Veterinary myth-busting: Blood boosters in performance horses
Various hematinics or "blood-builders" have been administered to racing horses in an attempt to enhance their performance. These hematinics come in the form of nutrients (iron, copper, B12, thiamin, riboflavin and folic acid) and injected compounds, including recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO), a potent drug that is used in human medicine to treat anemia of end-stage renal failure.
Products that do actually increase red cell production are unethical and potentially dangerous to the horse's health. In racehorses, the use of rHuEPO may have serious health effects, especially if administered in concert with furosemide.Normal equine physiology
The main growth factor is erythropoietin, a hormone produced predominantly by the kidneys that stimulates the stem cells within the bone marrow to manufacture needed RBCs. It's a process that can take as few as two days, but more commonly five to seven.
Nutrients essential to erythropoesis, especially for oxygen-carrying hemoglobin production, are iron, copper, B12, thiamin, riboflavin and folic acid.