Two recent studies in the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University found positive effects for the role of Omega 3 fatty acids in joint health in horses
One study indicated that supplemental dietary Omega 3 fatty acids reduced inflammation in younger horses that could become race or show horses, said Drs. Pete Gibbs and Brett Scott, both Texas Cooperative Extension horse specialists.
The other showed that Omega 3 reduced inflammation in the joints of older horses.
It has long been thought that Omega 3 fatty acids could help reduce joint inflammation in mammals, Gibbs said. Other mammals, such as dogs, have had a tremendous response to supplemental Omega 3 fatty acids, Scott added.
The studies was completed as part of Trinette Ross’s and Denise Manhart’s master of science degrees. Animal science and medical researchers collaborated in the studies.
For Ross's study, nine yearlings were separated by gender and age. The horses were given one of three dietary treatments containing varying amounts of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids. Blood samples were taken periodically to measure inflammation.
The indicators of inflammatory response were lowest in horses fed naturally occurring Omega 3’s found in mechanically-extracted soybean oil, Gibbs said.
For Manhart's study, 16 mature horses with arthritis in the leg and foot joints were grouped by the severity of arthritis, affected joints and age, and then randomly divided into two groups.
Both groups were given the same feed for 90 days, but one group was given supplemental Omega 3 fatty acids daily. Blood samples and synovial (joint) fluid were collected at periodic intervals, Gibbs said.
Horses that were fed the supplement Omega 3 fatty acids had lower synovial fluid white blood cell counts than those in the control group. Arthritic horses will typically have a much higher number of white blood cells than non-arthritic horses, Scott said.
However, horse owners don’t necessarily need to rush out and buy their horses Omega 3 supplements. Both specialists recommend calculated and balanced Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation for performance horses.
However, most old horses kept for recreation are generally not very active. These horses have many dietary considerations.
Scott said, “Further research is needed to determine if arthritic horses will have increased mobility” as a result of this feeding supplement.
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