Up to 60% of all equine lameness cases are caused by osteoarthritis, the dreaded joint disease that eats away at cartilage. While there is no known cure for osteoarthritis, making small diet changes can be one of the simplest and most effective means of treating your horse’s inflamed joints.
Wellpride co-founder and omega-3 specialist Dr. Anne-Marie Chalmers advocates adding fish oil to a horse’s daily feed.
“Omega-3 is a natural anti-inflammation agent, that all of us – horses and humans – need,” said Dr. Chalmers. “It works on the same biochemical pathways as pain-relieving drugs, and doesn’t create nasty side effects, like gastrointestinal problems.”
Omega-3, an essential fatty acid found most abundantly in fish, has been making news in human medicine for its pain relief benefits. Numerous studies have found that omega-3 fish oil reduces the activity of cartilage-destructing enzymes and can decrease the inflammation response.
While the research on omega-3 in horses is still scant, one study showed that horses fed omega-3 fatty acids needed significantly less non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID).
Dr. Chalmers explains that an omega-6/omega-3 imbalance is at the heart of many osteoarthritis cases.
“In the past, horses were sent out to pasture more frequently, and they consumed enough omega-3 through the steady intake of grass,” said Dr. Chalmers. “Today, horse diets have shifted towards processed foods and corn products that are filled with omega-6.”
Also in the essential fatty acid family, omega-6 counteracts omega-3 by creating inflammation. When the horse consumes more omega-6 than omega-3, he has a higher risk for developing a host of inflammatory diseases, including arthritis.
Besides osteoarthritis, equine lameness can be caused by anything from bruising to bad shoeing to tying up. But for inflammation problems, Dr. Chalmers suggests a healthy dose of fish oil to fight the lameness.
“Horse Lameness (Equine Lameness).” PetHealth101 – Your Dog, Cat and Pet Health Resource. 05 Aug. 2010.
Martinsen, Bo. “Arthritis.” Wellpride Omega-3 Fish Oil for Horses. Wellpride. 05 Aug. 2010.
Oke, Stacey. “Osteoarthritis: Not Just an ‘Old-Horse Disease’” The Horse. Apr. 2010: 35-40.