Non-Toxic Linseed

Horse owners wanting to take advantage of flaxseed's omega-3 content can rest easy. Flaxseed, or linseed, has a reputation as a toxic substance to horses when fed uncooked--earned because the seeds contain a small amount of cyanogenetic glycosides and enzymes that allow the glycosides to release cyanide. This poison is released when flaxseed plants are damaged by frost, drought, or processing. Since cyanide is readily absorbed in the GI tract, flax products could potentially prevent oxygen release in the blood, leading to sudden death.

However, we now know that glycosidase enzymes are destroyed in the equine stomach and small intestine long before they can trigger cyanide release. So it appears there is no risk of cyanide toxicosis when horses are fed raw flaxseed.

About the Author

Karen Briggs

Karen Briggs is the author of six books, including the recently updated Understanding Equine Nutrition as well as Understanding The Pony, both published by Eclipse Press. She's written a few thousand articles on subjects ranging from guttural pouch infections to how to compost your manure. She is also a Canadian certified riding coach, an equine nutritionist, and works in media relations for the harness racing industry. She lives with her band of off-the-track Thoroughbreds on a farm near Guelph, Ontario, and dabbles in eventing.

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