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Use Zylkene Equine to Help Mares and Foals Cope with Weaning

By Jennifer Kasten, DVM, Technical Services Veterinarian, Vetoquinol USA

Article Archives LinkUse Zylkene Equine to Help Mares and Foals Cope with Weaning

Use Zylkene Equine to Help Mares and Foals Cope with Weaning

Weaning has been well documented as one of the most stressful times in a horse’s life. In the first few months of life, a foal depends on the mare for nutrition, social companionship, and guidance. Additionally, a foal may have established social interactions with other animals sharing the same pasture or stable environment. As the scientific literature has not established a conclusively less stressful method of weaning foals, the process is often carried out using the owner or farm manager’s preferred method. Regardless of approach, a foal’s nutrition, social dynamics, and environmental surroundings change dramatically during weaning. Physiologically, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is responsible for an animal’s stress response, becomes activated. With this, cortisol levels rise, the sympathetic nervous system becomes activated, and the immune system becomes suppressed. The stress response causes the gastrointestinal tract to secrete cytokines, hormones, and neurotransmitters which may alter the normal microbiota, impacting the horse’s gastrointestinal health. Increased vocalizations and motor activity are common during the first few days of weaning. Foals may experience irritability, anxiousness, aggressiveness, and altered feeding, sleep, and play patterns. Injuries, weight loss, and increased incidence of infectious disease occur commonly with weaning. Although less well researched, mares also experience some of these same signs of stress associated with weaning. In many equine disciplines, there are high stakes associated with yearlings, two-year olds and other young horses in sales, futurities, and competitions. Minimizing stress and the associated effects will make the weaning experience physically and physiologically easier on the mare and foal, and may help minimize any setbacks in growth and development that may occur.

As was previously mentioned, the available scientific literature has not established a superior method of weaning from a stress reduction perspective. There are pros and cons associated with abrupt and gradual methods, as well as with methods that incorporate non-related adult horses into the herd prior to weaning. Additionally, there have not been any studies evaluating the differences in the long-term implications for horses weaned using the different methods. Commonly used management and weaning practices often vary by breed or discipline.

Therefore, many of the best practices associated with weaning come from the anecdotal experiences in the field.

Gradually introducing forage and concentrates into the foal’s diet, either by allowing the foal to eat from the mare’s supply or by engaging in creep feeding prior to weaning, can help manage nutritional needs. Gradually increasing handling, increasing turn out with non-related horses, and spacing out veterinary care can help prepare the foal for weaning. Feeding α-casozepine Use Zylkene Equine to Help Mares and Foals Cope with Weaning Jennifer Kasten, DVM Technical Services Veterinarian, Vetoquinol USA as found in Zylkene Equine, can help support calm behavior in both the mare and foal, during the stressful time associated with weaning.

One recommended use is to start mares and foals on Zylkene Equine approximately 2-3 days prior to weaning. The product is continued then for both the mare and foal throughout the weaning process or for several days following weaning if the abrupt weaning method is used. Reports from Quarter Horse ranches in Texas using the abrupt weaning method indicate that mares were more calm and relaxed, and foals were less agitated and vocalized less frequently following the use of Zylkene Equine in the aforementioned method.

SUGGESTED READING:

  • Characterization of α-casozepine, a tryptic peptide from bovine αs1-casein with benzodiazepine-like activity (2001) Miclo et al FASEB Journal published online June 8.
  • Modestly improved compliance and apparent comfort of horses to mildly adversive routine health care procedures following short-term alpha-casozepine supplementation (2014) McDonnell et al Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 34, 8, 1016-1020.
  • Calming benefit of short-term alpha-casozepine supplementation during acclimation to domestic environment and basic ground training of adult semi-feral ponies (2013) McDonnell et al Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 33, 2, 101-106.

Have you used Zylkene Equine in your practice to help horses cope with stressful situations? If so, we would love to hear your stories. Reach out: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Jennifer Kasten obtained her DVM from The Ohio State University. She completed her internship at Peterson & Smith Equine Hospital in Ocala, Florida. Dr. Kasten has worked in the animal health industry since 2015. In her free time, she enjoys cheering on her hometown Cincinnati Reds and hiking with her Border Collie.

Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, Vetoquinol USA is owned by Vetoquinol SA, an independent, family-owned French pharmaceutical company founded in 1933. Dedicated exclusively to animal health, Vetoquinol USA is focused on the development, production and marketing of FDA, EPA and AAFCO-regulated pharmaceutical, nutritional and dermatological products for small and large animals. Vetoquinol’s large animal veterinary division offers products for horses and cattle to assist owners and veterinarians with joint health, pain management, immune support, behavior and general care. For more information, visit www.vetoquinolusa.com, www.barnchats.com, and follow Barn Chats on Facebook and Instagram.