Big Head Disease or Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism is a bone condition in horses caused by a calcium deficiency – most usually diagnosed in horses grazing high oxalate pastures.
Understand your pasture
Oxalates are compounds found in many types of plant material – including our common horse pastures! Grasses such as Setaria, Buffel, Kikuyu and Signal grass are classed as C4 grasses and are high oxalate pastures.
Oxalates do have an important role in the plant world, and are responsible for protecting plants against hungry “predators.” In our horses, oxalates bind to important minerals such as calcium, and prevent our horses from utilizing these minerals efficiently.
When a horse is grazing high oxalate pasture, the oxalate compounds it digests bind to important minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Ideally, whilst your horse is consuming these all-important minerals, his body is using them for every purpose they are required for. However, when oxalates bind to these minerals, they prevent the body from using them and they pass through un-utilised. Over time, this can lead to mineral deficiencies which can result in an array of health problems.
Big Head disease is so named because it affects the facial bones of horses, causing them to swell and present with a “big head.” Irregular or shifting lameness, loss of condition in coat, hooves and overall body health, shortened stride and stiffness are all other symptoms of Big Head, and horses may present differently with different cases.
Big Head is caused by a calcium deficiency in the body – as previously discussed, this is what occurs when horses are grazing high oxalate pastures, as the oxalates bind to the calcium and prevent the horse from utilising it. Over time, the horse’s bones are affected as demineralisation occurs.
Because the body needs sufficient calcium in the blood to keep everything functioning normally, it begins to leech calcium from the bones in order to maintain blood calcium levels.
In order to treat Big Head, horses must be supplemented daily with calcium to restore what has been lost.
Usually, the recommended “treatment” dose of calcium supplement is well above the usual daily requirements of the horse.
Removing your horse from high oxalate pastures whenever possible and feeding a high-calcium feed or forage such as Lucerne hay is an excellent idea.
Bone and Joint Nutrient Formula
Equine Bone-Joint Nutrient Formula is a high calcium compound enriched with trace elements, minerals, hemp protein Omega 3 and copper to ensure positive nutrient uptake.
Formulated for horses on nutrient and calcium deficient pasture, this compound is ideal for horses at risk of Big Head or lack of minerals and trace elements in pasture or diet.
Bone and Joint Nutrient Formula is highly palatable and an essential additive to daily feeds. or fed as a loose lick for pastured horses.
Including minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, cobalt, copper, iron, selenium, zinc and fortified with Hemp Protein to provide an Omega 3 boost, our formula is scientifically created to provide all the essential ingredients of a well-balanced equine diet.