12/07/2001 12:00AM

Infection cancels purchase of Mutamam

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The National Stud in England confirmed recently that they had canceled their purchase of Shadwell Stud's group stakes-winner Mutamam because the horse had a bacterial infection.

Routine pre-purchase veterinary examination revealed that the 6-year-old Mutamam carried bacteria commonly known as Klebsiella, which can cause respiratory problems like pneumonia and, more pointedly for a stallion prospect like Mutamam, venereal disease.

Like contagious equine metritis, which affected central Kentucky in a famous 1978 outbreak that effectively closed the area's commercial breeding sheds, the Klebsiella bacterium is highly contagious and can cause temporary infertility in mares.

Not surprisingly, breeding farms worldwide are alert to such bacterial infections, which can cause heavy financial losses both from the mares' temporary infertility and from quarantine procedures put in place by area authorities. The best method of discovering an infection in a stallion is through testing, because stallions often show no overt symptoms. Mares, by contrast, might have discharge and difficulty conceiving.

Fortunately, a Klebsiella infection is treatable. Veterinary authorities recommend isolating the affected horse and treatment with antibiotics and disinfectant washes. A study published last year in the American Journal of Veterinary Research also found that some types of naturally occurring sugars might hamper bacteria's ability to establish itself in a mare's reproductive tract, a finding that could offer new possibilities for treatment of mares.

Mutamam, meanwhile, will almost certainly take up his breeding career as planned after treatment. National Stud officials told English reporters that they plan to stand the stallion once he is free of infection, but he will remain property of Shadwell Stud.

Lipoma tumor a threat to older horses

Conquistador Cielo, 1982's Horse of the Year, underwent surgery this week for colic caused by a lipoma, a fatty tumor that, though benign, can cause some serious problems.

Lipomas can occur as soft lumps on the outside of an animal's body, but when one develops inside a horse's abdomen, it can cause intestinal blockage or strangulation of the intestine, as happened in Conquistador Cielo.

Horses older than 12 - like Conquistador Cielo, who is 22 - are at increased risk for lipoma-related colic.

A horse with an abdominal lipoma might show only moderate colic pain or depression, but the problem can become life-threatening if the tumor (and often the affected gut) isn't removed.

Vets issue hay guidelines

Equine nutritionists point out that a fully grown horse will eat about 2.5 percent of its body weight each day, and experts generally recommend that at least half of that food, or about 10 pounds for a 1,000-pound horse, should be in the form of roughage such as hay.

To help horse owners identify high-quality hay, the American Association of Equine Practitioners has issued some basic guidelines for hay selection.

The AAEP recommends that horsemen consult with a veterinarian or nutritionist to determine which type of hay - grass or legume - an individual animal needs. Legumes, for example, have higher calcium, energy, protein, and vitamin A than grasses do, and therefore might be more appropriate for young, growing stock.

The AAEP recommends that hay buyers examine the interior of a hay bale to check for mold or other problems. Slight discolorations on the outside of a bale is probably harmless, but one should avoid hay that is excessively sun-bleached.

Good signs to look for include green, leafy hay that has fine stems and is soft to the touch. Examine the hay's leaves, stems, and flowers or seed pods to check for the plants' maturity. For legumes, select hay that was cut when the plants were in early bloom; for grass hays, look for bales harvested before seed pods formed. If possible, buy and feed hay within a year of its cutting to maximize its nutritional value.

Avoid hay that smells moldy or fermented or that has excessive dust in it. Also be steer clear of hay with significant amounts of dirt, trash, or weeds.

Check carefully for any insects, especially poisonous blister beetles that sometimes occupy alfalfa, and ask the hay grower about any insect infestations in their area.

Bales that seem too heavy for their size or that are warm to the touch could hold excess moisture, a bad sign that the hay might be prone to mold or even spontaneous combustion.

Finally, especially if you are buying hay in bulk, consider having a certified forage laboratory analyze the hay to determine its actual nutrient content.