Protecting your horse’s immune system with rosehips
Rain rot, summer sores, sweet itch, sarcoids, and numerous other illnesses are symbols of an overactive or weakened immune system in a horse. Most horse owners know a healthy immune system is vital to maintaining a healthy weight, proper muscle, and freedom of movement in horses, but few understand how the immune system works.
How does the equine immune system function?
The equine immune system is a makeup of organs, proteins, cells, and sugar compounds that protect and heal the body from diseases and infections. To properly shield the body from harm, the immune system must do the following: Indications of disease such as harmful bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites must be perceived, destroyed, removed, or preferably, barred from entering the body. The horse’s antibodies must be boosted and multiplied, and antigens that have already been attacked must be stored for swift recognition and neutralization for the next time they are encountered. Any damaged tissue must also be identified and repaired.
The immune protection cells (immunoglobulins and acute-phase proteins) are always active and form as part of the blood or move through the bloodstream. Antibodies can be found in several different locations throughout the body. This includes the bone marrow and lymphatic system, as well as the intestines, lungs, and gastrointestinal mucous membranes. Immune cells are mainly produced in bone marrow, but some also reside in other areas and are activated in times of need when antigens are encountered.
Recognizing a weakened immune system
Stress, injuries, and wounds can put a heavy strain on the immune system. When battling an entering pathogen or helping to heal and repair tissue, the immune system is put to work. The defense cells work until they can no longer destroy or lessen the number of pathogens in the body. When the immune response is too weak, pus can develop, followed by swelling and then pain. When injuries, stress, or inflammation occurs, it is safe to say the immune system is quite busy or weakened, and it needs to be supported.
Ailments that are characteristically associated with poor immune system function typically manifest through the skin, such as sweet itch, sarcoids, bacterial infections, ringworm, and scratches, as well as parasite infestations. If you notice a sudden significant change in your horse’s appearance, their immune system likely needs support.
How to support the horse’s immune system
In severe illness or infection cases, it is imperative to always consult a veterinarian to assess your horse. There are, however, several factors horse owners can regulate that have a significant impact on the immune system.
High-quality hay and feed will contain less mold, dust, and bacteria. Lower levels of these pathogens will keep the immune system from becoming overburdened due to diet. Storing hay and grain in a cool, dry place will keep it free from moisture and mold growth.
Frequent stable or pasture changes, new herd mates, and excessive commotion around the barn can cause stress on the immune system. Additionally, a lack of turnout or exercise can lead to an increase in dust inhalation. This makes the respiratory tract susceptible to infections.
Horses in heavy work or competition prep can also experience body fatigue and inflammation in the joints. Providing adequate rest and recovery support such as cold hosing, chiropractic work, or sports massage will help keep the immune system healthy.
Natural supplements can provide support without digestive or performance disruption
It is important to ensure your horse is getting a balanced supply of vitamins and minerals in its diet to support its immune system. Zinc, as well as Vitamin C, B, and K, will reinforce the immune system and aid in internal cell protection. An all-natural supplement that can provide this support is rosehip. Powered by antioxidants and natural Vitamin C, rosehips offer a complete approach to immune system care. Rosehips contain over 31 naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. These include vitamins C and E, as well as iron, zinc, and magnesium. They also have antioxidants, flavonoids, and essential fatty acids to help with skin and hoof issues. These minerals and vitamins work together to deliver the nutrients needed to supercharge the body’s existing immune response. Pure, dried rosehip powder is easy on the digestive system and is less likely to cause gastric distress typical of NSAIDs. When coupled with quality hay and feed, rosehips will boost the immune system and keep your horse healthy.
Understanding how your horse’s immune system functions is the first step in supporting their needs in times of sickness or stress. Providing proper care, feed, and supplements will safeguard the immune system and ensure your horse stays happy, healthy, and pain free.