Dr. Kellon’s Guidelines: Solid Nutrition and Healthy Hooves

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Dr. Eleanor Kellon says that faulty nutrition isn’t the only factor in hoof-quality problems, but it’s a big player, “While genetics and faulty care are also involved, adequate nutrition can make the difference between the hoof with a potential for problems, and one that actually develops them. The results will speak for themselves.”

The hoof’s nutritional needs are high because it is a very active tissue that is constantly growing and restructuring. Dr. Kellon maintains that although trim and genetics are important factors, good nutrition also plays a vital role in hoof health with protein, fats, and minerals being the building blocks of healthy hoof nutrition. 

“Inadequate protein, or a deficiency in the essential amino acid Methionine, limits the ability to produce the hoof wall's structural protein known as keratin,” Kellon explains. “Also necessary for keratin production are vitamin B6 and Folic Acid. In addition, Biotin has also been shown to be important for both good growth and quality, and Lysine is an often deficient amino acid that is very important in hoof protein.” 

Often overlooked, Kellon says that fat is also very important to hoof health and integrity.

“Various fats and waxes fill the spaces between the keratinocytes. They give the outer layer of a healthy hoof a naturally slick feel and shine. Fat plays a very important role as the ‘cement’ that holds cells together by forming protective seals that keep moisture outside the hoof, and moisture from the internal living structures from escaping.”

Of the potential nutritional causes of poor hoof quality, trace mineral deficiencies are the most common. To correct this, Kellon suggests supplementing with balanced levels of Copper and Zinc in a supplement with low or zero levels of Manganese and Iron, which can compete for absorption of those minerals. 

  • Zinc is required for every step of cell activity in the hoof structure, as well as for forming the structural protein of the hoof wall. Zinc is also the most commonly deficient mineral in the United States and around the world. Studies have confirmed that low Zinc status results in slow hoof growth, weak connections, thin walls and weak horns.
  • Copper is also required for enzymes that form the reinforcing protein cross-linkages in hoof tissue. Hoof issues linked to Copper deficiency include cracks, sole hemorrhages, abscesses, thrush and laminitis.
  • Zinc and Copper together also play a key role in protecting the fatty layers of the hoof wall. Hooves, like fingernails, have a shine and slippery feel when healthy. This comes from the fats incorporated in their outer structure that keep environmental moisture out but critical tissue moisture in. Zinc and Copper are essential components of the antioxidant enzymes that protect those fats.

Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya, offers products that address deficiencies most often found in hooves. 

U-Balance Foundation Advanced-strength support for commonly deficient or imbalanced minerals in the horse’s diet, high levels of vitamins, enzymes and digestive support to maintain hoof health and growth.

Equi-Hoof Complex With Biotin, Collagen, Lysine and Methionine to support connective tissue proteins, immune function and hoof health and growth.

Omega Hoof With Omega Fatty Acids to maintain pliability and hoof moisture level, 

Biotin to support the health and growth of keratin and Lysine and Methionine, key amino acids essential for hoof growth.

Whole Hoof Health Spray Gentle herbal spray to support healthy hooves in wet conditions by maintaining healthy cell turnover and a healthy balance of microbes on the feet.

Dr. Eleanor Kellon, staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal. Learn more atwww.ecirhorse.org.

Uckele Health & Nutrition is an innovation-driven health company committed to being on the leading edge of nutritional science and technology for over 50 years. Uckele takes pride in formulating and manufacturing a full spectrum of quality nutritional supplements incorporating the latest nutritional advances for equine athletes and companion animals to help achieve optimal health. Learn more at www.uckele.com.