Supplements and the Foundered Horse

Have you found any supplement that actually seems to help foundered horses? -Jan

Dear Jan,

Founder (chronic laminitis) can be caused by so many different things it’s hard to make a blanket recommendation. Are you asking how to prevent it in an Equine Metabolic Syndrome or Cushing’s Disease horse, how to help treat it once it’s developed, or something else?

Anytime a horse has a hoof quality issue I think it’s a good idea to add a hoof supplement to the diet, so that the raw materials needed to build healthy hoof tissue (biotin, methionine, zinc and others) are present. So if you’re not already feeding your horse a hoof supplement think about adding one to his or her regimen. And certainly if you know what triggered the laminitis, remove the offending agent from the diet or environment and ask your veterinarian to suggest a nutrition, exercise and care program that reduces the risk of a repeat episode. Generally a low sugar/starch diet is recommended so instead of using grain to round out the hay-based diet (fresh pasture may not be appropriate either), select a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement or ration balancer instead. Finally, APF, which contains adaptogenic herbs, may be helpful in managing laminitic horses as it is said to “dial” the body back towards normal and assist in coping with stress.

There was a study presented a few years ago that showed a benefit to feeding essential fatty acids (both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids were used) to horses as a preventative to laminitis. Hopefully this answers your questions and provides a useful reference for you.

Essential Fatty Acid Supplementation as a Preventative for Carbohydrate Overload-Induced Laminitis
Kelly A. Neelley, DVM and Douglas J. Herthel, DVM
Essential fatty acid supplementation prevents laminitis in horses challenged with carbohydrate
overload. Possible mechanisms that would explain these findings include the known effects that
essential fatty acids have on inflammation, vasoconstriction, hypertension, and coagulation in
laboratory animals and man.
AAEP PROCEEDINGS / Vol. 43 / 1997

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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10 comments on “Supplements and the Foundered Horse
  1. Elizabeth says:

    A student of mine has a 24 year old Arab (used for dressage) with Cushings and a history of repeated laminitis. He has an open stall to a small paddock with limited grass. He is missing a lot of molars so she is having him fed grass hay (cut up) and grass hay cubes along with a feed designed for Cushings horses that is softened with water.

    His problem is his weight. He has lost quite a bit of weight and you can see his ribs and hip bones, but not excessively. We both realize that some of the loss of his topline is as a result of lack of work, but we are hesitating working him for fear of more weight loss. Our summer has been very hot and humid and we know this is playing a factor as well.

    What would be economical and safe to increase his weight? (She recently was downsized in her work hours so money is a factor).

    Thanks for any help.

    • Pam says:

      I recently discovered Cool Calories 100! My 31-yr-old Morgan has Cushings and was always pudgy – this year he is ribby. I didn’t like what I saw, and had recently written an article on nutrition based on interviews with top riders/drivers, and someone mentioned this supplement. It’s fat calories – no starch or sugar. What a difference, in just a few weeks he started to shine again and that miserable ribby look went away. He will never be the same as he was, but he looks much better now. Increasing grain was not an option. He does love Blue Seal Hay Stretcher though.

  2. Gina says:

    To help the previous commentor, if you increase the food ration slightly with the exercise increase, you should be able to maintain a good weight. I would start with mild exercise for a week, and gauge the weight of the horse, to determine if an increase is needed. When I did this with my cushings horse, I asked the stables to up his hay, and I increased the amount of “lunch” he got. On days that he doesn’t get worked for long, I don’t give him very much, to help keep his weight where it needs to be. Basically, talk to your vet, and see what their feed to exercise ratio is.

  3. Diane says:

    I used to have a pony that foundered quite frequently. After doing some research and reading some articles, I tried putting him on DMG. It seemed to stop the incidents of founder. And if I would get lazy, and not order more on time, he would founder again. It seemed like as long as I kept him on the DMG, he was fine.

  4. We specialize in rehabilitating these types of horses on our farm (we are hoof care specialists), and have a very specific diet protocol that we follow. A lot of our clients have Arabians, and most of them go back to performance after foundering. We have a lot of success basing their diet around a forage low in NSC and Fructans, (the sugars that are thought to contribute to IR/Cushings related laminitis, adding white salt, Omega 3 and 6 EFAs, and a low NSC feed as they get back into more intense work. There are also many commercially available forage products that are tested low in NSC/Fructans and are balanced with minerals, probiotics, etc. Like Triple Crown Safe Starch, or another one we like is Ontario Dehy Timothy Balance Cubes. They are great for older horses who cannot eat long stem hay too. In addition to the diet, making sure the horse’s ACTH/Insulin/Glucose/Thyroid is normal is critical (and if not addressing it with your veterinarian), as well as really great hoof care (I’m biased about that) and implementing exercise when the horse is ready!

  5. Monex fraud says:

    …In previous articles we have discussed the many benefits of feeding fats to horses.Typically these fats in feeds are vegetable oils or even occasionally animal fats.We have not yet discussed specifically the type of fat in the diet.However researchers in human and animal medicine have much information supporting the idea that specific types of fatty acids can provide numerous health benefits.This month we look at the science behind Omega-3 fatty acids and begin the process of understanding the terminology used…..Omega-3 fatty acids..So what makes Omega-3 or n-3 fatty acids so unique?Quite simply its just the location of the double bonds which occur between the carbons in the fatty acid chain.The location of these bonds are what provide these fatty acids with their naming system. Omega-3 fatty acids have the last double bond placed three carbons from the methyl end of the carbon chain which is the opposite end from the attachment to the glycerol backbone in a triglyceride.Compare this to the Omega-6 fatty acids or n-6 which have their last double bond six carbons in from the methyl end.This simple change in location of a double bond can have tremendous impact on the metabolism of these fats in the body…..Essential fatty acids..Previously we mentioned that horses must ingest certain fatty acids in their diet as they do not have the capability of synthesizing them in great enough quantities.These include linoleic acid and linolenic acid.Both of these fatty acids are 18 carbons long but differ in the number and placement of the double bonds.

  6. Judy Murray says:

    I know the importance of letting the horses graze on an open pasture for their nutrients, and we have one small horse that gets laminitis, the vet ordered a muzzle so she couln’t graze because the pasture would add to much sugar to the horses diet, which in turn would cause the laminitis…I think her coat looks bad and rough and she in losing weight. Is that true about to much grazing??What type of grain should she be fed, they feed her oats, and then she doesn’t get to graze…

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Judy, thanks for your questions. First, we want to say that you should always follow your veterinarian’s instructions, especially when dealing with a serious condition such as laminitis. Since he or she has examined your horse and is familiar with her health, your vet is best able to provide advice on her diet. However, we do want to mention that oats are typically very high in sugars and starches and therefore if she does have a sensitivity to these, you may want to consider a feed source that is lower in NSC (non-structural carbohydrates) . While your mare shouldn’t have pasture per your vet’s advice, you can provide her with some of the nutrients that fresh pasture provides, such as Vitamins A &E and Omega 3 Fatty Acids. A supplement such as SmartOmega 3 provides all of these nutrients and would make an excellent addition to her diet (with your vet’s approval of course). Best of luck!

  7. Good post but I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this
    topic? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further.
    Many thanks!

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