Vitamin E Deficiency In Horses: Can You Prevent It?

Horses are unable to produce vitamin E themselves, so it’s very important that they get plenty of this essential vitamin in their diet. Vitamin E is best delivered along with a bit of fat as this helps it to be absorbed correctly.

Horses naturally get an abundance of vitamin E from the grass they eat. In fact, free grazing can provide as many as two thousand international units of vitamin E every day. Horses who are able to graze freely also get plenty of fat from fresh green grass, and this helps with vitamin E absorption.

Benefits Of Vitamin E In Horse’s Diet

Benefits Of Vitamin E in Horse's Diet

Vitamin E serves many functions in helping maintain a horse’s health. Among them are:

  • Good muscle and nerve function: Vitamin E works with selenium for the purpose of maintaining good muscle function and warding off muscular disease. In addition to providing muscular support, the combination of selenium and vitamin E may also help microphages and leukocytes to survive negative effects caused by invading bacteria.
  • Antioxidant action: The right amount of vitamin E can help provide antioxidants to protect intracellular substances such as cell membranes and enzymes from being damaged by free radical oxidation.
  • Healthy immune response: Ample vitamin E in the diet helps keep your horse’s immune system strong to fight off allergies and viral and bacterial infections.

How Can You Tell If Your Horse Has Vitamin E Deficiency?

How Can You Tell If Your Horse Has Vitamin E Deficiencypros and cons

Without enough vitamin E, your horse may exhibit a wide variety of symptoms and changes. Among these may be nutritional muscular dystrophy. This is caused by lack of oxygen to the muscles.

Frequent illnesses and digestive problems are signs that your horse is experiencing lowered immunity, which may be caused by vitamin E deficiency.

If you have a broodmare who is experiencing vitamin E deficiency, her foal will have few (if any) reserves of this important vitamin. A lack of vitamin E in foals will make them more likely to catch any infectious disease that may be present.

5 Tips To Recognize Vitamin E Deficiency And How To Cure It

What Are Some Good Ways To Supplement Vitamin E?

In addition to fat, fresh grass also provides ample vitamin E for horses health. If your horse has free or ample turnout, you needn’t worry about vitamin E deficiency.

Understand that, even though hay is dried grass, you cannot count on hay to provide vitamin E because it dissipates very quickly after hay is harvested.

Within the first few days as much is 85% of the vitamin E found in fresh grass that has been mown for hay will dissipate. The longer hay is stored, the more vitamin E is lost.

Additionally, the amount of vitamin E found in hay varies from bale to bale and even from flake to flake.

If your horse is depending upon hay for most of its forage, you must be sure to provide feed that has been fortified with vitamin E and/or to provide a separate vitamin E supplement.

In addition to feeding a good supplement, you must be sure that your horse is getting a balanced diet so that vitamin E can be properly absorbed.

Adding a few ounces of vegetable oil to your horse’s feed will provide a bit of vitamin E and will help with absorption of the vitamin E provided by feed and supplements.

High-fat feeds are typically fortified with vitamin E, and it’s a good idea for most horses to provide a feed that is lower in carbohydrates and higher in fat.

Stabilized rice bran is a good choice for adding safe fat and carbohydrates, along with vitamin E to your horse’s diet.

Supplementation Needs Vary Throughout The Year

Vitamin E Supplement selection

Remember that your horse’s body cannot store vitamin E for very extended periods of time.

A healthy horse that has good grazing throughout the spring, summer and fall can typically store enough vitamin E to get it through the winter, but you should still supplement when grazing isn’t available during the winter months.

One who does not have sufficient natural vitamin E intake will need supplementation throughout the year. Extra supplementation may be advisable during the winter.

How Can You Choose The Best Vitamin E Supplement?

When looking for a good vitamin E supplement for your horse, choose a natural, alpha-tocopherol based product that is water-soluble. This type of product is easier for your horse to metabolize.

While it is a good idea to provide a combination of healthy sources of vitamin E (grass, hay, fortified feed and supplements) be sure to keep track.

A horse weighing about 1000 pounds should not consume more than ten thousand international units of vitamin E daily.

Frequently Asked Questions

vitamin e deficiency in horses Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do horses need vitamin supplementation?

It is important for horses to get correct and consistent amounts of vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K. Luckily, if you are feeding a good quality commercial complete feed designed for your horse’s age and activity level, your horse is probably already receiving the right amounts of these nutrients and will not need extra supplements. Consult your vet to be absolutely certain your horse is getting all the vitamins and minerals necessary.

2. Do horses need mineral supplements?

As with vitamins, most horses can receive the right amount of the minerals they need from a good quality, correctly selected commercial feed. There are some minerals that can be toxic to horses if too much is ingested. For example, excess amounts of selenium (which is often uptaken in large amounts from the soil by plants such as locoweed) can cause serious problems (e.g labored breathing, staggering, respiratory failure, blindness and even death). Fortunately, this problem is quite unusual. It is far more likely for horses to suffer from lack of selenium.

3. What is white muscle disease?

This degenerative disease is caused by a lack of vitamin E and selenium. This problem is most often seen in areas where the grass and hay are vitamin E and selenium deficient, such as Florida, the eastern Seaboard, the Great Lakes area and the Pacific Northwest. Nursing foals are most often affected by this problem which can cause tachycardia, reddish brown urine, difficulty swallowing and difficulty suckling. It is very important to be certain that pregnant mares and nursing dams get a feed preparation that contains ample amounts of vitamin E and selenium, especially in areas where natural forage is known to be lacking.

4. Will it hurt my horse to feed a complete feed and give a multivitamin supplement?

It is very possible to overdo vitamin supplementations. This is especially true when fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K) are given along with a complete feed. These vitamins are stored in the body rather than being excreted, and they can become toxic. Excessive amounts of vitamin A can be especially problematic because it can cause skin conditions, interfere with the development of bone and stunt a young horse’s growth.

5. Is it true that there is no such thing as too much magnesium?

It is very rare to have too much magnesium, but it is possible for horses who are being given magnesium sulfate for relief of constipation to suffer from hypermagnesemia (excess amounts of magnesium in the blood). This can cause tachycardia, rapid breathing, excessive sweating and muscle weakness. Hypermagnesemia is very rare in horses, but if you notice these symptoms (whether or not you are supplementing with magnesium sulfate) be sure to consult your veterinarian.

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