Ask the Vet – Can a horse get too much protein?
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Ask the Vet – Can a horse get too much protein?

October 20, 2019

DAN: “Is it possible for a
horse to get too much protein in their diet?” So I was actually really excited
to see this question come through because I’ve
spent a lot of time on our Customer Care team,
and this is definitely a question that gets
asked a lot by customers. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah, I
know people are concerned about protein in horses. And turns out that horses
don’t need much protein. But according to my
favorite resource– you know what it is. DAN: I can only imagine. DR LYDIA GRAY: The NRC nutrient
requirements of horses. They say not much
evidence exists concerning the effect of
excess protein consumption. DAN: OK. DR LYDIA GRAY: Meaning
that there’s not a real problem with it. Horses can tolerate a lot
more protein than they need. DAN: There’s no evidence
supporting that too much is cause for concern. DR LYDIA GRAY: What happens
if they get too much is protein is broken down by the
body, specifically the liver, and then excreted through
the kidneys as urine. And that breakdown produces
a byproduct called urea, and urea needs water
to flush it out. So if you feed your
horse too much protein, they’re going to drink
more water and pee more. So a lot of people say
their stalls are wetter and they smell the ammonia. So that’s one negative– con, I guess. Another is– DAN: But that’s not
a major health issue. DR LYDIA GRAY: No, it’s
just an annoyance, yeah. Another is, there is a
little bit of evidence that feeding too much protein
with horses that are exercising or working, it alters
their acid base balance and it might cause
early fatigue. So that would be, again,
not a health issue, per se, but more of
a performance issue. DAN: OK. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. And then because it’s quote
metabolically expensive to break down protein,
meaning it takes a lot of work and energy by the
body, it’s possible that if you’re
feeding your horse more protein than he
requires, that he’s actually going to lose weight. DAN: Interesting. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. And if it’s a young horse,
might not stunt the growth, but just result in a
slower growth rate. DAN: So because it takes
the body so much energy to utilize the
protein, therefore it could cause him to lose
weight because he’s exerting more than taking in. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah, exactly. You’re using energy or
calories to break down the protein instead of using
those calories for weight. DAN: Interesting. I think that’s going
to get a lot of people. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. The evidence for that is
not conclusive confirmed, but it’s– DAN: A theory. DR LYDIA GRAY: It’s
pointing that way, yeah. And it makes some sense. So the question I get asked
a lot is, in feeding horses, if you feed horses
too much protein, will it harm their
liver or kidneys because that’s where the work
is being done to break it down? And the answer is, no. If those organs are working
fine, then that’s great. That’s their job to break down
protein and other constituents. If, however, the liver or
kidneys are compromised– so their function
is not 100%, now you shouldn’t feed
excess protein. DAN: OK. So if they’re already having
an issue with those organs, then we probably should
be careful about how much protein– DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. And so a simple blood test
from your veterinarian can help you identify that. But that would be
the only concern. If the organs that
break down protein are compromised in
any way, then they can’t handle excess protein. But if they are fine, there’s
not a reason to give more and there’s not a lot
of health reasons– DAN: Well, that’s what I
was just going to ask you. Is there a time to
feed more protein? DR LYDIA GRAY: Well,
the NRC, again, it lists out how much
a horse needs– adult horses in no work,
adult horses in work, young horses growing,
and young horses that are growing and working. Lactating mares
actually need the most. And so you should aim to
feed the amount of protein they need and not less or more. And when you’re feeding
protein, it’s not actually the protein that you’re
feeding, it’s amino acids. And so the first limiting
amino acid is lysine. There is a value in
the NRC for lysine. So that’s really the
target you should aim for. Am I providing my
horse enough lysine? Because without that
specific amino acid, I can’t do anything
with the other proteins. DAN: Because amino acids are the
building blocks for proteins. DR LYDIA GRAY: Correct. That’s right. DAN: So therefore,
at that point, you need to make sure you
have those in order to– DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. And Nerida Richards, who
was here before, has a– maybe it’s Lego’s, where she
tells you to build a protein tower, but then she
doesn’t give you the one color that you need. And so you quickly learn
that, oh, that’s lysine. If you don’t have it,
you can’t build it. DAN: Interesting. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. And I’ve seen people
do it with necklaces. Like, make a necklace
and every fifth one needs to be a green
bead, but then they don’t give you any green beads. You’re like, well,
I can’t make it. DAN: So you need that
in order to keep going. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. DAN: Awesome. So no real reason to
be super concerned– DR LYDIA GRAY: It’s not
that big of a deal, yeah.

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  1. Duh, yes! Too much soy and your horse can tie up! My horse had NO health issues and tied up! The vet was there for four hours! This is the most stupid video I have ever seen, and I love Smartpak!


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