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Q&A

Platinum Performance® Founder Dr. Doug Herthel on the Power of Nutrition & the Roots of the Company

Dr. Doug Herthel has been practicing equine veterinary medicine for more than 4 decades. In the early 1990s, he started to see the power of nutrition and how it could complement his medical approach. He thinks about the potential impact of nutrition on every case he sees and how it could enhance medical and surgical outcomes.

Q There is Currently a Lot of Talk About "Wellness" Practices, such as Vaccinations, Farriery and Dental Care. What Role does Diet Play in an Equine Wellness Program?

A It's great to fix a colic or a fracture, but it is even better to prevent it. So, advocating proper nutrition is an important part of practicing good medicine. Every cell in the horse’s body has components that require the right nutrients to function optimally. These functions can be improved by providing the right balance of omega-3 essential fatty acids, trace minerals and antioxidants. Rather than thinking about treating a 1000-pound animal, I think about treating trillions of cells. By taking care of those cells, you are taking care of the horse. For example, when a specific health issue pops up, like it did with the recent outbreaks of EHV-1, we advised supplementing with additional zinc and lysine as a preventive measure. This recommendation was based on research performed at Colorado State University, that found that zinc supplementation has a significant impact in the prevention of the neurologic form of EHV-1.

Q How do You Approach a Specific Condition Like Allergies From a Nutritional Standpoint?

A Nutrition plays a role in every disease process, and the horse’s diet can either support or hinder healing and inflammation. Using the right nutritional protocol can enhance the responses to the medical plan. For example, severe allergic reactions can often be addressed by adjusting the horse’s diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are a wonderful way to support a horse’s healthy immune response in these cases. For more severe cases, we strengthen the level of support by adding nutrients like quercetin for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Fertility is another area in which dramatic improvements can be seen when nutrition is adjusted. We have participated in research trials that have shown that properly feeding and supplementing hard-to-breed mares with an anti-inflammatory diet greatly increases conception rates. Nutrients can be powerful, no matter what type of case you are dealing with. Providing the right nutrients in each case, gives that horse the best chance at recovery.

Platinum Performance Founder Dr. Doug Herthel, a Pioneer in Equine Veterinary Medicine

An alumni of the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Herthel founded Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center (APEMC) together with his wife Sue in 1972. A pioneer in veterinary medicine, Dr. Herthel has made numerous breakthroughs in abdominal surgery, fracture repair, regenerative medicine and nutrition therapy that have become today’s standard of care.

Committed to furthering the reach of biological medicine; a three-pronged approach that includes; therapeutic nutrition, bone marrow-derived stem cell therapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Dr. Herthel developed Platinum Performance® in 1996 to speed healing in equine patients after orthopedic surgery.

Q Inflammation Plays a Large Role in Nearly Every Equine Disease. How can Diet be Adjusted to Manage Inflammation?

A Controlling inflammation may be the most exciting intersection of nutrition and medicine. Although inflammation is part of the body’s natural and critical response to injury, excessive inflammation can interfere with a horse’s ability to heal. There are several ways to control inflammation, including corticosteroids, NSAIDS and nutrition. Each of these approaches can have a significant impact, and we certainly use corticosteroids and NSAIDS, depending on the situation. However, we find we use nutrition in almost every case.

Because omega-3 fatty acids get converted into anti-inflammatory compounds, whereas omega-6 fatty acids are converted into pro-inflammatory compounds, reducing the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s is an effective means of reducing systemic inflammation.

There are no negative side effects when feeding an anti-inflammatory diet. In fact, it is much more like the natural diet that horses evolved on, when compared to the typical modern equine diet.

Q What About the Underweight Horse? Some Horse Owners Choose Corn Oil as a Cost-Effective Way to Add Calories to the Diet of Their Underweight Horse. Is This a Good Idea?

A Corn oil is another example of a fat that is very high in omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3 fatty acids. So, it is considered pro-inflammatory. When a horse is fed corn oil, they will put on weight, but often at the expense of acquiring or exacerbating other conditions such as digestive problems, joint problems, and many other inflammatory conditions. I emphasize feeding as natural a diet as possible. Horses were meant to graze on a variety of grasses, which gave them access to all the vitamins, trace minerals, and many other essential nutrients. Today we keep many horses enclosed in stalls or pens, and they depend on humans to provide their feed. So, they are no longer choosing what they consume or how much exercise they are getting. Keeping the diet as natural as possible is essential to good health.

Q Should Every Horse’s Diet be Customized to Fit that Particular Horse? Or do All Horses Need the Same Things in Their Diet?

A We approach each horse as an individual considering their age, workload and any special health considerations that horse may have. Horses need a forage based diet that can be augmented with additional calories and supplements for optimum health. We always start with high quality pasture and/or hay. From there, we consider what the horse is required to do, and how they maintain their condition. We find most horses do well on a natural diet fed in combination with a comprehensive wellness formula that contains omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, trace minerals and antioxidants. Additional calories may be required in the form an omega-3 rich oil such as flax oil. We tend to discourage the overuse of concentrates and cereal grains simply because they are not the type of sustenance a horse was intended to eat, and overfeeding this type of ration can create health problems for the horse. From there, we look at each horse’s tendencies. What types of health problems have they had in the past? Does their discipline stress a particular part of their anatomy? We devise a supplement protocol that can help address these issues while supporting their overall wellness and maintaining a simplified program.

“Nutrition plays a role in every disease process, and the horse’s diet can either support or hinder healing and inflammation.”
— Dr. Doug Herthel

Q Client Often Want to Improve Performance With Nutrition. How do You Approach That Goal?

A Horses are asked to perform at a high level frequently and consistently. As a result, we believe it is important to prescribe a diet that not only helps improve performance and recovery but also promotes durability. The first step in the process is to feed an anti-inflammatory diet. After that, we add specific nutrients that support the horse’s bones, joints, connective tissues and immune system. In addition, we utilize nutrition that specifically encourages muscle recovery and development.

Q How did Platinum Performance® get started?

A back in 1996, we understood the power of nutrition, and we were looking to create a formula that would help improve the quality and speed of healing in our orthopedic surgery patients that had bone and soft tissue injuries. We based it on nutrients that are essential to overall health, then we added ingredients that are critical for immune support, bone and tendon strength, joint health, digestion and many other areas. The results spoke for themselves. The horses we were giving it to at our hospital started to pick up, recover and bloom much sooner after surgeries. So, we extended it to non-surgical cases, and the results were the same. We’d send each of our patients home with a bucket of what would later be called “Platinum Performance”, and soon word of the results spread. We started to get requests for Platinum from horse owners and veterinarians. So, I guess you could say it just grew out of a real need in our hospital. We certainly didn’t see it’s future growth back then. When people started asking for it, my wife had to come up with a name for it. So, she is the one that coined it "Platinum Performance". Since then, we’ve just continued to develop formulas that complement Platinum to help horses that need advanced support for specific health conditions. Often, we collaborate with other veterinarians that want us to develop a high-quality formula for their cases as well.

Q How Often do You Recommend Nutrition in Daily Practice?

A Nutrition is a standard-of-care for most cases in our practice, particularly for horses after orthopedic, joint or colic surgery and horses with lamenesses. We use nutrition to support hoof growth and strength, stallion and mare fertility, and in nearly all critically ill horses that need anabolic support, immune support, intestinal microflora support and weight loss support. In our practice, we use preventive formulas, performance formulas and those for specific health conditions. Nutrition is a powerful veterinary therapy option that we rely on in almost every case we see.

Amy Quintana
  • by Amy Quintana, Platinum Performance®