Dietary Sugar Vs. the Hoof

Can hoof problems be caused by my horse owner clients feeding too much sugar from grains or from forages?

Q: Can hoof problems be cause by my horse owner clients feeding too much sugar from grains or from forages?

More horse owners seem to be learning about the dangers of sugars with respect to hoof health. Sugar in a horse’s feed, including that found in both cereal grains and pasture plants, can have both direct and indirect negative consequences on hoof health. 

Digestive System Designed For Low-Quality Roughage

The horse’s digestive tract is designed to handle a diet of relatively low-quality roughage, such as hay or sparse pasture. The large intestine is inhabited with billions of microbial organisms that ferment the fibrous portions of plants.

When horses are fed diets that contain too much starch and sugar that is normally digested in the small intestine, the starch and sugar may overload the system and continue into the large intestine. In this area, the microbes that are used to ferment fiber will also rapidly ferment starch and sugar, which results in a disruption of the delicate dietary ecosystem.

This results in the production of gases, lactic acid and other compounds. Some of these toxic compounds may be absorbed into the bloodstream and cause laminitis. Therefore, it is very important for your footcare clients to know how much starch and sugar their horse has in its diet, so they can limit the amount fed in each meal.

Fructan Concerns

When analyzing feeds for sugar content, the term non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) is often used. This classification includes all kinds of simple sugars…

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