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Benefits of Biotin Supplementation in Horses

 (Originally published in Gallop Magazine, Summer 2002, Issue 3)


When it comes to hoof care, repair or maintenance, the key word that jumps to mind is Biotin. It's in wide use these days among horse owners, farriers, veterinarians and is growing in popularity for use by other species too.

Originally called Vitamin H, (from Haut, the German word for skin) biotin is a B vitamin so essential that it is manufactured in the gut naturally. Even though an extreme deficiency could result in death, those cases are very rare. A deficiency will generally appear in the form of a dull, lackluster coat, and/or cracked, brittle hooves.

It's important to note that horses with a susceptibility to this deficiency will show a marked improvement with supplementation. Although it takes a period of several months to totally repair bad hooves, a shinier coat will be apparent in as little as 5 weeks. There really is not any testing available to determine if biotin supplementation is absolutely needed, so most care providers simply watch for symptoms. Careful attention during a regimen of supplementation will determine if a lack of biotin was the problem.

There may not be any effective way to avoid a deficiency. Sometimes diet plays an important role in the development of the deficiency. Rancid fats and raw egg whites are proven to render the biotin in the system unavailable. This means that some feeds high in natural fat, such as flax seed (which is a very good source of biotin) could become rancid if exposed to high temperatures. Some high energy supplements may contain ingredients in which the processing at very high temperatures leaves fat rancid. The environment also contributes to a deficiency since air pollutants cannot be avoided even in rural settings. Fumes from farm machinery and automobile traffic affect the natural ability to synthesize biotin. Biotin deficiency also appears to be passed along generation after generation in some cases.

Once a problem area has been corrected by biotin supplementation a daily dose of biotin is still recommended. Unless the deficiency was diet induced this is generally the best method of action since symptoms are otherwise prone to reappear. Depending on individual cases, anywhere from 1-2 mg of biotin up to 15 mg per day may be used. Fortunately, biotin is a water soluble vitamin that will not build up in the system. This makes it very safe for pregnant and lactating mares who need at least twice their normal amount of biotin.

It may seem that trial and error are the methods employed for correcting a biotin deficiency. However, the testing done provides enough data to determine that biotin is very essential, what the symptoms of a deficiency are and how much is needed per case. So, trial and error only appear to be employed while simple adjustments need to be made per individual symptoms. Generally the guidelines of an average of 8 mg. dose to improve skin and coat condition, and 15 mg. dose to improve hooves are adequate.

Biotin is not used to correct every skin or hoof condition. However, biotin is an extremely important nutrient and skin and coat condition is a definite indication that a horse is lacking a sufficient amount. If you think your horse might be in need, supplement for a few weeks and watch closely for any sign of improvement. Biotin is a vitamin remember, and will not work overnight. It must work from the inside out, restoring your horse to health, naturally.

By: Diane Clark

About the author: Diane Clark works for a major neutraceutical company and is specializing in biotin research. She is a freelance writer and published in magazines dealing with equine, pets and human nutrition.