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Low-Carb Diets for Horses


Selecting the right feed is critical to the well-being of your horse.

With all the publicity about "low-carb diets" for people, you may be surprised to learn that low carbohydrate diets are also extremely important in horse nutrition. Excessive levels of certain types of starches and sugars in horse feeds can cause problems such as colic, laminitis and tying-up disease.

Southern States has feeds formulated for the nutritional requirements of horses of every age, size, level of activity and special dietary need. Your local Southern States retailer can help you select a feed designed for your horse's specific needs.

Dr. Marty Adams, equine nutritionist for Southern States, explains that not all plant carbohydrates are alike.

Structural carbohydrates make up the cell wall of plants. This fiber is generally well digested in the large intestine. On the other hand, some nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC), which are made up of sugars and starches found inside the plant cells, result in toxins that are released in the bloodstream. These toxins are believed to cause laminitis or lameness.

"Feed management is the first step in limiting laminitis problems in horses," Dr. Adams says. "Avoid feeding too much grain. This is a common cause of colic and founder. Maintain proper fertility levels of pastures, control weeds and don't overgraze."

He says the next step is to select a feed with a low NSC level and appropriate fat level.

"Feeds from Southern States that have a beet pulp base, such as Triple Crown Complete, Senior and Growth, have the lowest NSC values of the feeds we offer," Adams reports. "Triple Crown Lite also has a very low NSC level and is based on soy-bean hulls. It's ideal for ponies, miniature horses, overweight horses and 'easy keepers.'"

"Our newest introduction, Triple Crown Southern States has formulated feed to meet the specific nutritional Low-Carb Diets for Low Starch with 15% total NSC is designed for horses with laminitis, tying-up disease, Cushing's Disease, insulin resistance and diabetes."

Whether your horse is healthy or not, Adams says, your best course of action is to consult with a Southern States equine feed specialist or feed dealer to develop a nutrition program for your specific needs.


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