Return to Website

Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

Currently, I am discontinuing new questions. This may change in the future, but in the meantime, please know that It has been a true pleasure serving you. 

Take a look at my Nutrition Library and Tips of the Month for a variety of answers on selected topics. Be sure to sign up for my monthly e-newsletter, Forage for Thought

I also have a growing number of recordings on "Teleseminars on Nutrition Topics that Concern You" as well as the new, Spotlight on Equine Nutrition Series -- printed versions of favorite teleseminars.

And finally, look for my articles in a variety of local publications and online newsletters, as well as the Horse Journal, where I am the Contributing Nutrition Editor.  


All the best,

 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
This Forum is Locked
Equine Fibromyalgia

Hi Dr. Getty.

I have a 7 year old Oldenburg gelding who has had a rough year. In August, he colicked while on stall rest for a stringhalt-type stifle problem. He is a lifelong cribber. He had emergency surgery and subsequently, a mild case of founder. He has recovered from surgery and shows no signs of the founder.

He is currently on TDI senior ration (highly digestible ration with beet pulp..3 lb 2x/day), a flake of alfalfa 1x/day, and Nu Foot hoof supplement. He has access to coastal hay 24/7 either from a round bale in the pasture or square bales in the shed/stall if the weather is bad. I took him off corn oil (previously 1 cup per day) and Strongid C for the time being. I treated him for ulcers (45 days of expensive vet-prescribed liquid orally). The cribbing has diminished, but is not completely gone.

The stringhalt has returned (mild and intermittent, but aggravating), he has no energy, is stiff and sore all over, sometimes has swollen glands, kicks and bites when saddled, is hypersensitive to touch, prone to bruised soles (he is shod in front), his coat is dry and rough, some muscle atrophy along the topline, has trouble picking up the canter (lead changes are out of the question), and just generally looks tired and unwell.

My diagnosis is EFMS...equine fibromyalgia syndrome. My vet has no experience with this and is doing some research on it. My question is, do you have any suggestions for treating this from a nutritional standpoint? I think he may need more protein and less sugar for starters, but I don't want to just "throw" random treatments at it and hope something works. I look forward to your thoughts on this frustrating condition.

Where are you from? Pflugerville, TX

How did you locate this forum? internet search engine (MSN, I think)

Re: Equine Fibromyalgia

Hello Martha,

Yes, I am familiar with equine fibromyalgia. Your gelding has had a difficult time – much of the symptoms aggravated by stress, I fear. I say this because he colicked during stall rest and his cribbing is a habit created by stressful situations.
People with fibromyalgia have flare ups when under any type of stress, and need to find ways to reduce it. The same is true with horses. And, I believe, from what you have told me, that he likely has this autoimmune disorder. The symptoms are just as you described.

EFMS (Equine Fibromyalgia Syndrome) can also be caused by an infection to the central nervous system. Often times, it is a fungal infection. And, as you mentioned, joints can be affected, overall body soreness is present, and lameness can occur intermittently. Horses can also experience stringhalt, COPD, swollen salivary glands, and cold-like symptoms. And, the smooth muscles of the digestive tract can be affected, leading to colic. The list literally goes on and on.

OK, he were my gelding, I would do the following:

1. Keep his area clean and dustfree, since horses with this condition are often very sensitive to molds and fungi.

2. Calm his immune system by giving him pharmacological dosages of B vitamins. There is a product called “B-Plex” that is just a B-complex preparation. I would give him a double dose, morning and night.

3. Boost his immune system. There is a product called “Immusyn” that is very effective.

4. Allow him as much turnout time as you can possibly give – if you can keep him out 24/7, with a place to get out of the weather, where he can come and go – that would be the best way to reduce his stress level.

5. Make certain he is getting a probiotic – Ration Plus, Microbalance, or ProBios.

6. Continue feeding him the way you are doing. I am pleased that you stopped the corn oil – it increases inflammation and should not be given to horses, especially one with his condition. Since you stopped the daily wormer, you’ll want to keep up with a paste worming program at 2-3 months intervals.

So, that’s what this doctor orders! You’ve done a fine job of figuring out his problem. Please start this regimen as soon as you can so no further complications arise. And please let me know how he is doing.

All the best,

Dr. Getty

Re: Equine Fibromyalgia

Thanks for sharing this information. I never realized that horses also suffered from similar problems. It sounds like a very challenging situation.

Near the bottom of the response you indicated that corn oil is not good for horses. Since that has been recommended since my childhood to add a sheen to the coat, I am very curious as to why not.

Personally I don't feed it because it is way too messy, but am very curious.

Thanks so much. I have learned so much from this website. It is a wonderful tool! ~Christine

Where are you from? Minnesota

How did you locate this forum? Search for Omelene 200

Re: Equine Fibromyalgia

Hi Christine,

Thanks for the lovely compliment!

Corn oil is commonly recommended as a way to increase calories in a horse’s diet because it is economical. However, corn oil and soybean oil (which is also commonly used) are problematic for horses (and people, by the way) who have any type of joint problems (and in people, those that have heart disease). This is because these oils are high in linoleic acid, an Omega 6 fatty acid. Linoleic is an essential fatty acid and therefore, needs to be in the diet. The problem occurs when too much is fed this fatty acid stimulates the product of prostaglandins, which boost the inflammatory reaction.

So, it is much better to feed a fat source that is high in omega 3 fatty acids – Flaxseed is the best source for this for horses. Omega 3 fatty acids do not induce inflammation and actually help heal inflamed tissues.

Thanks for asking!

Dr. Getty

Re: Equine Fibromyalgia

Dr. Getty,

Thanks for the confirmation of his diagnosis and the supplements suggestions. I am completing the questionnaire to send you so we can set up a time to discuss my gelding in more detail.

In the meantime...I have the B-Plex, ImmuSyn, and Probios as well as NutraFlax to replace the fat he was getting from the corn oil. The first four days he ate around the supplements, leaving a pile in the feeder. I cut back to just the B-Plex and NutraFlax because they are supposed to be very palatable, and now he has stopped eating completely...(sigh) He just sniffs and walks away.

Any suggestions (besides give up on horses and do needlepoint) to disguise the smell/taste and get the supplements in him? Canola oil? Caro syrup?

In 40 years of owning horses, this one is the most maddening (and most talented).

Where are you from? Pflugerville, TX

How did you locate this forum? internet search engine (MSN, I think)

Re: Equine Fibromyalgia

Hi Martha,

Needlepoint is a nice idea – hmmm, not as fun, though!

Ok, we’re going to have to take is slowly with this guy – first, pick up some alfalfa pellets or cubes. If you get cubes, you’ll want to soak them to soften them to reduce the chance of choking. Give him a cup of pellets and add only one supplement at a time. Start with the B-plex because that will increase his appetite.

Then, to add the others, you can try adding a small amount of chopped garlic (some horses love garlic!) or some apple sauce. Oil won’t work but molasses will. But, before you go that route, try the garlic or applesauce. Or even chopped carrots.

Sounds like you’re going to have to baby him for a while. So you can sing to him while he eats – he might find it comforting!

Let me know how it goes!

Dr. Getty

Re: Equine Fibromyalgia

I use jello to give my horses the pills. Crush it up and put in the packet of jello. They LOVE IT. My mare will lick the whole bowl. She will eat that before she eats her grain. They also say the jello is good for their hooves. What do you think Dr Getty?

Where are you from? Florida

Re: Equine Fibromyalgia

Dr. Getty and Martha -
I can totally sympathize with the issues Martha has had with her 'problem child' as I have been going through similar issues with my horse. To save on all the details - it has been 18 months of a steady downward spiral from a nice showing A/O hunter to a psychotic unmanageable unrideable lunatic, despite the very best in veterinary care (multiple trips to Cornell after exhausting all our local vet's resources).

I found this article which YOU MUST READ!

I hadn't even heard of this occuring in horses and many of the symptoms were exactly the problems my horse was having so I contacted the author (Dr. Bishop) who helped me to understand EFMS (Equine Fibromyalgia Syndrome) and directed me and my vet as to how to treat this!!! My horse is just at the beginning of the 3 week treatment cycle (very easy compared to what I have had to do recently) - and I am already seeing improvements in him!

Martha- I am all too familiar with what you are going through. FYI - my horse seems to eat a bit better if I am grooming him. Read the article. Dr. Bishop has given me the 'light at the end of a very dark tunnel' and for the first time in a very long time I have hopes of seeing/riding my nice horse again.
I wish you luck!

Where are you from? Albany, NY

How did you locate this forum? web search

Re: Equine Fibromyalgia

I am familiar with Dr. Bishop's writings on EFMS. Hope your guy is doing better with her recommendations. Dr. Getty's nutritional suggestions have worked very well without the need for anti-fungal medications Dr. Bishop favors. The body can usually heal itself if you give it what it needs.

Dr. Getty,
Easter seems to have made a complete recovery from his earlier issues (once the barn manager got him to actually eat his supplements!). Now we're dealing with some bone spavins in his hocks. X-rays reveal he's nearly 75% fused (a little young, at 8 yrs old, but expected in a large (nearly 1800 lb) horse. What joint supplements do you recommend for long term use to avoid having to inject his hocks? He is getting B-Plex in a flaxseed meal base and Probiotic...I've stopped the ImmuSym ($$$). Is there a good all-in-one product? For joints, stress, ulcers, immune system, hoofs, etc? I keep meaning to set up a call with you but the vet is currently getting all my money! Thanks for your help.

Where are you from? Texas

How did you locate this forum? search engine

Re: Equine Fibromyalgia

Hi Martha,

Actually, there is a very good product called Accel Lifetime (by Vita Flex) that combines the B vitamins, probiotics, essential amino acids, extra Vitamin C and E, and the minerals needed to build healthy hoof tissue. It would be an excellent choice. The only thing it does not contain are the omega 3 fatty acids, so continuing the flax is still a good idea. Accel Lifetime also contains Immusyn, combined with a good, high potency vitamin/mineral supplement. I offer it on my website store because I highly recommend it.

But, finding a supplement that also contains hyaluronic acid for his hocks is difficult without sacrificing some other important ingredient. So, I would suggestion Hylamotion (Vita Flex) for his joints. Hyaluronic acid is what is typically injected in joints and there have been encouraging studies to show that it is effective when taken orally.

I hope this is helpful. I am delighted to hear that he is doing so well! Yes, being so large does take its toll on his joints. The omega 3 fatty acids will definitely help with this situation, along with the lubrication that hyaluronic acid provides.

All the best,

Dr. Getty

P.S. Celia, thank you for sending this article for me, and others, to read. Naturally, my approach is from a nutritional perspective, but it is meant to be combined with medical care, where necessary.

Dr. Getty