Feeding Garlic to Horses
As you may already be well aware, garlic is one of the more controversial things to feed horses. Some people say it’s dangerous for horses to consume, while others tout its many benefits.
So what’s a person to believe?
Well, it appears to be true–garlic can cause problems IF fed in large amounts. In this 2005 study, researchers worked up to feeding nearly half a pound of garlic to two horses over an extended period of time (71 days). Blood work revealed that the horses developed Heinz body anemia– a condition resulting from of oxidative damage to red blood cells. This type of anemia has also been associated with red maple leaf and wild onion toxicity, as well as phenothiazine (an anthelmintic drug) administration. Once the garlic supplementation stopped, however, the horses completely recovered from the anemia within five weeks. The researchers concluded by saying, “Further study is required to determine the safe dietary dose of garlic in horses.”
The point this study makes is that, in large amounts, garlic CAN be harmful to horses.
But then again, many things can be harmful when fed in large amounts (high NSC grass, feed, medications, etc.).
So is it safe to feed a smaller amount of garlic without studies to back it up? Many people believe so. Even the National Research Council says that 7.5 grams of dried garlic powder per day, long-term, should not be harmful to most horses.
Garlic has been used for health reasons in human civilization for thousands of years. But here is why some people choose to feed garlic to their horses:
The most popular use for garlic is to repel biting insects such as flies, midges (responsible for Sweet Itch), mosquitoes, and ticks (whether it can do so when only a small amount is consumed is up for debate). However, garlic is also a natural antibiotic which has reported benefits in horses with respiratory problems. Garlic is rich in selenium, sulfur, and B-vitamins, it supports a healthy digestive system, and it may also have anti-parasitic effects.
Feeding garlic is a personal choice–some believe it is healthy and beneficial for horses while others would rather not take the risk of feeding it. Like any other herb/ natural supplement, garlic should not be considered a cure-all or a complete solution to your horse’s problems. Horses with weaker immune systems tend to attract more biting insects and parasites than healthy horses. Garlic, alone, won’t likely correct this problem. However, it could very well be PART of the solution. Therefore, it’s up to you, as the horse owner, to decide if garlic is right for your horse.
Feel free to share your experiences with garlic in the comments!
Sources and Further Reading