts last. She also blew quite a bit after the race, which also surprised me. She normally cleans up her feed but did'nt eat much of her dinner and not much breakfast the next day also. since then she has been eating alot better, but still not as well as before. She is not on lasix and has not had a 'milkshake'. Could too much iodised salt cause the potassium to lower? she is starting to look betterin the eye today, she has only done a couple of days light work this week.

what is photosensitization?

Sorry it took me so long to get back to you, I was on call. It is good that your horse does not appear to be outwardly sick, so the few blood results that were not in the "normal" ranges are less likely to be significant. Iodized salt shouldn't cause a hypokalemia, it is only table salt (sodium choloride) plus an iodizing agent like potasium iodide or sodium iodide, which should not really change the body's potassium levels much. I don't know how much she has been fed, but I think a teaspoon or two per feeding should be plenty. If there is a worry about needing electrolytes, a salt block can be offered and should provide what she needs (the white one is table salt, the red one is usually that plus assorted minerals). Photosensitization occurs when the liver is unable to process the chemicals in forage (grass) and this causes toxicity in the body (it can either be from priXXXXX XXXXXver disease or secondary to something else, for instance ragwort toxicity). The white-haired areas on the body become red and sensitive and look almost sunburned. It is not an unusual disease in horses but not overly common.

With a horse that has previously done well and has had a bad race or is feeling off for a few days, the first thing I would think about would be an infection, but if your CBC was normal (I'm assuming she had one), this is less likely. Sometimes we do catch infections early or late in the game and the CBC has normalized by then or has not changed yet. The most common infections in racing Thoroughbreds are respiratory infections, often viral. These will run their course without treatment (there is really no specific treatment for viruses), if the horse is rested and well nursed, but do cause poor performance and inappetance. Other causes of poor performance that I can think of that might cause what you are seeing (aside from the obvious, lameness) irregardless of the bloodwork include airway abnormalities (EIPH (bleeding), laryngeal hemiplegia, dorsal displacement of the soft palate, arytenoid chondritis, epiglottic entrapment) and gastric ulceraton.

I suspect that if she is improving and her next race is normal for her, she just was getting over an infection of some type. In the meantime I would continue to monitor her condition overall and check her temperature daily. She could also be scoped both for any airway abnormalities (although sometimes we don't see any problems until the horse is worked on a treadmill with the scope in place) and gastric ulcers (need a longer scope for this). Another thing you may want to consider is using an immunostimulant such as EqStim, in case she has picked up an infection along the way. If the bloodwork was performed soon after the race where she was really exerting herself trying to run, then her potassium could have been lowered by sweating more than normal. It may also be worth repeating the bloodwork in a week or so to see if any of the values have changed. If not, she may well be an outlier in those areas of the test and consistently test at those levels without having an problems. Hope this helps!
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