Saturday, May 25, 2024
HomeWhat Does Vitamin E Do For Horses

What Does Vitamin E Do For Horses

What Vitamin E Does For Horses

Ask the Vet – Why do horses need Vitamin E?

Vitamin E plays a role in many functions throughout the body, but it is known primarily as a potent antioxidant, meaning it binds with and limits the damage caused by free radicals, which are atoms or molecules with an odd number of electrons. Because they have an unstable electrical charge, free radicals tend to steal electrons from other molecules to become stable. But when the original molecule loses its electron, it becomes unstable and in turn tries to steal another electron from somewhere else. All this activity not only damages the molecules that have their electrons stolen, it may inhibit their ability to do their jobs within the body. If there are too many free radicals present in the tissue, this chain reaction can run out of control and injure cell walls, DNA and other vital structures.

Free radicals are a natural byproduct of the utilization of fats, carbohydrates and proteins as fuel. They do have beneficial functions they can help neutralize bacterial or viral threats, for example. But when the number of free radicals in the tissues climbs too highsuch as in the muscles after a horse exercisesthe body deploys antioxidants to bind with them, breaking the cascade.

to read about five diseases linked to Vitamin E deficiency in horses.

What Is Vitamin E

Vitamin E functions as a biological antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the cellular and subcellular damage caused by excess free radicals. Through the vitamins protective function as an antioxidant, and potentially other functions in gene regulation, vitamin E is associated with maintenance of normal muscle cell function and motor nerve signals.

Vitamin E Is An Important Biological Antioxidant Which Maintains Normal Neuromuscular Function In Horses This Vitamin Is Not Synthesized By Horses Therefore It Is An Essential Dietary Nutrient It Is The Primary Lipid


Vitamin E deficiencies are more common in horses with limited or no access to lush pasture. Due to shortened grazing season in our northern practice area, even those horses with access to unlimited pasture can become deficient in Vitamin E. Low Vitamin E levels can often results in poor muscle development, muscle weakness, or a more severe neurologic condition called Equine Motor Neuron Disease . Because our horses are intended to be athletes, we often monitor serum Vitamin E levels and supplement where necessary to maintain and improve performance levels.


The recommended daily amount of natural Vitamin E consumed by your horse should be 1,000 international units . If your horse is diagnosed as deficient based on a blood sample, we will often recommend very high daily levels, up to 10,000IU daily to restore normal levels quickly. It often takes weeks to months after initiating supplementation to bring a deficient horses vitamin E levels back into the normal range. These high levels of Vitamin E are safe to supplement, but choosing the right supplement is also important.


Vitamin E Chemical Name

Recommended Reading: What Type Of Prenatal Vitamins Are Best

Understanding Vitamin E In Equine Diets

  • PrintPrintPrint Post

Vitamin E is one of only two important vitamins that the horse cannot produce itself and therefore must be provided in the diet. This vitamin requires a small amount of fat in order to be properly absorbed, which is why it is considered a fat-soluble vitamin. Grazing horses usually get enough fat from green grass to satisfy this need.

The various roles of vitamin E in immune response, nerve and muscle function, and antioxidant action make it vital to the health of young, growing horses. Together with selenium, vitamin E acts to maintain normal muscle function, aid in the prevention of muscular disease, and provide antioxidant protection to body tissue, particularly cell membranes, enzymes and other intracellular substances, from damage induced by oxidation.

A deficiency of vitamin E may cause a variety of different symptoms and pathological changes, which may include nutritional muscular dystrophy and poor immunity to diseases . Both vitamin E and selenium may help leukocytes and macrophages survive the negative effects of toxic products that are produced when invading bacteria are destroyed.

Vegetable oils are relatively high in vitamin E but are generally not fed in sufficient quantities to make a big impact on the supply of this vitamin in the diet. The increasing popularity of high-fat feeds may have an impact on the fortification of vitamin E in feeds since these feeds require extra vitamin E to prevent oxidation of fat in the feed.

Does Vitamin E Help Horses With Epm

Vitamin E for Horses

The nutrient that is most commonly focused on for horses with EPM is Vitamin E. Supplementation with high levels of natural Vitamin E are often encouraged, as Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that supports nerve function and the immune system. Levels of 5,000 to 10,000 IU per day are recommended during treatment.

Read Also: What Vitamins Are Good For Acne

Vitamine E Archer Illustration

Free Radicals trying to attack the immune system

Vitamin E is the #1 antioxidant in the body, protecting individual cells every day. It is in every cell of your horses body and unique in being able to cross into spinal cord, brain, liver, eyes, heart, skin, and joints. In addition to being an antioxidant, Vitamin E is a potent anti-inflammatory when given in high levels, according to a University of Florida study.

Your horse does not make Vitamin E. Daily outside sources of Vitamin E are required to maintain the right blood and tissue levels to help protect cells. Nerve tissue especially requires Vitamin E to function properly. Horses quickly get deficient if they engage in moderate to high amounts of physical activity.


Fresh forage has a good amount of Vitamin E, but requires about 12 hours a day of grazing to get to the needed Vitamin E amounts. If your horse is on grass only a few hours a day, on a dirt lot, or has teeth issues and cant graze correctly, they will be Vitamin E deficient.

Fresh grass changes throughout the year in its amount of Vitamin E. In October, the amount of Vitamin E in grass is very little. Levels in the winter are at zero. Even on 12 hours of grazing April-September, horses will get only an estimated 1500-3000 units a day.


How Much Vitamin E Does a Horse Need?

– To survive: 1000-2000 units a day

– Engaging in regular exercise: 5000 units a day

– Broodmares: 5000 units a day


Natural Vitamin E For Horses Product Description

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant vitamin that cannot be made by the horse and must be obtained from the diet. Vitamin E is essential for healthy functioning of muscles, the immune system, reproductive function and the nervous system. Many horses may have an increased need for Vitamin E, including those on low Vitamin E intake due to low quality forage, those on diets with added oil, those in work, older animals and those used for breeding. Many Vitamin E supplements use the much cheaper synthetic forms of Vitamin E. Horse Natural Vitamin E & Selenium, as the name suggests provides a natural source of Vitamin E which has up to double the biological activity than synthetic forms of Vitamin E. Natural Vitamin E for Horses & Selenium also contains organic selenium which is essential for the optimal activity of Vitamin E. Horse Natural Vitamin E & Selenium deliver 3000IU of Vitamin E activity and 1mg of selenium per daily horse feeding rate.

Read Also: How Soon Will I Feel Better After Taking Vitamin D

Vitamin E Deficiency In Horses

In horses, Vitamin E and selenium deficiency often occur together and show similar signs. Suspected deficiency should be confirmed by a veterinarian.

Some non-specific signs that might suggest a vitamin E deficiency are:

  • Muscle soreness or frequent tying-up after exercise
  • Slow recovery from illness
  • More time spent lying down

To determine whether your horse is deficient in vitamin E, a blood test can be done that measures the serum concentration of alpha-tocopherol. The following is the range of results:

  • Adequate: 2 ug/ml
  • : 1.5-2 ug/ml
  • Deficient: 1.5 ug/ml

Not all horses that have low levels of vitamin E in their blood will show outward signs of deficiency. Factors like breed and age can affect levels in serum without necessarily impacting health.

For example, within the adequate range Thoroughbreds have been reported to have lower levels than other breeds .

It is normal for foals, weanlings and yearlings to have lower levels than adult horses, but foals should be monitored for neurological conditions that may develop due to deficiency.

How Can I Tell If My Horse Is Deficient In Vitamin E

Vitamin E Complex: What Does it Contain and How Does it Help You?

Vitamin E is measured as alpha-tocopherol concentrations. A blood sample using serum or plasma is the most readily available way to determine alpha-tocopherol deficiency. After taking the blood sample, it should be refrigerated and protected from light as soon as possible after obtaining a sample. Blood samples should be centrifuged at 4°C and plasma/serum separated as soon as possible. Since vitamin E deteriorates rapidly, serum/plasma samples should be stored frozen . Because external factors can influence test results, repeating the test may be in order if values are marginal or not in line with clinical signs/supplementation. Normal reference ranges used by most labs for plasma/serum concentrations of alpha-tocopherol in the horse are below. However, we recommend that horses are maintained at levels > 3 g /ml for optimal health and < 10 g/ml.

> 2 g/mL Adequate – Note that Cornell labs report this as > 200 ug/dL

1.5-2 g/mL Marginal

< 1.5 g/mL Deficient

Significant correlations exist between blood serum -tocopherol concentrations and fat, liver, muscle and cerebral spinal fluid levels in healthy horses. This correlation, however, is not consistently evident in horses with vitamin E responsive myopathy. In cases of vitamin E responsive myopathy, a discrepancy between serum and tissue levels of alpha-tocopherol may indicate that an abnormality exists in the uptake of -tocopherol into muscle tissues from the blood.

Recommended Reading: Which Fruits Have Vitamin B

Special Note: The Need For Thiamine For Horses Eating Bracken

Bracken produces a substance called thiaminase which breaks down Thiamine and causes a serious clinical deficiency. This can result in muscle weakness progressing to incoordination like staggers, degeneration of motor nerves and serious degeneration of the horse. Veterinary intervention is required, as a high dose of injectable thiamine may need to be given.

How Much Vitamin E Is Needed By A Horse

A 500kg horse on pasture and resting needs 375 iu per day, a lactating mare or a working horse needs 1200 iu daily. However when green feed is restricted foals and yearlings need 500-1000 iu, working horses 2000- 4000 iu, pregnant and lactating mares 2000- 4000 iu and stallions 1000- 2000 iu. Vetpro Vitamin E supplement contains 67,000 iu per kg. Therefore a 15gm scoop will provide 1005 iu and a 30gm 2010 iu.

NOTE: Products containing Iron should not be added to the same feed as Vitamin E as the vitamin will be destroyed by the Iron. Therefore supplements that contain both Iron and Vitamin E will not be providing any Vitamin E to the horse. If Iron is required then a separate feed at a different time will solve that issue.

Read Also: What Vitamins Should I Take On A Vegan Diet

What Types Of Vitamin E Supplements Exist

Most vitamin E supplements consist of natural or synthetic forms of alpha-tocopherol because alpha-tocopherol is the most biologically available and well researched isoform of vitamin E. Vitamin E, however is a complex nutrient consisting of eight closely-related fat-soluble naturally occurring compounds that form two groups tocopherols and tocotrienols . Within each group, there are four individual isoforms .

Can Too Much Vitamin E Cause Diarrhea In Horses

Does My Horse Need Vitamin E?

Remember, supplements are not without risk, especially supplementing fat soluble vitamins. How much is too much and what does Vitamin E toxicity look like? In people an overdose can cause muscular weakness, fatigue, diarrhea and bleeding. The possibility of bleeding is of the most concern in supplemented horses.

You May Like: How To Know What Vitamins I Need

Why Does A Horse Need Vitamin E

Vitamin E is needed for the correct functioning of the nervous system so low levels of Vitamin E in the diet can result in horses being nervy. It also can affect muscular efficiency and performance and has been attributed to creating susceptibility to tye up syndrome. It is often recommended in conjunction with selenium for horses prone to tying up. The other very specific need is for breeding stock both mares in foal and lactating, weanlings and stallions. The demand for Vitamin E is higher in breeding stock, necessary for proper function of the reproductive systems, and therefore these animals should always be provided with daily Vitamin E.

The greater the performance demands on a horse the greater the need for vitamin E. This is because of its contribution as an efficient anti-oxidant and therefore supplementation is appropriate to offset the development of free radicals which is of course increased in horses working harder. It is vital to offset these, as they can cause oxidative stress and hence damage to cells and cell membranes, by providing a good anti-oxidant supplement. This will maintain the integrity of the muscle structure, and prevent muscle damage.

Vitamin E Deficiency In Foals

Foals are especially susceptible to vitamin E deficiency because this vitamin is not passed through the placenta during pregnancy.

Foals can get vitamin E from their mothers milk. However, if foals and their dams are raised without access to pasture, their blood vitamin E and selenium levels will drop over the first year of life. In this case, foals and dams should receive supplemental vitamin E particularly in the first year of life.

Equine Neuroaxonal Dystrophy or Equine Degenerative Myeloencephalopathy is a neurological disorder that develops in foals that are genetically susceptible to this condition and are maintained on a low vitamin E diet.

Clinical signs are most likely to appear in foals between 6 and 12 months of age but can take up to 3 years of age.

Some clinical signs of eNAD/EDM are:

  • Abnormal stride/gait these foals might have difficulty positioning their legs and feet while walking. This might include dragging their feet, crossing their legs, a high stepping gait or an otherwise abnormal gait.
  • Obtundation decreased responsiveness or alertness. These foals might less responsive than normal to new sounds, people entering the stable etc.
  • this is a test of whether they flinch their eyes closed when something moves quickly towards their eyes.

Don’t Miss: How Often Should You Take Vitamin D

Vitamin E: An Equine Essential

This unsung antioxidant is vital for working horses. Heres how to ensure yours gets enough in the form that works best

Lets face it: Vitamin E isnt usually the first thing that springs to mind when considering supplements for performance horses.

Yet this plant-derived antioxidant often touted as a youthening agent in human productsis also critically important for equines in work.

And heres the thing: Where and how your horse gets it matters more than you might realize.

Muscle Matters

Vitamin E functions as a primary antioxidant in horsesbut what exactly does that mean?

According to equine nutritionist Katie Young, Ph.D., oxidation is a part of the normal metabolic process in which horses utilize dietary nutrients to produce the energy used for all functionsmaintenance, performance, growth and reproduction. However, a natural byproduct of oxidation are free radicals, which are compounds that can damage cells if left unchecked. Without adequate reserves of natural antioxidants, working horses may suffer increased muscle soreness or stiffness after exercise, not to mention prolonged recovery times.

But I have fresh, green pasture! you might say. Isnt that enough? While Vitamin E is indeed abundant in lush forage, most working horses dont have 24/7 access to it. Even for field-kept individuals, pasture quality varies considerably by location, season and other factors. Not surprisingly, Vitamin E activity is even more unstable in hay.

Vitamin E And Selenium For Your Horse

Equine Omega Complete – Vitamin E Information For Your Horse

Sep 6, 2019 | Educational Materials, Equine

Vitamin E and Selenium are involved in many systems within the body. Selenium is a mineral which is important for wound healing, stress tolerance, fetal development, healthy hair coat, and detoxification of drugs and other chemicals. In addition, selenium is critical for proper wound healing and muscle function, as well as preventing infection.

Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant and signs of vitamin E deficiency can be similar to those seen with selenium deficiency. There are several muscular and neurologic diseases which can result from a lack of vitamin E including Equine Motor Neuron Disease .

The soil in this region of the United States are deficient in Selenium, so forages grown in this area are also generally deficient and as a result equine diets should be supplemented. On the other hand, vitamin E is abundant in green growing pastures but the content diminishes with maturation and especially with harvesting for hay. Since we are unable to graze year-round, this vitamin should also be supplemented in the diet.

For example, we had a case of a broodmare that was having trouble getting in foal. She was kept on a dry lot and all forages she received were grown on sandy soil. She was in decent body condition and was strictly being used as a broodmare.

Vitamin E Level: 0.67 ug/ml

You May Like: What Does Vitamin C Lotion Do For Your Skin

Influence Of Specific Management Practices On Blood Selenium Vitamin E And Beta

Department of Clinical Sciences, Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA


Department of Clinical Sciences, Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA


Selenium or alpha-tocopherol deficiency can cause neuromuscular disease. Beta-carotene has limited documentation in horses.


Most Popular