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The Nutritional Management of Equine Muscle Disorders

Muscle diseases are common challenges both for the horse owner and veterinarian, especially if the horse is an athlete. Proper dietary management with appropriate nutrient supplementation is essential to the recovery of horses with nutritional myopathies. With the proper ration, exercise program, and good veterinary care, many horses can comfortably return to work.

Nutritional Solutions to Support Your Patients

See our recommended Platinum Protocols for common equine conditions and injuries.

Condition Products Protocol
Overall Wellness
  • Platinum Performance® Equine or
    Platinum Performance® CJ
Administer 1 scoop of Platinum Performance® Equine or Platinum Performance® CJ BID.
Cachexia
  • Platinum Performance® Equine
  • Equi-Whey
  • Healthy Weight
Administer 1-6 scoops of Platinum Performance® Equine BID in addition to hay and feeds. Administer 1 heaping scoop of Equi-Whey and up to 100 mL Healthy Weight BID.
Exertional Rhabdomyolysis
  • Platinum Performance® Equine
  • Healthy Weight
  • Platinum Antioxidant or
    Vitamin E
  • Platinum Electrolyte
Administer 2 scoops of Platinum Performance® Equine and up to 1/2 cup Healthy Weight BID. Administer 1 scoop of Platinum Antioxidant or Vitamin E BID. During heavy work or hot weather, administer 1-2 scoops of Platinum Electrolyte 1-2 times a day.
Rhabdomyolysis
  • Platinum Performance® Equine
  • Equi-Whey
  • Hemo-Flo®
  • Platinum Antioxidant
Administer 2-4 scoops of Platinum Performance® Equine BID or TID while training and competing. Feed no grain or oat hay. Administer 3 level (4oz) scoops of Equi-Whey BID. For severe cases, administer 1-2 scoops of Hemo-Flo® BID and 1 rounded scoop of Platinum Antioxidant BID.
Nutritional Myodegeneration
  • Platinum Performance® Equine
  • Vitamin E
  • Selenium Yeast* or
    Platinum Antioxidant*
Administer 1 scoop of Platinum Performance® Equine, 1 scoop of Vitamin E and 1 scoop of Selenium yeast or 2 scoops of Platinum Antioxidant BID.
*Total daily dietary selenium from all sources (forage, commercial feeds, supplements) must not exceed 2 mg selenium/kg dietary dry matter. Whole blood selenium concentrations should be monitored every 1-2 months, and a maintenance dose of selenium should be provided once whole blood selenium returns to normal.
Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM)
  • Platinum Performance® Equine
  • Healthy Weight
  • Platinum Antioxidant or
    Vitamin E
  • Platinum Electrolyte
Administer 1 scoop of Platinum Performance® Equine and up to 100 ml Healthy Weight BID. Administer 1 scoop of Platinum Antioxidant or Vitamin E SID. During heavy work or hot weather, administer 1-2 scoops of Platinum Electrolyte 1-2 times a day.

SID = 1 time daily, BID = 2 times daily, TID = 3 times daily.​

Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM)

Effective dietary management of the horse with PSSM focuses on maintaining an ideal body weight and body condition score. Horses should be placed on a more natural forage-based ration that provides necessary calories using fat as an energy source rather than feeds that contain a high concentration of sugar and starch and other non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) like grain. Ideally, forage should be tested, and only hay having an NSC concentration less than 12% should be fed. Because horses with PSSM cannot mobilize adequate amounts of glucose from the stored glycogen to meet their cellular energy needs during exercise, it is essential that:


  • The concentration of NSC in the ration should be limited to <12%.
  • Fat can be added to the ration using oil, rice bran or a low NSC, fat supplemented commercial feed.
  • Flax oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and helps to lessen the systemic inflammatory response.
  • Whenever plain fat is added to an equine ration, vitamin E should also be used to protect against the oxidative damage that could occur when the fat is metabolized. As a general guideline, it is advisable to add 1,000 - 2,000 IU of vitamin E for every cup of oil.

Exertional Rhabdomyolysis

The nutritional management of horses with exertional rhabdomyolysis is very similar to the management of horses with diagnosed or suspected PSSM. The ration must be evaluated with a goal of reducing the concentration of NSC, replacing the calories with dietary fat. Supplementation with fat is most effective when the horse has a daily energy requirement above 21 Mcal digestible energy 1. The essential fatty acid composition of the fat used in the ration of a horse with exertional rhabdomyolysis affects their recovery, and fats that contain a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids like flax oil are preferred.

  • Adequate vitamin E and selenium should be provided in the ration of horses with exertional rhabdomyolysis to protect against cellular oxidative damage.
  • Chromium supplementation may have a calming effect on horses with exertional rhabdomyolysis, and can be provided as an oral supplement at a dose of 5 mg per day.2 Chromium supplementation is contraindicated in horses that have PSSM.
  • Because of the excess loss of electrolytes through sweat, affected horses often benefit from dietary electrolyte supplementation with sodium, potassium and chloride. Electrolytes are especially important in horses that work for long periods of time, and for horses that work in a hot and humid environment.

Nutritional Myodegeneration

(Vitamin E/Selenium Deficiency, white muscle disease)

The dietary management of a horse with nutritional myodegeneration focuses on vitamin E and selenium supplementation to help restore normal concentrations of these two essential nutrients.

  • Vitamin E is safely added to the ration at concentrations up to 10,000 IU per 1000 pound horse per day. Natural vitamin E has a much better bioavailability in the horse than does synthetic vitamin E, and should be used whenever available. In severely affected animals, selenum and vitamin E can initially be given as an injection. Because these injections carry the risk for an infectious myonecrosis, oral supplementation with selenium and vitamin E is much safer and is preferred for long term treatment.
  • Selenium yeast is more bioavailable than inorganic sources of selenium, and is the preferred form of dietary selenium. Because selenium can be toxic if fed in daily concentrations exceeding 2mg selenium per kilogram of dietary dry matter, oral supplementation with selenium must be carefully controlled. All dietary sources of selenium should be identified to ensure that the horse is not over supplemented. It is advisable that blood samples be tested for vitamin E and selenium concentrations on a regular basis, and once the horse is replete in these nutrients, a maintenance dietary supplementation program should be developed with the owner.

Client Success

Shamrock Girl, a 4 year old Thoroughbred filly, presented with a long history of chronic exertional rhabdomyolysis that was refractory to treatment. On average, Shamrock Girl would have an episode of exertional rhabdomyolysis one to two times a week which limited her ability to train and race. The daily ration was composed primarily of grass and alfalfa hay and included a small volume of grain and 1/4 cup of corn oil. Due to the persistent myopathy, the corn oil in the ration was replaced with 1/4 cup of a commercial flax oil that also contains supplemental vitamin E.* Four days after the addition of flax oil to the ration, the filly experienced only one episode of exertional rhabdomyolysis. Shamrock Girl’s exertional rhabdomyolysis has now resolved, she has successfully returned to racing, and has already won one race.

*Platinum Healthy Weight

Science Behind the Supplements

White Papers

The Nutritional Management of Equine Muscle Disorders

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Supplementing for Performance and Recovery in the Equine Athlete

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The Natural Diet: Feeding for Health

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Weight Management Product Flyer

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