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 1 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.
Q: Are there concerns with feeding sulfates or whole feeds to my horses?
By Eleanor Kellon, VMD
Despite the fact that nutrition is a complex science, there are myriads of unqualified people doling out nutritional advice, either to sell something or because they want to make a new “discovery.”
The latest claim I’ve heard is that equine metabolic problems, arthritis and navicular can all be significantly improved by removing sulfates from a horse’s diet. This seems to refer to supplements in sulfate form, such as copper sulfate. The claim is that sulfate is pro-inflammatory and increases iron absorption. The problem is that it’s not true.
The second problem is the vast majority of sulfate in the horse’s body comes from water, sulfate in foods or sulfate produced from sulfur-containing amino acids. Stopping the feeding of supplements in sulfate form would not have any significant effect, which is a good thing because sulfate is essential for life and health. It includes the production of the most widespread detoxifying, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound in the horse’s body — glutathione. The bottom line is that the whole sulfate thing is ridiculous.
Another claim that is trending at the moment are “whole food” feeds and supplements that claim to provide every nutrient the horse needs, with no supplementation of individual nutrients. I’m surprised the Food and Drug Administration and state ag departments haven’t caught up with some of the claims for these feeds, as their own analyses show these feeds and supplements are not complete and adequate.
The truth is that the more you feed these unsupplemented “whole foods” in place of hay or grass, the more likely you are to have protein and mineral deficiencies. The only guarantee is that these types of feeds offer adequate amounts of calories.
This list goes on and on. Some equine nutrition claims are just wacky and others are dangerous. This is especially true for special needs situations like metabolic syndrome or myopathies and groups with very high needs for growth, lactation, pregnancy or performance.
Nutrition is one of the few major contributors to your horse’s health that is completely within your control. There’s no place for unsubstantiated advice.
Dr. Eleanor Kellon, a staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, has been an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years. The owner of Equine Nutritional Solutions in Robesonia, Pa., she is a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal.
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 2 of the Dec. 1, 2018 installment: How can I overcome foot-sore issues with one of my horses?
Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.