Eleanor M. Kellon, VMDEleanor Kellon, VMD is one of a handful of experts in the field of applications of nutraceuticals for horses. She is an authority in the field of equine nutrition as well as conditions affecting performance horses.
Spirulina for horses is a dense, green powder derived from freshwater, blue-green algae. In laboratory experiments, it has been documented, both in vitro and in vivo, as having potent anti-histaminic, anti-inflammatory and immune system moderating effects.
Why Feed Spirulina to Horses?
You can feed spirulina to horses to support skin and lung health as well as to provide an excellent source of protein.
Spirulina is used, throughout the world, as a protein and dietary source by the World Health Organisation and has a very high safety profile. Its high protein content means it is particularly valuable for feeding to malnourished populations.
Nutritionally, dried spirulina contains about 60% (51–71%) protein and less than 20% carbohydrates. It is a complete protein containing all essential amino acids, though with reduced amounts of methionine, cysteine and lysine when compared to the proteins of meat, eggs and milk. This means that it should be accompanied by both lysine and methionine supplementation when fed to your horse for maximum growth and muscle function. It is, however, superior to typical plant protein, such as that from legumes. WE tend however not to recommend it as the best protein supplementation because in comparison to pea protein it has a lower protein level and a poorer amino acid profile. Where spirulina is of benefit is where a horse needs support to maintain skin and lungs against seasonal challenges from midges and lung irritants such as dust and pollen.
Spirulina has an immunomodulating effect on some of the immunoglobulins produced as a response to an allergy. Immunoglobulins are used by the immune system to defend the body, to identify and neutralize pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. The antibody recognizes a unique molecule of the harmful agent, called an antigen.
Antibodies are typically made of basic structural units—each with two large heavy chains and two small light chains. Antibodies are able to bind to receptor sites and this helps to direct the appropriate immune response for each different type of foreign object they encounter. For example, IgE is responsible for an allergic response consisting of mast cell degranulation and histamine release. These interactions mediate allergic signal transduction to induce conditions such as asthma or COPD in the horse.
The immuno-modulating effect means that spirulina has been shown to involve a shift in antibody class toward IgG and IgA, and away from IgE. IgE is the antibody responsible for allergic reactions. So where horses are showing signs of an allergic immune response through lung and skin issues it can be highly beneficial as IgG and IgA are the normal protective antibodies that form against proteins in bacteria or viruses.