Dry Skin Solutions

My horse is 22 years old and is showing signs of very dry skin everywhere. What product is the best to use for this condition? Thank you, CM, Pennsylvania

Dear CM,

Before recommending a nutritional supplement for your horse’s dry skin, I’d like to suggest that you work with your veterinarian to rule out a medical condition that may need specific treatment or that may lead to a more serious condition if undiagnosed. While your veterinarian is on the farm, walk him or her through your current feeding program to make sure that your horse is on a complete and balanced diet based on forage. If your horse is pronounced healthy and his nutrition proclaimed sound, then consider adding in “healthy” fats to improve his skin and coat.

What do I mean by healthy fats? Some fats—like corn oil—have high levels of omega 6 fatty acids. While omega 6 or linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid (EFA) that must be present in your horse’s diet, too much can skew the body towards a chronic state of inflammation. That’s why experts recommend making sure your horse gets omega 3 fatty acids in their diet. Omega 3 or linolenic acid has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties which may have several health benefits especially in the skin, respiratory tract and with reproductive issues.

Without getting too scientific on you, supplementing the diet with ingredients like flax seed or fish oil causes more omega 3s to be incorporated into cell membranes in all tissues of the body, but especially red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. This shift to more omega 3s and less omega 6s ultimately results in less inflammatory mediators being synthesized by the cell in response to environmental stimuli (through modulation of cellular signaling, membrane protein function and gene expression but you didn’t want to know all that!) Basically your horse will become less reactive to things that would normally throw his body into a full-blown inflammatory cascade of events.

While we recommend giving any supplement at least a month to take effect, measurable changes in cell membrane content were actually found to occur within days of enriching the diet with omega 3s. So try adding omega 3 fatty acids to his diet and see if you notice a difference!

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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Posted in Ask the Vet, Skin, Coat & Hooves

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One comment on “Dry Skin Solutions
  1. Kelly Prestegaard says:

    I use Healthy Coat, it is wonderful. I use it on all my animals for hair and or weight gain. This product is great for halter horses.

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