Feed Supplements For Healing

By Andy Juell

© Anvil Magazine

published in ANVIL Magazine February, 1999

Laminitis, particularly in the post-onset phase of the disease, requires a multi-tiered approach. Certainly such a support system involves the veterinarian, a competent farrier, medications to deal with inflammation and pain and, though often overlooked, nutritional support. The latter is particularly important, for the recovery phase is both long term and systemic in nature. The optimum is to provide specific nutritional support that deals directly with both a compromised circulatory apparatus as well as the highly specific requirements of what best can be described as a chronic disease, particularly when the acute phase has passed.

Over the past few years, a number of supplements have been developed to address these specific needs. While lacking definitive scientific support, at least as far as serious research may demand, these supplements have proven to be beneficial through a process known as cause and effect: specific cases have exhibited positive results in conjunction with nutritional support. Some are quite subtle, others rather dramatic. The bottom line is that in many cases, a process of systemic recovery holds no claim other than the supplements themselves. This is not to infer that a magic bullet exists, for it probably doesn’t. What it does indicate is that nutrition, particularly case-specific support, has been overlooked in treating chronic laminitis. Following are a number of testimonials, certain not scientific, but nonetheless pertinent, particularly given the nature of a disease that has perplexed and confounded the best authorities available.

Dr. Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS, holds a masters degree in nutritional biochemistry, as well as being a board-certified nutrition specialist. He has been fundamental to the development of Farrier’s Formula, a supplement designed to improve both the normal and the damaged hoof. As Dr. Gravlee is quick to point out, “Nutritional care is often less noticeable and slower to appear than the results of external care,” yet both are extremely important to overall recovery. Gravlee stresses that genetic differences point toward different nutritional needs; i.e., what’s good for Oscar may be detrimental for Joe. How a horse metabolizes its feed and the nutrients contained within it is totally dependent upon the individual. He also states that “The hooves serve as a highly reliable indicator of (the) horse’s dermal health."

Nutritional problem-solving can be especially tough, as there are many essential nutrients required for healthy connective tissue. When horses have poor feet due to dietary factors, it can be difficult to determine the exact cause. You can, however, assume the animal is 1) not receiving the correct nutrients, 2) not absorbing them sufficiently, or 3) another dietary factor is interfering with nutrient utilization.” Bob Peacock of the Farrier Science Clinic has also done extensive research on the specific needs of the post-laminitic horse. His product, Nu-Foot, along with the topical FungiDye, addresses two issues of paramount importance in dealing with a compromised hoof—the first is the overall nutritional requirements needed to restore healthy horn; second, the post-laminitic occurrence of sporotrichosis, more commonly known as white line disease, an affliction that attacks both healthy and compromised hooves.

FungiDye seems to be particularly effective at destroying the fungus at its source, which is the tissue of the white line. Peacock goes a bit further, conducting impromptu research and data gathering from his clientele, publishing the material for general consumption. To be sure, this might not be scientifically correct, at least as far as the accepted paradigms go, but the information is first hand and honestly given. Dr. Jonathan L. Cohen, DVM, states: “For the last several years I have used the Nu-Foot feed supplement. The Nu-Foot feed supplement has proven to me to be quite useful as an aid in the treatment of numerous hoof-related problems. With the addition of this supplement to a horse’s diet, there is a significant increase in overall hoof wall growth, as well as an increase in overall hoof wall quality. This has been very helpful in the treatment of any hoof disease that results in weak, slow-growing horn, as well as injuries where increased rate of growth will minimize the recovery period.” A third option exists which is relatively new. Farrier Wayne Blevins has been experimenting with Blue-Green Algae, normally a human supplement, but recently is being used as a feed supplement for horses.

Says Blevins, “The most significant [case] to date was a gelding in Sonoma, California, that had been chronically foundered for four years. The owner was a new shoeing client of mine and really ready to try anything. Laminitis had affected all four feet, but was most pronounced in the rear. When I first started, the hoof capsule was nearly detached on the worst foot, to the extent that I could move the hoof wall independent of the internal structure. This client was very close to losing this horse. I gave the horse the standard trim, initiated frog support, and rolled the toe to ease breakover. The only difference was a tablespoon of algae a day added to the feed. In six weeks I returned, astonished to find the laminae re-attached on two-thirds of the hoof, the horse well on his way to recovery. I now have four chronic laminitis cases taking the algae, all with similar results. And a total of 30 horses that I have knowledge of are reporting the same results that I have experienced.”

For several years, veterinarians around the country have been feeding E3 algae to their own animals and recommending it to clients. One veterinarian, Dr. Dean Bader, has seen remarkable results in the animals and horses he treats who have had E3 incorporated into their feeding routine. Dr. Bader states: “I noticed the animals and horses eating E3 were noticeably more healthy looking. When feeding E3 to horses with debilitating laminitis, I was astounded. In six weeks they were better than I have ever seen or could have imagined.”

According to Dr. Bader, feeding animals the essential minerals and vitamins they need strengthens the immune system and aids cell regeneration. This means less sick and lethargic animals and a quicker, more effective healing process in horses that are injured or have hoof problems. So what’s the answer? As Dr. Gravlee states, “If you begin a nutritional program to solve it [poor hoof quality], you should see a positive difference emerging from the coronary band within eight to ten weeks. If not, you should re-examine your nutritional [program] with the help of an equine nutritionist.” Most importantly, as Bob Peacock has pointed out, do not combine supplements in search of the best hoof. Many minerals and supplements have clear levels of toxicity; hence, the danger of “piling on.” More is not better and the end result may be detrimental to the horse’s overall health. Go slowly, get the best advice available, and be willing to experiment. Very much like human supplements, use a little caution and a fair amount of common sense.

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