Is It Possible to Over Supplement?

Is it possible to over supplement? Are there any harmful side effects when feeding supplements?
– Nancy V., Carthage, NC

By over supplement, I assume you mean overlap nutrients, which is possible to do if you don’t take into account what your horse is already getting from his diet and don’t read the labels on the supplements you choose for him. For example, if you’re feeding your horse a full serving of fortified grain, he probably doesn’t also need a full serving of a complete multi-vitamin/min- eral supplement. You would most likely be overlapping nutrients like Selenium, Iron and Iodine, which have a relatively small window between too little and too much.

On the other hand, someone who feeds their horse four or five carefully selected supplements may not be overlapping at all. Consider these choices:

Multi-vitamin
Joint supplement
Hoof supplement
Electrolyte
Daily dewormer

Each of these products contains specific ingredients designed to address specific needs. As such, there’s very little overlap. The point is: do your best to provide your horse with a complete and balanced diet primarily consisting of good quality forage (hay or pasture), make up any deficiencies or imbalances with a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement, then address specific problems with other products as needed.

[Ed. note: Originally printed in the May 2010 issue of Salt Block Gazette]

Lydia Gray, DVM MA, is the Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other events. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr. Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. She enjoys training and showing her Trakehner, Newman, in both combined driving and dressage, and is a USDF “L” Program Graduate (with distinction). Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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One comment on “Is It Possible to Over Supplement?
  1. Nicole says:

    Is there a book or webstite out there that lists all the min/max levels of nutrients required by horses? I find lots of articles saying to be careful not to overlap nutrients, and that some nutrients have a very small window that you need to stay within; but I can’t find the info stating the actual levels that you should feed. Same thing for supplements, it never says anywhere if there is a maximum dose or what the ideal dose is, other than what the manufacturer puts on the label which varies greatly from brand to brand.

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