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Fish Oil Supplements for Mares May Benefit FoalsBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · January 11, 2017

Fish oil continues to gain popularity as an equine nutritional supplement, benefiting an array of body systems and organs. Of particular interest are the specific omega-3s known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

In one of the most recent studies on omega-3 fatty acids*, pregnant mares were supplemented with 0.11 mL fish oil/kg body weight for 28 days prior to their estimated foaling date until 84 days after parturition. Researchers believed that fish oil, known to make cell membranes more fluid, could potentially increase the ability of a foal’s intestinal cells to absorb immunoglobulin G (IgG). This protein, obtained from the mare’s colostrum, provides foals with the ability to ward off infection when they are first born until their own bodies can provide sufficient levels of IgG.

Although this study did not demonstrate that supplementing mares with fish oil had any impact on IgG absorption in their foals, increased levels of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as DHA, were measured in the foals’ bloodstreams even at the time of birth. DHA supports brain development and facilitates trainability in young animals, including foals.

In addition to the above-listed benefits of high-quality fish oil products, such as EO•3, improved response to vaccination has also been reported. For more information and tips on tweaking your pregnant mare’s diet, contact a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist today.

*Hodge, L., B.J. Rude, T.N. Dinh, et al. Effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation to gestating and lactating mares on milk IgG, mare and foal blood concentrations of IgG, insulin and glucose, placental efficiency, and fatty acid composition of milk and serum from mares and foals. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. In press.