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Re: Re:flax seed

>I was told at the University of Florida (Large Animal Clinic) to give my
>horse one half cup of Flax seed a day and it might help control his
>itchiness.  There was no mention of cooking it first.
>Uncooked it can be POISONOUS to horses ? !!!!
>Also there was no mention of the protein level of flax seed.

If no one else already has (sorry, been out of town for a week, I'm behind
on mail), maybe I can clear up the concerns about flax seeds...

1)  Regarding protein content.  Yes, it's high in protein, about 23% in
whole seeds, about 40% or higher in the form of linseed meal.  A cup or so
won't be excessive, you wouldn't want to feed several pounds of it (if
nothing else, it has laxative effects).

2)  Regarding flax seed being poisonous to horses unless cooked.  Relax.
Your horse will not drop dead if fed flax seeds, cooked or uncooked.  Here's
where the concern comes from---flax seeds (and many other plants fed to
horses, including corn) contain substances called cyanogenic glycosides, as
well as enzymes that allow cyanide to be released when the seed coat is
disturbed (through digestion or processing, etc).  Cyanide is, indeed,
poisonous---when absorbed into the blood, it affects oxygenation in the
blood and in sufficient quantities, can cause sudden death.  This substance
(cyanide, not flax seeds) as a gas is used in death row gas chambers.

HOWEVER---before everyone gets all panicky...don't.  In order to prevent the
release of cyanide, the enzymes in the flax seed must be destroyed.  This
can be done in one of two ways.  One, through heat processing, like cooking.
Two, through digestion---the enzymes are a protein and protein is very well
hydrolyzed in the stomach and intestinal tract.  In other words, just
feeding it solves the problem.  No enzymes, therefore no cyanide release.
Even if there were a small amount of cyanide release, it's not enough to
harm the horse and in fact, there has never been a reported case of cyanide
toxicosis as the result of feeding flax seeds, whether as soaked, unsoaked,
cooked, uncooked or as a meal.

The only circumstances under which flax *will* cause a problem is if a horse
eats alot of the growing flax plant.  So if you're growing flax in your
kitchen garden, don't let your horse graze there. :-)  If you just want to
feed a cup or two to try to improve the coat, no problem.

Hope this clears up the worries.  :-)

Susan Garlinghouse

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