copper for Horses

Copper For Horses Science and Symptoms


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Last updated on March 27th, 2023 at 04:57 pm

Copper For Horses

There are many different minerals and nutrients that are important for the body and function of your horse. Sometimes, you may want to add these supplements to your horse’s daily diet if they are not getting enough of them from the food they are eating.

One of these nutrients is copper.

Read on to learn more about the copper supplement for horses, including how and how much to administer it to your horse. 

What Is Copper?

First things first, what is copper? Of course, we might think of metal first when “copper” is mentioned. As it pertains to nutrition and your horse, though, copper is essentially a natural mineral that is required in small doses for your horse’s health. That being said, you also do not want to give your horse too much copper, because it can be dangerous in larger doses, too. Too much copper can lead to copper toxicity. Below, we will go over copper in more detail so that you can understand what exactly it is that this nutrient does for your horse. 

Sources of Copper

There are plenty of sources of copper, and many of these sources are naturally occurring in your horse’s diet. You can also find copper supplements for situations when our horse is not receiving enough copper from their daily diet. The areas of a horse’s diet where you will find copper are forage and concentrated hard feed. The levels of copper in forage are fairly low.

Concentrated hard feed, however, is a manufactured food source that is formulated to have sufficient and significant levels of vitamins and minerals— including copper. The instructions on your package of hard feed will help you to ensure your horse is receiving enough volume of minerals. 

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What Does Copper Do For Your Horse?

Copper is important for your horse’s energy stores. It is linked to the prevention of many issues and is important to vital systems like skeletal and cartilage formation.

Copper is involved in energy cell production through the generation of mitochondria. It is also very important for the prevention of issues like cartilage lesions and reduction in bone growth plates, which is an issue known as physitis. Copper deficiencies can lead to weakened connective tissue and energy issues in mature horses, as well as abnormal skeletal growth in growing horses. 

How Much Copper Should You Give Your Horse?

There are many situations where you may have to take it upon yourself to add extra copper to your horse’s diet. This can be done by administering copper supplements. For example, copper deficiencies typically occur due to a lack of dietary intake, or because of the copper interacting with other minerals.

When copper interacts with other minerals, this is a phenomenon known as a copper lock. The copper interacts with zinc and molybdenum and leads to low copper absorption in horses. 

The first thing to do when you are trying to determine whether or not your horse needs copper supplementation is to run a nutritional analysis. This involves looking at the nutritional value of the horse’s forage and hard feed.

You should also talk to your horse’s veterinarian to build out a diet plan. Copper supplementation is dependent upon the weight of your horse, which you should also keep in mind. According to the National Research Council, an 1100-pound horse will need 100 milligrams of copper a day. However, this can be increased to 125 milligrams for a larger horse or one with a more intensive workload.

It is important that you do not give your horse too much copper, though, because this can lead to copper toxicity— which is linked to liver and kidney failure. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Should I give my horse copper?

Copper can be a great supplement for horses in many instances. It is important for the overall energy stores of a horse, because it is involved in cell energy production, by way of mitochondria generation.

Copper can be an especially important nutrient for foals and pregnant mares as well. Copper is very important for these horses to prevent issues such as reduction in bone growth plates, as well as for preventing cartilage lesions. 

What are the symptoms of copper deficiency?

You may want to give your horse copper if you realize that they are dealing with a copper deficiency. However, how do you determine copper deficiency? There are a few different symptoms that you can watch out for here.

Anemia is a very clear indicator of copper deficiency, as well as issues like thyroid problems and other symptoms like a low body temperature and loss of pigment from the skin. Copper deficiency can also be linked to an irregular heartbeat and low white blood cell count. Last, but not least, copper deficiency can also be tied to bone problems like osteoporosis and bone fractures. 

Can you feed a horse too much copper?

Now, if you are going to feed your horse a copper supplement, you will also need to know how much to give your horse. There is the possibility of your horse getting too much copper, though it is not an easy thing to do!

That being said, copper toxicity is something that appears in horses on occasion.

Copper toxicity can occur in horses for a few different reasons or sources, and may also be associated with predisposing dietary factors. Copper toxicity is when the copper collects in the liver and is released into the bloodstream once it exceeds the storage capacity of the liver— this can then lead to kidney and liver failure. 

How much copper should a horse get per day?

The amount of copper that a horse will need will depend upon their weight, as the volume of supplements is typically proportionate to their weight. The NRC, which stands for the National Research Council, says that an 1100-pound horse should be administered 100 milligrams of copper every day.

While this seems to be a small amount, it still shows results! As the weight or workload of a horse increases, though, the dose of copper may also increase to 125 milligrams a day instead.