Frequently asked questions about Contribute™

My friend was telling me that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids decreased the level of inflammation in horses with arthritis. Is this true?

Yes, there have been several studies that have shown that the addition of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids to the diet may be beneficial for horses with existing arthritis. Here’s an article about one of the studies that was done at Texas A&M University, titled “Markers of Inflammation in Arthritic Horses Fed Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”

How do omega-3 fatty acids affect performance horses?

Studies have shown omega-3 fatty acids to be beneficial in increasing stride length, indicating they play a role in maintaining joint health. Horses supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources exhibit a reduced inflammatory response to exercise increasing the likeliness that they will remain sound and healthy. Current studies are looking at the possible benefits of supplementation with omega-3 in decreasing exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH), commonly referred to as “bleeding” in performance horses.

I feed my horse corn oil. Can I replace the corn oil with Contribute omega-3 fatty acids?

Yes. Contribute omega-3 fatty acid supplement is a great alternative to corn oil. Corn oil, an old standby for many horse people, is high in omega-6 fatty acids, whereas Contribute is high in omega-3 fatty acids that are healthier for your horse. Contribute will put the same shine in your horse’s coat, while also supporting a lower inflammatory response throughout his body.

My horse has trouble with skin allergies. A friend told me to feed omega-3 fatty acids. Will this really help?

Yes. Because omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, supplementation has shown a positive effect in mitigating allergic reactions, including skin allergies and seasonal pruritus (sweet itch).

Do omega-3 fatty acids help the quality of stallion semen?

Yes, it does. Research has proven that the omega-3 fatty acid DHA has a positive effect on both sperm output and quality. If you are shipping semen, DHA’s beneficial effect on the sperm’s cell membrane improves its ability to withstand cooling and freezing.

If I feed omega-3 fatty acids to my broodmare, will the foal get the benefits as well?

Yes. Mares consuming diets high in omega-3 also have colostrum and milk with elevated levels. Foals whose dams have been fed a diet rich in omega-3 have elevated serum levels of the nutrient, which supports a stronger immune system.

I have heard that a typical diet of hay and grain is too low in omega-3 fatty acids. Is that true?

Yes; unfortunately this is often true. Horses evolved to exist on a grass-based diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in omega-6 fatty acids. In an effort to support the increasing energy demands made on modern horses, man introduced large amounts of grains into equine diets. These grains are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Along with increases in the amount of grain, most horses now eat processed forages like hay that are also low in omega-3 fatty acids. One of the best natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids is fresh green grass, yet many horses spend very limited time on lush pasture. These typical modern management practices throw the critical 6 to 3 ratio out of whack. Supplementing with a high-quality omega-3 fatty acid helps brings the ratio back into balance.

What types of horses do you recommend omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for and why?

Here is a quick summary of which horses may benefit from omega-3 fatty acids and why.

Foals and young, growing horses

  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Reduces systemic inflammation, which might interfere with proper growth

Broodmares and stallions

  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Supports higher fertility rates
  • Protects cell membranes in semen during cooling and freezing

Performance horses

  • Decreases inflammation, reduces joint pain, increases stride length
  • Lower inflammatory response to exercise
  • Possibility of supporting decreased exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH), commonly referred to as “bleeding” (research is ongoing)

Seniors and special-needs horses

  • Improved immune function
  • Lessens arthritis inflammation and pain
  • Reduces allergic reactions, such as skin allergies, hives and COPD (heaves)
  • Decreases inflammation associated with laminitis and arthritis

What is the difference between omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids and how do they affect my horse?

Omega fatty acids are known as essential fatty acids because they cannot be synthesized in the body and must be provided in the diet. Omega fatty acids are split into two categories: omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Both are necessary to the well-being of the horse; however, it is the amount of both of these acids relative to each other that is most important for overall health. Functioning at the cellular level, omega fatty acids impact the cell membrane, thereby influencing every system in the body. When properly balanced, the two types of fatty acids work in concert to keep your horse healthy.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are metabolized by cells in the body and used in the synthesis of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. The primary function of these prostaglandins is the regulation of essential body functions such as blood clotting, blood pressure, immune and inflammatory response. Prostaglandins produced from the omega-6 series typically have a pro-inflammatory response and increase blood clotting, whereas those produced from the omega-3 series tend to have the opposite effect by mitigating the inflammatory response and decreasing blood clotting. Both the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids compete for the same enzymes in the production of these prostaglandins, so it is the ratio of the omega-6 to omega-3 that has the greatest influence over inflammatory response and other vital body functions. When an abundance of omega-6 acids are consumed relative to the amount of omega-3, cells increase the production of prostaglandins from the omega-6 series, leading to an increase in inflammation, which, over time, leads to multiple health problems.

Why is supplying several different sources of omega-3 fatty acids important?

Alpha-linolenic acid is the most common omega-3 fatty acid and is found in plants. While horses generally obtain alpha-linolenic acid by eating grass and hay, flaxseed and linseed oil are the most concentrated sources of this nutrient.

The omega-3 fatty acids known as EPA and DHA have also been identified as beneficial to the horse. These are longer-chain fatty acids and are generally found in fish oils. Shorter chain acids, like alpha-linolenic acid, can be converted into the longer chain acids EPA and DHA; however, this process is very inefficient, hence the benefits to provide them in the diet.

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