Flaxseed for Horses

The other day I was searching the internet for information about cyanide poisoning in horses.  I googled ‘cyanide poisoning equine’ and got 3,490,000 hits.  It’s safe to say that one could find a wide variety of research to support any point of view on the relative toxicity, if any, of cyanide to horses.  It brings to mind the old adage that even the Devil can quote scripture to his advantage.

Actually, I was trying to find information about any problems with feeding soaked flaxseed or linseed to horses.  Freshly ground flaxseed is commonly fed to horses as a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Uncooked seeds do contain a small amounts of cyanogenetic glycosides and enzymes that allow the glycosides to release cyanide. It’s not a problem, though, because any glycosidase enzymes thus produced are rapidly destroyed in the stomach and small intestine before they can trigger cyanide release. So, horse owners wanting to take advantage of flaxseed's omega-3 fatty acid content can rest easy when horses are fed raw flaxseed.

Some horses experience digestive problems from the accumulation of sand in the large intestines. (Yes, his really happens - Veterinarians have reported cases where up to 50-60 pounds of sand were found in the right dorsal colon.)  Soaked flaxseed is often used to treat this condition as it releases a viscous gelatinous substance traps the sands so it can be eliminated from the body.

If a person still has concerns about feeding flaxseed they can replace it with soaked psyllium seeds, which also aid in removing sand but has a different omega-3 content.