Feeding Garlic to Horses - benefits and dangers

Feeding Garlic to horsesThere is debate as to how much garlic should be fed as a feed supplement to horses, although it has many claimed benefits such as having anti-septic, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic effects, reducing blood pressure, improving respiratory problems in horses and acting as a fly repellent - recent research has shown that feeding large amounts of garlic to horses may have dangers as it can cause anaemia.

Garlic is used by many horse and pony owners as a regular equine feed supplement. It contains substances with benefits of pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory and reduce swelling.

It is believed that garlic is one of the most effective natural healing substance in the world. It is popularly used, in conjunction with anti-biotics to treat equine respiratory diseases and infections in the horse's lungs.

Garlic is rich in Selenium and Sulphur. Sulphur is recognised as having blood cleansing properties that are useful in treating and preventing equine disease. It is also believed to contain over 25 germ-killing compounds.

Many horse owners feed an equine garlic supplement for its insect repelling qualities - the sweat produced by a horse fed on garlic gives out an odour that keeps flies, ticks and midges away - making it a natural fly repellant.

Horse owners also find feeding garlic useful as part of their equine worming program. Regular feeding of Garlic is effective in deterring tapeworms, pinworms and roundworms - but this should not exclude the use of regular wormers.

Garlic can be used used to give relief from the symptons of coughs - it contains a substance that helps to clear mucus in the airways. This cleansing action, together with its ability to reduce inflammation, also benefits the urinary tract.

The recommended amount to feed is half an ounce to 2 ounces per day depending on the horse or pony's size. It comes in several forms for equine use - powder, freeze dried granules and some herbalists claim freshly grown garlic is the best way to feed it.

However feed with care as it is being discovered that there are dangers in feeding too much garlic as it can can cause anemia in horses.

There is a toxic element in Garlic called N-propyl disulfide which can change an enzyme within a horse's red blood cells, it depletes the cell of a chemical known as phosphate dehydrogenase - whose task is to protect the blood cells from damage caused by oxidation

When the level of phosphate dehydrogenase gets too low the hemoglobin in the blood cell oxidizes and forms a bubble. This is seen as being deformed as it passes through the spleen and is removed from the bloodstream. If the blood is consistently poisoned by N-propyl disulfide contained in a garlic supplement more red blood cells are removed and the horse may slowly become anaemic.

Researchers fed a healthy horse 1 lb of onion tops, which also contain N-propyl disulfide, over an 11 day period. By the 11th day the horse had lost almost 60% of his red blood cells and was severely anaemic!

Some vets claim that the toxic effects of garlic are gradual - a low dose fed on a regular basis can result in mild anemia.

However it may be that commercially prepared equine garlic supplements are not dangerous as the active ingredient -allicin - is often destroyed during the manufacturing process when heat dried.

The benefits of garlic are many and if you do decide to feed a garlic supplement just be careful not to overdo it.

Claimed Benefits of Feeding Garlic

  • Helps to increase a horse's appetite.
  • Boosts the antibiotic effect of drugs
  • Acts as a fly repellant - keeping midges, gnats, flies and mosquitoes away.
  • May help to eliminate worms and internal parasites - roundworms, hookworms, pinworms and tapeworms
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Purifies the blood.
  • It is a natural source of Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), commonly used to treat joint problems and allergies.

Types of Garlic Feed Supplements

  • Dehydrated or freeze dried garlic granules.
  • Fresh crushed garlic
  • Garlic Powder

Dangers of Feeding Garlic to Horses

  • May cause anaemia
  • May allow unfriendly bacteria to flourish - affecting the health of the horse's gastrointestinal tract.
garlic powder for horses

HistoricaL uses of Garlic

Garlic is mentioned in early Egyptian medical manuscripts dating back to 1550 BC.

It was fed to the Egyptian workers building the Pyramids, to increase their stamina and ward off infections.

During biblical times, Jewish people used it for the health of their donkeys and other animals


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