Feeding for Respiratory Health

Feeding for Respiratory Health

Sarah Spooner BBS MSc MMII on 9th Aug 2021

Its well known and very common practice to counteract any possible ailments our horses have, or may have, with oral supplementation. The oral supplements market for our horses is huge, & according to Verified Market Research, the Global Equine Supplement Products Market was valued at USD 73.61 Million in 2018 and is projected to reach USD 96.18 Million by 2026*. The equine supplement market is booming and entering any tack store is like entering a labyrinth of supplements targeting a multitude of ailments which quite commonly, our horses have eg Joint Health, Respiratory, Immune Support, Calmers, Hoof Quality & Digestion, to name a few!!

So how do we know what we are feeding is truly effective. Studies have shown certain ingredients can have beneficial effects on the respiratory system of the horse. Most of us immediately think of Eucalyptus and its powerful aromas helping the respiratory system, some also think of Garlic, Honey & Glucose as other beneficial & soothing supplements for the respiratory system…….the choice is mind blowing, and what works for your friends horse, may seem to have no impact for yours and vice versa!!

When we examined the studies, we found that of particular interest was, a study carried out at Purdue University, which demonstrated that feeding supplemented levels of Omega 3 to a group of horses with respiratory issues, had remarkable effects on their symptoms of cough, lung function & their BALF – bronchoalveolar lavage fluid – i.e. fluid gathered from the lung for testing- commonly referred to as a ‘lung wash’ .

In the study, all horses were housed in a low dust environment & 32 horses were fed a complete pelleted diet without hay. Fourteen of those horses had RAO and 18 had IAD.

They were divided into 3 test groups,

1. The recommended feeding amount of algae supplement

2. Double the recommended feeding amount of the algae supplement

3. A placebo group who did not receive the algae supplement.

The study showed that horses demonstrated positive results in visual analog scores (VAS) for cough, lung function, and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF), that is in comparison to the placebo group within the trial. What was most interesting is that Dr Laurent Couëtil, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, chose to use an Omega 3 supplement derived from algae. According to Couëtil, Algae is the richest source of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and this is a vegetarian and renewable source of DHA, making it suitable for horses.**

What they found, was that all horses had an improvement after 4 weeks for VAS for cough, the horses fed the algae Omega 3 supplement had significantly better VAS for cough after 8 weeks, and after 8 weeks the horses had healthier BALF (bronchoalveolar lavage fluid) and showed improved lung function compared to those in the placebo group. Further, DHA levels in blood increased tenfold in supplemented horses. The researchers noted none of these effects in horses receiving the placebo.

The study concluded that, based on this particular study & its findings, omega-3 supplementation “could be an additional option to help better manage both IAD and RAO horses when compared to a low-dust environment alone”.

So the next time you are in a tack store, perhaps consider Omega 3 for your respiratory prone horse!

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to replace professional veterinary advice. Always consult your veterinarian if your horse as any health-related issue or is exhibiting symptoms.