The health benefits of garlic for humans have been well documented. Garlic is rich in vitamin B, vitamin C, selenium and other nutrients. It is known to boost the immune system and appears to ward off the common cold. It can alleviate high blood pressure and can lower cholesterol. Studies in rodents have suggested that garlic could also improve athletic performance and bone health. Clearly garlic is something which should feature in the human diet but should it also be given to horses?
The Great Garlic Debate
Many equineowners feed garlic to their animals in the form of garlic granules for horses, or even within treats, and swear by the results. However, garlic has come under the microscope recently as it has been suggested that too much garlic could lead to a form of anaemia in horses.
There has been surprisingly little research into the effects of garlic on horses. It is thought to offer anti-septic, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties which can help to alleviate a variety of conditions and boost the immune system. Garlic is often used to reduce blood pressure and to improve respiratory problems. Horse owners also feed garlic for its insect repelling qualities. These are thought to keep flies, ticks and gnats at bay. Garlic is sometimes added to horses' diets to aid worming as it is believed to deter tapeworms, pinworms and roundworms. Freshly grown garlic can be offered to horses. Garlic may also be added to their diet in the form of garlic granules for horses or via equine supplements which contain an element of garlic. However, perhaps care should be taken not to overdo the garlic as there are now concerns that too much garlic can lead to anaemia.
Garlic contains N-propyl disulfide which it has been suggested may alter an enzyme within a horse's red blood cells. This can result in a depletion of phosphate dehydrogenase which protects the blood cells from the damage caused by oxidation. If the levels of phosphate dehydrogenase become too low, the blood cells may oxidise and form bubbles. The body sees these as cells as deformed and expels them from the bloodstream via the spleen. Horses may slowly become anaemic and mild anaemia has few if any symptoms. So there are many potential benefits to garlic but there could also be risks. Should you feed garlic to your horse?
The Way Forward
The health benefits of garlic have been known for thousands of years and so this member of the onion family is a great addition to your horse's diet. However, like many aspects of both equine and human diets, you can have too much of a good thing. The best way forward is to feed garlic in moderation as part of a balanced diet. More research would be helpful as it may be possible to identify the ideal dose. In the meantime if you feed garlic well within the recommended amounts then your horse will almost certainly benefit. Remember to consider if any other supplements or feeds you are giving your horse contain garlic. At Equi Supermarket we feature the highest quality garlic granules for horses together with a superb range of equine supplements.