We Demand Answers

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Some manufacturers of feeds and supplements are terrific. They’re straightforward and quick to answer questions. These are also usually the ones with outstanding products — or are at least on their way to outstanding. Others believe simply stating a vitamin is included is all we need to know, hiding behind a claim it’s “proprietary” to avoid detailed answers.

Certainly, some things are legitimately “proprietary,” such as a processing technique that makes a product unique and gives it an advantage. But, when it comes to what we are putting in our horse, we have a right to know.

How can dosage of a mineral in a supplement be “proprietary”' Anyone can pay for a laboratory analysis to find out — so it’s not to protect a company from competitors. Frankly, when we ask for an amount and are told “proprietary,” we believe the company doesn’t know, doesn’t care or doesn’t want the information released.

We’ve been told we could not get details of a company’s quality-control program beyond information in a catalog because it was proprietary. Quality-control programs either meet or exceed federal and state laws and follow FDA Good Manufacturing Practice guidelines, or they don’t. There is nothing “proprietary” about it. The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act protects humans, stating we must be told every ingredient and the amount in what we consume. Horses don’t have equivalent protection.

Under-dosing is a big problem. The manufacturer may add, for example, vitamin C to an older-horse product because older horses have low blood levels of vitamin C. They may advertise this fact, but often the amount is tens, even thousands, of times lower than what is necessary for any effect.

Closely related to this are instructions that result in under-dosing. This used to be common with joint nutraceuticals, mainly due to price. If consumers knew up front it cost $3 a day for a loading dose (which is often also the maintenance dose for severe problems), sales would suffer. Instead, instructions call for one-half to one-third of the dose truly necessary, which results in moderate improvement. The horse owner, motivated by the slight improvement, ups the dose to get better results. Bingo. The owner is hooked.

Similar problems occur with expensive vitamins (biotin in tiny amounts), minerals (chelated minerals advertised but actually only a small percentage) and performance-enhancing supplements where creatine may be in there — in doses suitable for a canary.

Some manufacturers pass themselves off as experts when they have no credentials. Often their products are either near copies of successful products, lifted from a human product, purchased from someone who did know what they were doing or just hogwash. These companies are often long on testimonials but short on facts.

Most disturbing are negative, evasive and nonchalant attitudes. We encounter manufacturers who believe horsemen don’t care about nutritional values, who spend more on advertising than on materials or have nothing scientific to back them up. These companies make money, not because the consumer is indifferent or has more money than sense, but because he is uninformed. It is our job to change that.

’Til Next Month,

-Eleanor Kellon, VMD