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Safe Treats for a Horse with HYPP

What treats are 100% guaranteed safe for an HYPP horse? Thanks! SG

Dear SG,

Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee or promise that products will be safe for horses with certain health conditions like HYPP (Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis). Because diet is such a large part of managing a horse with this particular muscle problem, you really need to discuss adding treats as well as making any hay, grain or supplement changes with your veterinarian since he or she is more familiar with your horse. However, I can share with you a list of high, medium and low potassium feedstuffs that Dr. Sharon Spier presented at the 2006 AAEP Annual Convention in San Antonio, TX. These examples may be helpful as you’re comparing treat ingredients and nutrition info:

High potassium feeds (generally above 2%)
Electrolyte supplements
Kelp supplements
Alfalfa hay
Canary grass hay
Orchard grass hay
Soybean meal

Medium potassium feeds (in the 1-2% range)
Fescue hay
Rice bran
Timothy hay
Coastal Bermuda grass hay
Kentucky blue grass hay
Oat hay

Low potassium feeds (generally less than 1%)
Pure fats and oils
Beet pulp
Corn, Oats, Barley
Wheat bran
Soybean hulls

Most sources place flax seed into the low potassium feed category at 0.9%, while rice bran would be considered a medium potassium feed at 1.4%. In addition, Dr. Spier reminds owners of HYPP horses that the entire ration should contain less than 1.5% potassium, with each meal having less than 33 gram of potassium, to help lower the frequency of episodes.

I reviewed all of our treats (we offer quite a few!) and think there are three that might work for your horse (though you should still double-check with your vet):

Bob’s Sweet Stripes—peppermint oil and sugar
FlaxSnax, HoofSnax—in a flaxseed and rice bran base
Withers & Withers Insulin Resistant—rice bran, wheat bran and apple powder

Any treats with molasses, alfalfa or soybeans should be avoided in horses with HYPP, which pretty much eliminates the rest of our selection. I also found out that some human foods that horses find tasty–such as bananas, sweet potatoes and raisins–are super high in potassium and should not be fed to horses carrying this gene. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but at least you have SOME choice!

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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7 comments on “Safe Treats for a Horse with HYPP
  1. Diane says:

    Thanks! First time I have ever seen a list that actually breaks down different foods into categories for HYPP horses.

    I have a different problem. What kind of treats can you feed a horse with no teeth? Every treat I find is way too hard for him and he just spits them out. He has absolutely no molars of any kind in there. Only thing I can find that he can eat is bananas. Why don’t companies make soft treats?

  2. Karen says:

    I found the best treat for my horses is a fun trail ride after working hard in the arena. My guys look forward to the trails on a very loose rein and enjoy this special time with mom. Once we get back to the barn it’s an extra 10-15 minutes of grooming before turn out to pasture with the rest of the herd.

  3. Hi Diane,
    Have you tried Likits? These would be ideal for your horse as they are designed to be licked rather than chewed. You can feed them by hand or in one of our toys, which would give him something fun to do as well as helping to encourage salivation which is essential for a healthy digestive system.
    Kind regards,

    • Diane says:

      Haven’t tried Likits. Tried something similar once and he ate the whole thing in one day. Didn’t thing that was necessarily a good thing.

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