Feeding Horses with Neurologic Disease

Horses with neurologic disease often receive oral vitamin E supplementation.

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The main goals of feeding horses with neurologic disease are to supplement vitamin E and ensure that these horses continue eating a good-quality, balanced diet. Some horses with neurologic disease will have impaired balance and gait abnormalities that will prevent them from being turned out. If safe for the horse and handlers, some hand-grazing allows access to fresh grass and serves as physical therapy for the horse.

Horses with neurologic disease often have trouble balancing, especially when they lower their heads. Feeding hay in hay nets or placing feed on top of a straw bale makes it easier for neurologic horses to eat. These horses are sometimes reluctant to move around their stalls, so it is important to keep hay, feed, and water near each other, especially if the horse has difficulty moving around.

Several equine neurologic diseases–such as neuroaxonal dystrophy, equine degenerative myelopathy, and equine motor neuron disease–are believed to be caused by vitamin E deficiency and to improve with vitamin E supplementation.

Many veterinarians prescribe vitamin E supplementation for the treatment of equine neurologic diseases because of its neuroprotective effects. The usual recommended dose of micellized natural vitamin E (water-soluble d-α-tocopherol) for horses with neurologic disease is 5,000-10,000 IU (international units) by mouth every 24 hours. This is approximately 10-20 times the dietary requirement for an 1,100-pound (500-kg) horse

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