Omega-3 Fatty Acids Could Benefit Horses With Osteoarthritis

Recent study results support the hypothesis that omega-3s could modify a joint’s response to inflammation.

No account yet? Register


Many owners provide their horses with omega-3 fatty acid supplements purported to support skin, coat, and hoof health; maximize joint health; manage behavior and cognitive issues; and even function as a natural insect repellent, among other perks.

But little evidence exists in the equine literature to support its use in any of these roles. So, C. Wayne McIlwraith, BVSc, PhD, DSc, FRCVS, Dipl. ACVS & ACVSMR, from Colorado State University’s Gail Holmes Equine Orthopaedic Research Center, and colleagues tested one of a commercially available omega-3 fatty acid supplement’s potential benefits: improving joint health. This project was part of a PhD program Trinette Ross, MS, conducted at the Orthopaedic Research Center.

“There is evidence that dietary omega-3 fatty acids, especially eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), can suppress inflammation and in vitro evidence that they can inhibit aggrecanase, which is the critical enzyme involved in degrading proteoglycan in articular cartilage,” McIlwraith explained. “Therefore, omega-3 fatty acids might help manage horses with osteoarthritis or even prevent the development of osteoarthritis in horses.”

The team randomly separated 12 mares into two groups. All horses consumed a diet consisting of an oat/molasses grain mix and Timothy grass hay; the treatment group also received 40 grams of an omega-3 supplement. After 91 days, the researchers induced joint inflammation in all the mares by injecting one carpal (knee) joint with recombinant equine interleukin-1β. They measured various markers of inflammation and joint disease in blood and synovial fluid before and after the joint injection to assess the omega-3 supplement’s impact

Create a free account with to view this content. is home to thousands of free articles about horse health care. In order to access some of our exclusive free content, you must be signed into

Start your free account today!

Already have an account?
and continue reading.


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.

Related Articles

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with

FREE weekly newsletters from

Sponsored Content

Weekly Poll

sponsored by:

Readers’ Most Popular

Sign In

Don’t have an account? Register for a FREE account here.

Need to update your account?

You need to be logged in to fill out this form

Create a free account with!