Scientific and Equine Consultant

Equine Anaemia – Why iron is unlikely to help!

Equine Anaemia – Why iron is unlikely to help! Dr David Marlin

Iron deficiency is EXTREMELY RARE in horses in the UK and almost always the result of blood loss (e.g. GI bleeding).

Despite this, there are many feeds and supplements marketed to horse owners which are high in iron. Its a good story. In people anaemia can be due to low iron. People who are anaemic have low energy. Giving them iron supplements restores their energy.

Its not the same in horses! Maybe 1 in 10,000 horse needs extra iron in the UK. ANAEMIA or LACK of energy in horses is VERY RARELY due to IRON deficiency and feeding excess iron may not be good for your horse.

If you want to read some good veterinary advice on the potential causes of ANAEMIA in horses and the treatments, have a look at the excellent information on Liphook Vet Hospitals site….. “Iron deficiency anaemia may occur with chronic haemorrhage over weeks to months (though it is very rare and far less common than iron excess as a result of over-zealous supplementation).”

If you want to know if your feeds or supplements are high in iron then:

(1) Look at the label

(2) Ask the manufacturer

(3) Look up the values online e.g. https://www.feedipedia.org/

The estimated daily requirement of a 500 kg horse in light work is 400 mg of IRON per day and rises to 500 mg for a horse in hard work. Two-year old horses have a requirement around 530 mg/day and the highest requirement is for lactating mares: 625 mg/day. Forages tend to provide around 200-400 mg iron per kg of dry material.

BOTTOM LINE? Avoid feeds that are high in iron or with added iron. Don’t feed supplements that have added iron.



Date: October 14, 2017