Blood Builders (Hematinics)

Administration of hematinics (also known as blood builders) to horses, either in the form of dietary supplements or as injectable compounds, is commonly practiced by owners, trainers, and veterinarians.
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Administration of hematinics (also known as “blood builders”) to horses, either in the form of dietary supplements or as injectable compounds, is commonly practiced by owners, trainers, and veterinarians. The general objective in using these compounds is to increase a horse’s supply of nutrients essential for the synthesis of hemoglobin and red blood cells (RBCs) and, in doing so, “build the blood” by increasing the number of RBCs. The basis for this practice seems obvious–the higher the number of RBCs, the better exercise performance will be.

Unfortunately, life is never that simple.

Yes, hematinics do supply nutrients that are essential for the production of RBC. However, their administration does not necessarily result in “blood boosting,” and the need for hematinics depends on a number of factors, particularly the make-up of the horse’s overall diet.

I am sure that many of you are aware of the current furor in human athletics concerning use of the doping agent erythropoietin (EPO). EPO, a hormone pro-duced by the kidneys, stimulates RBC production. With the advent of genetic engineering, human EPO became commercially available and, inevitably, human athletes looked to this drug as a means to boost performance. We also know that EPO has been used in horses, and currently there is concern among the racing authorities regarding illegal use of this drug (i.e., doping) in racehorses

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Written by:

Ray Geor, BVSc, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, is the pro vice-chancellor of the Massey University College of Sciences, in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

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