Hoof Nutrition Intelligence 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: Will Supplements Contain Enough Zinc to Provide for Good Hoof Health?

By Eleanor M. Kellon, VMD

A: Zinc is present in a high concentration level in normal hoof tissue (equal to 137 ppm in one study) and is critical for a variety of functions. Zinc incorporated into zinc finger proteins (named because of their shape) is required for cell multiplication, cell maturation into a keratinocyte and for interactions between various proteins, such as with the assembly of keratin.

Zinc finger proteins also are known for being rich in cysteine and for their helical structure when incorporated into the hoof’s keratin.  It is also essential for a variety of enzymes that every metabolically active cell needs and is involved in regulating the rate of cellular division, cellular activity and cellular maturation. 

For example, zinc regulates the activity of calmodulin, which is what binds calcium. With all the functions that require zinc, it’s not too difficult to see how a zinc deficiency can show up in a variety of ways in the hoof:

  • Slow hoof growth
  • Thin walls
  • Weak connections
  • Weak horn

When the hoof is weak at the cellular and structural level, it is more vulnerable to attack by organisms, as even “micro breaks” in the structure will allow microbes to enter. There’s more to it though, and this involves zinc as well as copper. A copper/zinc superoxide dismutase enzyme is present in hoof tissue and its function is to prevent the fats and oils from oxidizing. Oxidative damage to the fats breaks the protective seal on the hoof, causing over drying and weakens the “glue” between the cells.

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 Cushing’s 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 group’s ultimate goal.

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Click here to read part 2 of the June 1, 2020 installment of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence: How Important is Selenium in Terms of Hoof Quality?

Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.