Cod liver oil is a superb source of vitamin A, vitamin D, decosaheaxenoic acid, which is also known as DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid, which is also known as EPA. Because cod liver oil is a great supplement for people, it's natural to wonder if it might not be a good supplement for horses - in much, much larger doses. Most veterinarians who specialize in equine care, however, recommend sticking to the traditional fatty acid supplements for horses.
Do Horses Need Supplemental Fatty Acids?
It's a little known fact that Dr. Barry Sears, celebrated creator of The Zone Diet, actually based his weight loss plan on an optimal diet for race horses. Horses naturally eat low-fat foods, and the addition of healthy fats to a horse's diet greatly increased speed on the racetrack. But just as you wouldn't feed your horse a thick, juicy T-bone steak, you should not give your horse cod liver oil, either.
Horses, unlike humans, do not have an enzyme for processing an alcohol that naturally occurs in cod liver oil. In horses, the amino acid histidine in cod liver oil is more likely to become histamine, the chemical that causes the symptoms of allergic reactions.
A horse with a sinus condition is not a pretty sight. Chances are that your horse will not react well to cod liver oil. That does not mean, however, that horses cannot benefit from additional omega-3 fatty acids in their diets.
Real Food Is Best for Horses
Instead of giving your horse an omega-3 essential fatty acid supplement, give your horse foods that are naturally rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and, that old reliable favorite, oats. Of all the foods on this list, flaxseed has the longest history as an additive to horse feed. Even the ancient Romans fortified the diets of their horses with flaxseed.
Don't force your horse to eat what you believe should be a healthy diet. Allow your horse to make its own choices of foods. Your horse will let you know which food it likes best, and probably is best for its health. Some thoroughbreds are given flaxseed oil rather than flaxseed, but this is a very expensive food for a horse that no scientific research has ever shown to be beneficial.