Spirulina platensis is a microscopic blue-green algae that grows in the shape of a coil/spiral, which is how it got its name. Spirulina is one of the earth’s oldest plants, estimated at 3.6 billion years old. It’s been used as a dietary staple in Africa and parts of the Americas for hundreds of years and can be found on the shelves of most supplement and natural-food stores. Always on the lookout for ways to help our horses, we decided to find out if Spirulina could benefit horses with allergic problems. So far, results have been excellent.
We obtained our Spirulina as a bulk powder from www.herbalcom.com. At $13.65/lb., 60?? is the 20-gram dose cost. We mixed it well into sweet feed. If you’re feeding plain grain or pellets, moisten the feed so the powder adheres well. It arrives in a brown wrapper with the Spirulina bulk inside a blue plastic bag. The product looks somewhat like powdered spinach.
A five-year-old Standardbred gelding’s seasonal problems were interfering with his performance. He had a history of seasonal headshaking and severe pulmonary allergies with heavy mucus production in the summer. Cultures from the lung had been negative, and the horse showed no response to antibiotics. He did improve with bronchodilators and therapy to thin the mucus.
The year before, his headshaking lasted from early April to September. Supplementation began at 10 grams twice a day of Spirulina powder added to his feed after headshaking had started again the next spring and he was showing a thin nasal discharge. Some improvement was noted, but it wasn’t dramatic, so dosage was increased to 20 grams twice a day. At this level, headshaking and nasal discharge disappeared.
Spirulina was stopped three times between April and September. Each time the symptoms returned within one to two days, disappearing again within a day of restarting the Spirulina. His lungs have remained perfectly clear.
A 25-year-old Morgan gelding suffered from COPD, also known as “heaves.” He was not doing well with conventional therapy of steroids, antihistamines and bronchodilators and had a poor tolerance for any level of exercise, evidenced by coughing. After being off medications for a week, he was started on Spirulina at 20 grams twice a day. Within three days, his owner was riding him again, trot and canter, with no heaving and no coughing. Prior to the Spirulina he would be heaving and having uncontrollable coughing after just walking. He also began to again actively play in the field with his buddies.
A 15-year-old half-Arabian gelding had an allergic reaction to Culicoides, which caused midline dermatitis, crusting and oozing, and a severely swollen sheath. He was started on 20 grams of Spirulina fed twice a day, reduced to 20 grams once a day after three days. All swelling and bumps were gone after six days, open areas healed. There have been no further flare ups since then.
A 10-year-old Morgan gelding had hives for the previous two to three months. He showed some response to corticosteroids and antihistamines, but the hives return in full force off medications. We stopped medications for a week and then started Spirulina 20 grams twice a day. Hives were gone in three days.
A 13-year-old imported warmblood mare with respiratory allergies and mild exercise intolerance had a tracheal wash that revealed large numbers of mast cells. She required constant antihistamine but her exercise tolerance was still not good. Antihistamines were stopped and Spirulina started at 20 grams twice a day. Symptoms of cough and nasal discharge were gone in 24 hours, exercise tolerance greatly increased. She was tapered down to 10 grams daily.
A 28-year-old pony had severe “asthma”/heaves. He was nonresponsive to brochodilators, steroids, antihistamines, and inhaled medications. He was started on 10 grams of Spirulina twice a day but showed no improvement.
The responses impressed us, and all the horses eventually accepted the product in their feed. Four additional horses were given 60 grams twice a day for two weeks with no side effects noted. Always talk to your veterinarian starting a supplement when your horse has a medical problem.