Canola oil is a calorie-dense fat commonly used in the equine diet to promote weight gain and help maintain body condition. [2]

This oil provides cool energy for performance horses and can replace grain-based feeds in your horse’s ration to support metabolic health. [1] Feeding fat also improves coat quality and can support gut health.

Compared to other oils, canola oil is relatively affordable and widely available. However, some horse owners might not want to feed this oil due to its fatty acid profile.

Canola oil is primarily comprised of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids and contains more than twice the amount of omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3 fatty acids. [3]

The balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the diet is important because omega-3s are converted into anti-inflammatory molecules, whereas omega-6s are converted primarily into pro-inflammatory compounds.

Characteristics of Canola Oil

Canola is a plant crop that belongs to the mustard family (Brassicaceae). [3] Widely grown in Canada, Europe, Australia, and some parts of the United States, canola is used for animal feeds, biofuel production, and the food industry. [3]

The most common canola plant species grown in Canada include Brassica napus, Brassica rapa, and Brassica juncea. [3]

Canola plants produce flowers that develop into pod-like structures with seeds containing 45% oil and high in protein. Oil derived from canola is lower in trans fat and saturated fat than some other vegetable oils. [3]


Commercial canola oil is produced by crushing the seeds of the plant and extracting the oil. The seeds can be cold-pressed or treated with heat and a solvent (hexane) to release more oil.

Further refining of the oil produces a clear, neutral-tasting, and shelf-stable oil. Refined canola oil is stable for approximately one year when stored at room temperature.

Canola meal is the byproduct that remains following extraction of the oil from the deeds. Canola meal is a cost-effective, high-protein feed for horses.

Canola vs. Rapeseed

Canola plants are not the same as rapeseed plants. Although bred from rapeseed plants, canola plants contain less than 2% erucic acid and under 30 micromoles of glucosinolates per gram of canola meal (air-dried and oil-free). [3]

High intake of glucosinolates has been associated with negative health effects such as reduced feed intake, liver damage, and impaired thyroid and reproductive function in other species. [15]

Due to the lower glucosinolate content, canola should be fed to livestock rather than rapeseed.

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Canola Oil Nutritional Composition

In addition to canola oil, several supplemental oils are commonly used in equine diets, including camelina, flax, soy, corn, fish and rice bran.

Although every oil provides the same energy per gram serving, each has a different fatty acid profile that can influence the horse’s health.

Fatty Acid Profile of Canola Oil

Fatty acids are generally classified as saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Saturated fats have no double bonds in their structure, whereas monounsaturated fatty acids have one double bond and polyunsaturated fatty acids have two or more.

When fatty acids are incorporated into structures of cells in the animal, the number of double bonds influences membrane fluidity, responses to hormones and other signals, and metabolic function. Saturated fats are generally considered less healthful than mono- and poly-unsaturated fats.

Canola oil is comprised of approximately: [3]

  • 67% Monounsaturated fatty acids
  • 23% Polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • 7% Saturated fatty acids

Unsaturated Fatty Acids

Unsaturated fatty acids present in canola oil include: [3]

  • Oleic acid – 65% (an omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid)
  • Linoleic acid – 16% (an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid)
  • Alpha-Linolenic acid – 7% (an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid)

The fatty acid composition of canola oil is determined by plant genetics and can be modified to suit desired uses. [3] Canola plants have been bred with various linolenic, oleic, lauric, stearic, palmitic, and gamma-linolenic acid contents. [3]

Digestible Energy

Like all pure fats, canola oil provides roughly 9.5 megacalories (mcal) of energy per kg of dry matter (DM).

A 120 ml (4 oz) serving of canola oil will provide 1.13 mcal of digestible energy. To put that into context, a mature horse at maintenance requires 16.65 mcal of digestible energy per day.

Vitamin E

Canola oil is a source of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), an important antioxidant nutrient. The oil contains approximately 1 mg per tablespoon (standard oil). [3]

However, refining canola oil reduces the vitamin E content. This results in negligible levels of vitamin E in most commercially available sources of canola oil. [16]

Benefits of Canola Oil for Horses

There is limited research on the health effects of canola oil in horses, but there is research examining the benefits of using fats in the equine diet.

Diets containing fat support metabolic processes that influence skin & coat quality, metabolic health, cardiovascular function, and inflammation. [7][8][9][10]

Research in humans suggests canola oil can reduce blood cholesterol and improve insulin sensitivity compared to oils that are higher in saturated fat. [6]

When comparing canola oil to camelina or flax oil in healthy horses, a recent study found no difference in skin & coat quality or markers of inflammation or oxidative stress between the three oils. [17]

Below are some of the benefits observed when feeding fat supplements to horses.

Cool Calories

Canola oil can be added to equine diets to increase calories without promoting hindgut issues. In horses adapted to dietary fat, oils are easily digested and absorbed in the small intestine without reaching the hindgut.

Unlike high-grain diets, high-fat diets do not increase the risk of hindgut acidosis, colic, and right dorsal colitis.

Providing calories as fat rather than starch and sugar can also reduce excitability in horses, making them less “hot”. [18]

Digestion of fat in the gut produces less heat than carbohydrate or protein digestion. Therefore, fat is a source of cool calories for exercising horses and those in hot climates. [2]


Canola oil is widely available at a low cost. It typically costs less than other commonly fed oils such as fish oil, flax oil and camelina oil.


Canola oil provides a source of calories free of sugar and starch. Feeding oil does not increase blood sugar or insulin levels. [19]

This makes fat suitable to feed to underweight horses with insulin resistance, Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), or Cushing’s/PPID.

Note that if your horse is overweight or an easy keeper, feeding excess oil can lead to obesity, which will impact metabolic health.

How to Feed Canola Oil

If your horse cannot maintain a healthy body condition on forage alone, a dense source of calories such as a fat supplement can help.

All pure fats provide approximately 9 kilocalories of energy per gram. This means feeding 30 mL (1 oz) of canola oil will supply 270 kcal of energy.

To calculate how much canola oil to add to their diet, you will need to determine your horse’s energy requirements, body condition and how much digestible energy their current diet provides.

Energy Requirements

Equine energy requirements are determined based on body weight and workload. A typical non-exercising adult horse requires 16,600 kilocalories (16.6 mcal) per day. [28]

Exercising horses have higher requirements. A typical mature horse in heavy exercise requires 26,640 kilocalories (26.64 mcal) per day. [28]

Monitor your horse’s body condition to determine whether they are currently meeting their energy requirement and track changes in c