Choosing supplements for your horse – 5 important questions to ask

Looking for the right supplements for your horse? Asking these five questions will help you make the best choice for his health.

Equine supplements can play a key role in keeping your horse healthy and happy – particularly when they’re incorporated into a program that also includes a high quality diet, routine vet checks and competent care.

There are two types of supplement products:

  • Nutritional supplements — vitamins, minerals and other products intended to complement a complete and balanced diet. If your horse’s issue is not related to nutrition, he likely won’t benefit from a nutritional supplement.
  • Health supplements — products intended to support maintenance of normal biological structure and function, also known as “dosage form health products”. A joint support product is an example of a health supplement.

When purchasing a supplement for your horse, inspect product labels for answers to the following questions:

1. Are the product claims too good to be true?

There are no magic bullets. If a company claims—or even implies—their supplement will treat, prevent, mitigate or cure any disease, they are breaking the law and misleading consumers. Outrageous product claims should be an immediate red flag.

2. Does the product have a lot number?

Lot numbers do not guarantee quality, but they do demonstrate that the manufacturer likely complies with some quality standards requiring product traceability. Lot numbers are essential to helping manufacturers notify customers in the event of a recall.

3. Are ingredients and amounts clearly listed?

You should be able to determine the ingredients in a supplement and how much of each is contained in a dose. Ingredients should be listed in descending order by amount, but be aware that large numbers may be misleading. A large number followed by “ppm”, meaning parts per million, indicates a dilute concentration of the ingredient, and in fact may not be a meaningful amount at all.

4. Is there contact information if I have questions?

The label should list the company supplying the product, and their contact information. When you call, they should have a technician or veterinarian on staff who can answer your questions about the supplement, and about testing and quality standards. If you can’t get direct answers, consider a different product.

5. Does the supplement have the NASC Quality Seal?

The NASC Quality Program provides strict guidelines for product quality assurance, adverse event reporting and labeling standards. To display the National Animal Supplement Council’s Quality Seal on their products, a supplier must pass a comprehensive facility audit every two years, maintain ongoing compliance with rigorous NASC quality standards, and pass random independent product testing to ensure they meet label claims.

Price is a final consideration. Cheap products are typically cheap for a reason. Quality ingredients and responsible manufacturing cost money. Determine a price range that fits your budget and buy the best quality supplement you can get for that amount.