Holistic Horsekeeping Newsletter May 2014

May 2014

Holistic Horse Health: Could Your Horse Have Kidney Problems?

Holistic Horsekeeping
How to have a healthy happy horse.
Volume 19, Number 5


In This Issue:

Holistic Horse Health: Could Your Horse Have Kidney Problems?


Holistic Horse Health: Could Your Horse Have Kidney Problems?
kidney-ptosis-webThis is a very in depth article but I hope it will help those of you who have your horse worked on by osteopaths to understand the language better and visualize what is being treated.

The Kidney in the Horse
I was fortunate to attend the first annual meeting of the IAEO (International Association of Equine Osteopaths). This was a gathering of over 30 equine osteopaths and students. As part of our study we had the opportunity to dissect a horse that had to be put down due to old age. Due to the thin body condition in this gelding we were able to view several structures that would normally be harder to access. I am including a picture of the kidney after we partially separated it from the body wall. You can see very well how the kidney is attached to the body by sheets of connective tissue rather than one large attachment. Normally fluid passes between these layers of connective tissue or fascia. The normal tissue fluid carries nutrition to the organ and allows it to slide easily across the surface of other organs it contacts.

A big part of osteopathy is the connection of what is happening in the spine related to what is happening inside the body. One area where this connection is important is in diagnosing kidney problems in the horse. The segments in the spine that relate to the kidney are TH 17, 18. This is right at the last part of the thoracic spine. It is also the area under the back of many saddles. This organ to vertebra feedback loop is very important to recognize and address so that normal nerve conduction and nutrition can be restored to the associated organs. When the connective tissues surrounding organs like the kidneys lose nerve and blood supply, they become sticky and don’t allow the organs to slide across other organs or the body wall. This restricts nerve impulses and nutrition to the organ because the nerves and blood vessels travel in this connective tissue space.

How Kidney Problems Develop in the Horse
Kidney problems in the horse develop when the organ loses its natural ability to move. The kidney must be able to move with each respiration. Each organ in the body, including the kidney, also has an inherent motility that is a passive motion that helps it bring in nutrition from the surrounding tissue fluids and excrete wastes back into the tissue fluid so they can be carried away by the lymphatic system. In the early stages of loss of organ motility you will only see loss of organ function. The kidneys may not concentrate the urine as well as they should or the opposite can happen.

Kidney Damage in the Horse
If an organ becomes fixated and does not move well over an extended time actual structural damage can occur due to the organs inability to take in nutrition and clear toxins. In severe cases an organ like the kidney can actually move out of its normal position because the surrounding connective tissues have become too weak to hold it in place. This condition is called ptosis and if you see this written on your horse’s record it is not a good thing. It means the damage is long standing but restoring motion can still help prevent further deterioration.

Kidney Problems in the Horse
Let’s look at the various ways kidney problems in the horse can develop. A poor fitting saddle can cause pain in the vertebra segments where nerve supply to the kidneys originates. Pain in these segments causes an increased nerve signal to the kidney which will create increased tension in the organ that will cause a feedback loop back to the vertebra segments. This is how an osteopathic lesion develops. The reverse can happen if the kidneys are stressed. They can cause feedback to the spine causing a loss of motion in the affected segments. An osteopath can determine if the blockage in motion of the vertebra segments originated in the spine or organ by checking how many segments are affected. More than 2 segments in a row indicates an internal organ dysfunction.

Kidney problems in the horse can occur if the gut is not functioning properly. A breakdown in the lining of the intestine can allow poorly digested proteins or bacterial toxins to leak into the bloodstream. The immune system then attacks these foreign particles by forming antigen antibody complexes. The kidney can be stressed in the process of removing these large proteins from the blood.

Diaphragm problems can lead to kidney problems in the horse. The diaphragm must move smoothly in inspiration and expiration for the lungs to adequately clear CO2 from the blood and replace it with O2. When the levels of CO2 in the blood get too high the blood gets too acid and the kidneys must work harder to secrete buffers into the blood to keep the pH levels balanced. This will eventually cause a weakness in the kidneys and affect their other functions.

Kidney problems in the horse are not the easiest to understand or diagnose. Things like back soreness or stiff joints are usually addressed without thinking of a connection to kidney problems. When your osteopath works to restore motion to the spine, he is treating the organs at the same time. This article has some detailed anatomy and physiology to help you keep kidney problems in your list of possible causes of behavior or performance problems in your horse. Let me know if you like this kind of article and I will do more.

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