Safe Treats for a Horse with HYPP

What treats are 100% guaranteed safe for an HYPP horse? Thanks!


Dear SG,

Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee or promise that products will be safe for horses with certain health conditions like HYPP (Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis). Because diet is such a large part of managing a horse with this particular muscle problem, you really need to discuss adding treats as well as making any hay, grain or supplement changes with your veterinarian since he or she is more familiar with your horse. However, I can share with you a list of high, medium and low potassium feedstuffs that Dr. Sharon Spier presented at the 2006 AAEP Annual Convention in San Antonio, TX. These examples may be helpful as you’re comparing treat ingredients and nutrition info:

High potassium feeds (generally above 2%)
Electrolyte supplements
Kelp supplements
Alfalfa hay
Canary grass hay
Orchard grass hay
Soybean meal

Medium potassium feeds (in the 1-2% range)
Fescue hay
Rice bran
Timothy hay
Coastal Bermuda grass hay
Kentucky blue grass hay
Oat hay

Low potassium feeds (generally less than 1%)
Pure fats and oils
Beet pulp
Corn, Oats, Barley
Wheat bran
Soybean hulls

Most sources place flax seed into the low potassium feed category at 0.9%, while rice bran would be considered a medium potassium feed at 1.4%. In addition, Dr. Spier reminds owners of HYPP horses that the entire ration should contain less than 1.5% potassium, with each meal having less than 33 gram of potassium, to help lower the frequency of episodes.

I reviewed all of our treats (we offer quite a few!) and think there are three that might work for your horse (though you should still double-check with your vet):

Bob’s Sweet Stripes—peppermint oil and sugar
FlaxSnax, HoofSnax—in a flaxseed and rice bran base
Withers & Withers Insulin Resistant—rice bran, wheat bran and apple powder

Any treats with molasses, alfalfa or soybeans should be avoided in horses with HYPP, which pretty much eliminates the rest of our selection. I also found out that some human foods that horses find tasty–such as bananas, sweet potatoes and raisins–are super high in potassium and should not be fed to horses carrying this gene. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but at least you have SOME choice!

Lydia F. Gray, DVM MA, currently serves as the Medical Director/Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak Equine. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other locations. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association and enjoys training and showing her trakehner Newman in her spare time.  Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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