Buyer beware

By Admin

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A plethora of supplements for horses are available, and some are more useful than others. Unfortunately there are no regulations that ensure supplements contain useful amounts of active ingredients, and the only regulation to protect the customer is that manufacturers must put in what they declare on the label (within certain tolerances), and declare these ingredients in a certain way.

Take care with the level of active ingredients in your chosen product. If you look at the label and ingredients are listed per kilogram (kg), you will need to adjust this to the amount per daily dose, in order to assess the product or compare it to others.

To adjust levels per kg to levels per daily amount, divide the amount by 1000, then multiply it by the daily dose in grams. For example, if a product contains 10,000 iu of vitamin E per kg, and the daily amount fed is 50 g, then the amount of vitamin E your horse will receive daily is (10,000/1000 = 5) x 50 = 500 iu

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Deciphering product labels can sometimes be challenging, partly because there is some information that has to be included for legal reasons, but doesn’t tell you much about the product. The analytical component of every feed and supplement product – usually in terms of the ash, protein, fibre and oil – must be listed on the label or accompanying literature, and these figures must be within certain constraints. Note that these are analytical components, not actual ingredients, so your supplement does not contain actual ash! Ash is what is determined in the laboratory by literally burning the supplement, and it tells us something about the inorganic matter – mostly minerals – that the product contains.

If ingredients are included in percent (%), then take that figure, divide by 100 and then multiply this figure by the daily amount of product. For example, a product that is 25% protein and fed at a rate of 50 g daily will supply (25/100 = 0.25) x 50 = 12.5 g of protein.

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To convert milligrams to grams, multiply by 1000; so a product stating it contains 1000 mg of vitamin C, for example, contains 1 g. Be careful that you are comparing like for like, because some ingredients will be declared in grams and some in milligrams.

Unit conversions
1000 mg 1 g
1000 g 1 kg
28 g 1 oz
455 g 1 lb
2.2 lb 1 kg
1000 ml 1 litre
Examples of amounts per serving from amounts per kg
1 g/kg 50 mg/50 g serving
500 mg/kg 25 mg/50 g serving
Examples of percentage inclusions
10% rosehips 2 g rosehips per 20 g serving
25% protein 12.5 g protein per 50 g serving
30% flaxseed oil 15 ml per 50 ml serving

If in doubt about what your chosen supplement contains, or you can’t work it out from the label, don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer, and they should be happy to tell you. At Pegasus Health, we are happy to help you with any questions you have about any of our supplements.

The volume of a scoop in millilitres (ml) does not equate to the weight of any given supplement in grams (g), due to the density of different ingredients.

For example, a 20 ml scoop of a finely ground heavy ingredient like limestone flour might weigh 40 g, yet a 20 ml scoop of a fluffy dried herb such as nettle might weigh just 10 g.

You may wonder why non-essential ingredients are sometimes added, and sometimes there is good reason. Where daily amounts are too small to be accurately measured, the active ingredients are mixed with a carrier to make an amount that can be administered in a scoop. An example is biotin, which might be fed in as small a quantity as 15 mg. Such an amount would be a fraction of a human-sized capsule and impossible to measure out with a scoop. Sometimes, unpalatable active ingredients are mixed with very palatable bases. Pegasus Health has a strict policy of using carrier ingredients only where necessary. Pegasus joint supplements contain enough ingredients that they are pure, without any bulker, filler or carrier because effective rates for horses are grams per day. Pegasus Health believe that by only selling pure ingredients in their joint supplements, the customer is buying a more powerful product and getting the best value for money.

Horses have a great deal of individual variation in their response to many nutrients and ingredients, something that makes nutrition and health research challenging. This variation also means that some horses respond better to some supplements than others. Sometimes you need to try something for your individual horse. Do give supplement products a fair try of at least a month’s supply and longer for joint and hoof supplements.

“ Despite popular belief, there is no good scientific reason to use loading doses ”

Despite popular belief, there is no good scientific reason to use loading doses for supplements for horses if the maintenance level of the product is an effective amount. Moreover, some supplements should be introduced gradually to ensure palatability and to adapt the gut to the new product. It is possible that longer term, some supplements can be reduced to half the amount and efficacy maintained, and this will be stated on the label.

Some products might recommend a loading dose because the maintenance dose contains only a portion of the regular effective amount. For some horses, this lowered dose may be enough, but for many, it is not. Some ingredients in some products, including joint supplements, are very expensive so manufacturers make the product more affordable by including them in very tiny doses. These manufacturers can then state their product contains the ingredient, even though it is not included at a level that is of any use.

Combining active ingredients sometimes enables them to be included at lower amounts but still be effective, but this is not evidence based and it’s difficult to assess from reading the label.

More is not always better, and there is a trend for vitamin A levels to be very high in supplements. Vitamin A is a very useful but is toxic at very high levels, and it is possible that an owner feeding the full recommended amount of a fortified compound feed plus several supplements containing vitamin A, could be unwittingly causing toxicity problems in their horse.

How do you know how much is the correct daily amount for a health-promoting ingredient? Unfortunately there is not one independent place to find out how much of each type of herb, nutraceutical or nutrient that is going to be effective. If you want reliable information, you need to refer to evidence based textbooks or articles written by suitably qualified people e.g. a registered nutritionist.