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Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis

By: Dr. Melissa Mazan

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Many people keep HYPP-positive horses on acetazolamide all the time. It seems to have little adverse effects on the horse, and is relatively inexpensive. Most owners of HYPP horses report that this reduces the number and severity of attacks.

It is sensible to keep your horse on a low potassium diet. Foods that are very high in potassium include:

  • Molasses
  • Alfalfa and timothy hay

    Foods that are low in potassium include:

  • Most grains (avoid sweet feed, that is mixed with molasses)
  • Oat hay

    Make sure that your horse has a regular exercise schedule – if you are not going to ride your horse one day, make sure that he has plenty of turn-out. In general, turnout with good shelter from the elements is a better housing choice for these horses than being confined to a stall.

    Avoid sudden exposure to extremes of heat or cold. Maintain a regular feeding schedule. High potassium hays such as alfalfa and timothy are more likely to precipitate an attack if they are suddenly introduced into a previously low potassium diet. Feed at least three small grain meals (such as oats, barley, or corn) per day.

    Elimination

    The problem with eliminating the HYPP gene is that horses with the gene tend to be highly muscled, with the ideal physique for a show quarter horse. Because this desirable look accompanies the defect, people will still want to breed these horses for show. The only way that the disease will every be entirely eliminated is if all owners have their horses genetically tested before breeding AND all owners agree not to breed horses who are positive for the HYPP gene.

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