Algae: The Next Big Thing for Equine Lameness and OA?

An extract from blue-green algae—a potentially toxic substance—could help arthritic horses without poisoning them.
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Algae: The Next Big Thing for Equine Lameness and OA?
Blue-green algae contains a protein bound pigment called C-phycocyanin that possesses both anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties and has been shown to help humans, dogs, and horses with OA in some studies. | Photo: iStock
Osteaoarthritis (OA) in horses is a painful condition, frequently resulting in loss of use and economic consequences. Considering there is currently no cure for OA, affected horses are often treated with “the kitchen sink,” meaning owners and even some veterinarians are willing to try just about anything to make an OA-affected horse more comfortable and to slow disease progression … including algae extracts.

“Blue-green algae contains a protein bound pigment called C-phycocyanin that possesses both anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties and has been shown to help humans, dogs, and horses with OA in some studies,” explained Jennifer Taintor, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, from Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in Alabama.

Because some of the currently used medications for OA are associated with potentially serious adverse reactions, researchers have focused their attention on more natural products, such as blue-green algae extracts, for ameliorating clinical signs of OA.

To better determine if C-phycocyanin is beneficial for treating horses with OA, Taintor and colleagues employed 41 athletic horses with naturally occurring lameness due to OA. Half of those horses received a commercially available C-phycocyanin supplement while the others received a placebo. The researchers followed the manufacturer’s dosing instructions for both loading and maintenance doses and administration frequency

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Written by:

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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