Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is a twice-a-month web segment that is designed to add to the education of footcare professionals when it comes to effectively feeding the hoof. The goal of this web-exclusive feature is to zero in on specific areas of hoof nutrition and avoid broad-based articles that simply look at the overall equine feeding situation.
Below you will find Part 2 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.
Q: Should omega-3 fatty acids be part of the diet for my horses to avoid joint problems?
By Peter Huntington, B.V.Sc., M.A.C.V.Sc.
Joint swelling and inflammation initiate the cascade of events that results in degeneration of the joint, especially to the articular cartilage that lines the ends of long bones. The resulting condition, called osteoarthritis (OA) or degenerative joint disease, causes pain, lameness, decreased mobility and compromised quality of life. It can sometimes lead to euthanasia of affected horses as well.
There is no cure for OA. Instead, veterinarians recommend a multi-modal approach to managing horses with an OA diagnosis, involving both disease and symptom-modifying substances such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, joint injections and nutritional supplements designed for joint health.
Omega-3 fatty acids appear beneficial for a myriad of conditions, including reproductive, athletic and respiratory disorders to name only a few.
Some of the world’s most experienced arthritis researchers recently collaborated to better define the impact of a diet enriched in omega-3 fatty acids on joint disease. The purpose of the study was to determine whether dietary supplementation with a commercial omega-3 fatty acid product could help sedentary horses with joint inflammation induced by an intra-articular injection, which is a recognized model for OA.
The tested product contained 40 grams of fatty acids, including 1.93 grams of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 5.43 grams of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) per 220 pounds of body weight. Both EPA and DHA are the most well-known omega-3 fatty acids with known anti-inflammatory effects.
After 3 months of supplementing with fatty acids, increased levels of EPA and DHA were found both in the circulation and in joint fluid in the supplemented horses when compared to the control horses. In addition, there was no change in several commonly used measures of joint inflammation.
The study’s authors concluded that despite the presence of EPA and DHA in the synovial fluid of supplemented horses, supplementation with this commercial product did not modify synovial fluid biomarkers compared to the control horses.
Peter Huntington is the director of nutrition at Kentucky Equine Research Australia, which is part of the Kentucky Equine Research group in Versailles, Ky.
Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is brought to you by W.F. Young Co. (Absorbine).
Like many significant achievements, Absorbine® grew out of humble beginnings—and through the tenacity of someone willing to question the status quo. In this case, it was a young woman in late 19th-century Massachusetts: Mary Ida Young. Her husband, Wilbur Fenelon Young, was an enterprising piano deliveryman who relied on the couple’s team of horses to make deliveries throughout the Northeast. Inspired by Mary Ida and Wilbur’s vision, Absorbine® has continued to add innovative products throughout the years — products used every day by horse owners around the world. Which is why, since 1892, we’ve been The Horse World’s Most Trusted Name®.
Click here to read Part 1 of the July 1, 2018 installment: What role does cobalt play in equine nutrition?