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Clearing up Omega 3 & Omega 6 Confusion

I am currently supplementing “Bug Check” and “Sr Flex” to my 17 yr old TB’s grain. I was also giving Rice Bran Oil as recommended by the Equine Hospital where he spent a week (for colic- like symptoms) without getting a definitive diagnosis. Periodically he still seems uncomfortable, looks bloated, and lies down a lot. He does tend to correct himself. I read the article in the last mailing I got about Omega 3 and 6 understanding that the Omega 3 don’t fight inflammation as well as the 6, is this correct and should I be looking for an oil that is higher in Omega 6 fatty acids to add to his grain? Also, I am considering Quiessence for a calming supplement. Can this be fed along with the “Bug Check and “Sr. Flex” without a problem?
AL, New Hampshire

Dear AL,

I chose your question because I wanted to address a misunderstanding about Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. In addition, I want to touch on your oversupplementing question at the end, as I get these types of inquiries frequently. But first things first.

You’ve got the Omega 3 and Omega 6 actions backwards. Both are required for normal responses and healthy tissues but it’s the Omega 6 family of fatty acids that tends to increase the levels of inflammatory agents in the body and the Omega 3 family of fatty acids that tends to increase the levels of ANTI-inflammatory agents in the body. In responding to infection or healing a wound, some inflammation is required. But modern horse keeping has shifted the balance of these fatty acids too far towards the Omega 6 line, creating a chronic state of inflammation in the body. We recommend feeds and supplements that have a higher level of Omega 3s to restore equilibrium. So while rice bran oil is better than corn oil in regards to the balance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids, canola oil is an even better choice. Fish oil is ideal though, not only because it contains nearly all Omega 3s but also because it has pre-formed DHA and EPA, two specific Omega 3s with proven beneficial effects in the body.

Now for your second question. You’re already supplementing your horse with “Bug Check” and “Senior Flex” and want to know if you can give “Quiessence” as a calming supplement. At first glance, I see no problem with giving supplements in the insect control, joint and calming categories. But let’s take a closer look at the active ingredients in each to make sure there’s no overlap.

Bug Check—diatomaceous earth, garlic powder, brewers yeast, soybean oil, thiamine and grape seed meal in a distillers grain base

Senior Flex—glucosamine; chondroitin sulfate; MSM; Ester C; Yucca; Vitamins A, D and E; and Lactobacillus acidophilus in a rice bran base with mineral oil

Quiessence—Magnesium and Chromium in a distillers grain base with salt and wheat mids

I don’t see any overlap of active ingredients here that would concern me. Remember, it’s not the number of supplements you give a horse but the ingredients in them that matter, especially when combined with the hay and grain he’s already getting. So a horse getting a full serving of grain and just one supplement (say a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement) may be oversupplemented while a horse getting a thoughtful selection of products to meet specific needs (like yours) is getting only what he needs with three or more supplements.



Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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