How to Properly Store Liquid Fish Oil for Horses

My horses have been on Wellpride for about a month. We just finished our first bottle and it’s been a learning curve. Knowing that fish oil is better off stored in a cold environment, I started out keeping the bottle in my refrigerator at home and driving it out to the barn every day in a cooler. In the beginning, I thought, “No big, I’ve done this before,” thinking back to the bimonthly Adequan shot I had spent years giving my senior gelding.

I failed to take into account the every day factor until I got to the barn and realized I had forgotten my Wellpride or prepared to leave straight from work, only to realize that I needed to go home anyway. Then my mom surprised the family with a five day vacation and I scrambled to find someone trustworthy to feed my boys. That turned into three someones and a feed chart hastily taped to the feed room door. I had no choice but to leave the oil in the barn.

As it turns out, none of that back and forth was necessary, but it also didn’t hurt.

Here’s what I learned reviewing the best storage options with Dr. Bo Martinsen, co-founder of Wellpride and Omega3 Innovations.

The Ideal Storage Situation

For best results, fish oil should be as fresh as possible. That means starting with a fresh oil and limiting it’s exposure to light, oxygen and intense heat.

“It is always best for fish oil if it is stored cold,” says Martinsen. “But acknowledging that it is difficult to find a refrigerator in a lot of stables, we have made it so Wellpride can stay fresh at room temperature.”

Martinsen says there are two elements that allow Wellpride to hold up in the barn. For one, there is the bottle, which is designed with a unique plastic barrier that reduces the oil’s contact with oxygen. Then, there’s also the processing approach.

“The oil we are using for Wellpride is the same as what you find in the best fish oil capsules on the market for humans,” Martinsen says. “It has been purified. The difference is it has been purified in a harder way than, for example, our Omega Cure cod liver oil. Because of the processing, it holds up better at room temperature.”

Extending Wellpride’s Shelf Life

Wellpride oil comes from fish including herring, anchovies and sardines, typically from South America. Yet, when I opened my first bottle, I was pleasantly surprised that there was no “fishy” smell. Talking with Martinsen, I learned that a strong fishy smell is actually a sign a fish oil has gone bad. Martinsen says the best way to assess the oil’s freshness is to smell it or taste it. If you’re reminded of cat food, it’s too late.

In order to avoid this, keep the oil as cool as reasonably possible. Stored in a cool place, Wellpride stays fresh for up to one year. But if you live in a southern climate or know your barn gets hot during the summer, it can be smart to relocate your bottles to the refrigerator or air conditioned space. Refrigerating unopened bottles lengthens the storage time, and  keeping open bottles refrigerated part time helps as well.

If you have multiple horses on the supplement, Martinsen suggests only opening one bottle at a time and having the horses share it. If you store the oil in the barn, keep the bottle in a dark spot. “If you put Wellpride in direct sunlight during the summer, you are going to kill that oil within a few days,” Martinsen says.

Why Cool, Closed and Dark?

All food molecules react with oxygen.  We often see the oxidation process at work with produce, for instance when apples or avocados turn brown after being cut open.

The omega-3s in fish oil are especially sensitive to oxygen because there are so many reactive sites or double bonds in their molecules. This is what creates the smell and taste of “old” fish oil. It’s also why using one bottle at a time is a good approach. As soon as the seal is broken, the oil is exposed to small amounts of oxygen which begin to diminish the potency of the content. Although the bottle is designed to keep oxygen exposure to a minimum with the straw that fills up the dosage chamber, an opened bottle can  only remain fresh for 6-8 weeks if stored at room temperature. Once the bottle is open, refrigerating the bottle slows the oxidation process; so that is still an option to extend shelf life if necessary.

Similar to bad feed, rancid oil should have little noticeable effect on horses in the short term, aside from reduced potency. But long term, scientists speculate it could have negative health consequences.

If you start with a fresh fish oil, however, and follow the storage recommendations, your oil should stay fresh long enough for you and your horse to enjoy the benefits.

“When people think about their animals, they should think about themselves and ask what kind of food they would want,” Martinsen says. “The answer to that is ‘I want fresh food.’ It’s the same for horses.”

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