How to feed a horse or pony that has Liver Disease

If you have a horse that has been diagnosed as having liver disease you will need to consider the type and amount of feed to give him to try to keep him as healthy as possible and to maintain condition

The horse's liver plays an extremely important role in the metabolism of nutrients and
non-nutrients and it is the horse’s main line of defence when it comes to detoxifying his food.

The key in feeding a horse with liver disease is to provide energy and protein in a form that does not rely on liver metabolism, so as not to stress it any more than needed.

Vitamins A, D, E, and K should also be added as a feed supplement in the horse's diet.

These vitamins are normally released into the horse's bloodstream by a healthy liver.

Glucose and B vitamins by mouth can also be helpful.

If a horse or pony is grazing there is always the risk that she will ingest substances that require detoxifying by the liver, and some of these may cause liver disease.

In winter provided the horse is kept well rugged to help keep it warm and receives plenty of good-quality fibre, its condition should begin to improve.


If possible feeds should be divided into two or three small daily meals to prevent fluctuations in glucose levels.

soaked hay being drained

Feeding little and often is especially important when feeding a horse or pony with liver disease.

The feed ration should contain good-quality protein sources in adequate, but not excessive, amounts.

Soluble fibre sources, like sugar beet, are a useful addition to the diet to help maintain condition.

The diet should contain sources of highly-digestible starches, such as micronised cereals, to help maintain glucose levels and reduce the reliance on liver gluconeogenesis (the production of glucose from energy stores)

Plenty of good-quality hay should be fed as a fibre source.

Advice on what to feed a horse or pony that has been diagnosed as having equine liver disease to keep him as healthy as possible and to maintain condition.