Spirulina (Blue-Green Algae) for Horses
Have you heard of spirulina? It’s a blue-green algae superfood that is useful for a variety of equine (as well as human and other animal) conditions, and I always try to keep some on hand. Named for its unique, spiral shape, spirulina has been around for about 3.6 billion years. I learned about it in my equine nutrition courses with Dr. Eleanor Kellon a few years ago and have since used it with a couple of my horses for lung allergy issues.
Spirulina is probably best known for its ability to boost the immune system. It’s high in protein (55-70%), vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. According to Dr. Kellon, it’s been shown “to specifically improve the production of IgG antibodies, while down-regulating allergies associated with IgA antibody responses.” (IgG and IgA antibodies are two of the five types of pathogen-fighting antibodies found in mammals.)
The health benefits of spirulina are many–and are backed by mainstream research. Here are a few equine conditions that spirulina supplementation can be beneficial for:
- Heaves/ COPD/ Asthma
- Seasonal respiratory allergies
- Hives and other skin allergies
- Sweet Itch (Summer Eczema)
- Poor immune function
So where do you buy spirulina? You can find it in many health food stores or order it online. But always make sure to buy spirulina (or any herb) from a reputable company (do your research!) In her book, Horse Journal: Guide to Equine Supplements and Nutraceuticals, Dr. Kellon recommends Herbalcom as well as Horse Tech. I prefer to buy spirulina in powder form, but it is offered in a wafer form for horses as well.
Spirulina powder is dark green and has a silky texture. It’s not the most palatable of supplements, but you can mix it in your feed to get your horse to eat it. If he won’t eat it in the feed, you can try mixing it in honey, applesauce, or distilled water and syringing it in his mouth.
The recommended dose for spirulina powder is 20 grams (1 oz.) or 10 wafers twice per day for a 1,000 pound horse. You will need to start with a smaller amount and work your way up to the 20 grams though. (Spirulina can also be combined with 2500 mg of Jiaogulan twice per day for horses with heaves.)
It may take up to four weeks to see results with Spirulina, so be patient and stick with it! If your horse suffers from seasonal allergies every year, you will want to start him on spirulina about a month before the symptoms tend to show up.
Use caution feeding spirulina or any other immune-boosting herb with a severely ill or debilitated horse as it may do more harm than good–check with a holistic veterinarian in a situation like this.