Equine Neutraceuticals

Equine Nutraceutacils
by Catherine Hall DVM

Glucosamine, MSM, biotin, devil's claw, alpha lipoic acid, ASU, ginsing, prebiotics, probiotics, hyaluronic acid, yucca, flax seed, psyllium, chondrotin...all these words can become jumbled together when trying to decide if you horse needs an oral supplement or not.   And there are many different categories in which the body can be supported, not just joints.  There are so many different choices out there for skin, hooves, the gastrointestinal tract, weight, behavior and any other body system or condition of horses.  These products are known as nutraceuticals.  This is a combination of the word nutrient, a nourishing food or component, and pharmaceutical, a medical drug.

The choices can be nearly endless!

But, do you need all of these?  Or any at all?  It can become very tricky trying to choose the right product, or group of products, especially when all of these words may be floating around on the label. But did you know that you may not be able to trust that bucket of supplement?

Neutraceuticals are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
There are no legal requirements for animal supplements.
"The Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is concerned about these products because we do not have scientific data to show that they are safe or even contain the ingredients listed on the label. "

So, to tell you all you need to know about nutraceuticals  in one newsletter would take you an eternity to read.  There are so many different choices and options available to cover today.  Hopefully, this will get you on the right track of choosing a product wisely if you feel your horse is in need and not over-supplementing because you are trying to buy supplements for multiple problems.

Two main challenges when trying to find an appropriate nutraceutical for your horse:
1.  Lack of scientific evidence for many products on the market.
2.  Poor quality products which don't actually contain the ingredients stated on the label.

Here are a few guidelines to follow to help you sort out all that is out there:

1. Do your research before purchasing a supplement.

•    If a product uses testimonials (instead of science) and sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

•    Quality companies are regulated by the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC). This council helps to regulate the products and is the gold standard to look for to know the quality is present. You can learn more about the NASC Seal and the steps that a compnay must take in order to earn the seal for a product. Click here to learn more.

•    A company should have a well-staffed customer support system.

•    Well known companies will have clinical trials; including in vitro (only on tissue), and masked studies where the results cannot be subjective. One should be able to obtain these studies if the company is contacted. A lot of companies use claims based on human research, but the problem is equine tissues are very different from human tissues

2. Consult with your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist.
•    Does your horse need a nutraceutical?
•    Are there any interactions with other medications you horse may already be on?

3. Be honest with your vet!
•    Tell them about all feeds, medications and supplements you may be using on your horse. 

   Owners are prone to be "double-dipping" or over-supplementing their horses due to a lot of the same products being in multiple products.

•    Harmful nutrient-supplement-drug interactions can occur, especially if multiple poor-quality supplements are being offered.

4. Follow the product’s directions and critically evaluate your horse’s progress.

•    Many supplements have “loading” and “maintenance” doses.

•    Some products can take time to be effective

•    Other products do not produce a noticeable response

If there is no response, you should then have another discussion with your veterinarian or nutritionist about either choosing another product or taking a different approach to your horses condition.  

Ultimately, we are all in this to try and keep our horses happy and healthy longer.  If we can be of any assistance, please let us know. Thank you for reading!