News & Information
The Best Founder and Laminitis Prevention: Understanding Equine Metabolic Syndrome and the 'easy keeper'. he
Submitted by: Shannon Carner
Email Address: drhoof(at)live.com
Date Added: 4/18/2012
Equine Metabolic Syndrome
“Insulin Resistance and The Easy Keeper”
What is EMS (Equine Metabolic Syndrome)? EMS is a condition in which the horses body, when taking in an excessive amount of glucose (from lush pasture, or high sugar feeds and treats) attempts to convert the extra glucose into fat. The insulin attempts to keep up, leading to overproduction, and eventually the insulin is no longer effective. So when high levels of ‘ineffective insulin’ is present in the bloodstream, we have insulin resistance.
How do I know if my horse has EMS? 80% of horses labeled ‘easy keepers’ are insulin resistant. The three common indictors are:
Obesity- full body or localized fat deposits (cresty neck, fat pads at the base of the tail, shoulder, crease down the center of the back, or fat deposits in odd places.
The sudden onset of laminitis with no specific cause (grain overload, retained placenta etc.)
Test preformed by your veterinarian is positive for insulin resistant.
Is my horse obese? Here’s an easy test you can do to determine wether your horse is too fat:
The Cresty Neck Test:
Measure the circumference of your horse’s neck at the widest part with a measuring tape (a soft one used in sewing works best).
Measure the height of your horse in inches (one hand equals 4 inches)
Divide the circumference of the neck by height of the horse in inches.
If your HORSE’s height/neck ratio is LESS than .63 it is considered obese
If your PONY’s height/neck ration is LESS than .68 it is considered obese
It has been shown that if the ratio is less than .71 in the horse, there is an increased chance of pasture-associated laminitis.
How do I manage my EMS or Insulin Resistant horse?
REMOVAL from pasture is the #1 thing you can do! Pasture grasses are the leading culprit to non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) and sugar in the diet.
Weight loss with diet and exercise are the most important factors in managing your IR or EMS horse.
Monitoring of glucose and insulin by your vet are very important.
Make sure your farrier is informed about your horses predisposition to founder and laminitis. Having him report ANY unusual changes in the hoof so that you, your farrier and vet can prevent any potential problems.
If your vet is okay with SOME turnout- the use of a grazing muzzle and turnout at night when grass has the lowest sugar content.
What kind of diet does my IR or EMS horse need?
NO CRASH DIETS! As with people, crash diets cause the body to retain fat. You need to begin your horses diet slowly, feeding 1.5% of your horses body weight per day by feeding low NSC hay (Less than 10 NSC- hay analysis can be done at your local agricultural extension office) AND a ration balancer.
Slow feeding and lots of movement! Develop a track system in your pasture, making a 12- 20 foot wide track around the circumference of the pasture, and then placing a variety of footing, sand, pea gravel etc. is great for hooves as well as exercise. Slow feeding h ay bags keep your horse busy while keeping hunger at bay.
If adequate weight loss has not been achieved in 30 days, reduce to 1 % of body weight but NO LOWER.
Eliminate high sugar treats: Carrots, Apples and other fruits are all high in sugar and can cause a laminitic attack in horses. Raw shelled peanuts and celery are good low starch snacks that are high in fiber.
EMS and IR is chronic and requires long term commitment.
Eliminate ALL sugar- treats such as carrots, apples, and store bought snacks are all high in sugar. If you feel treats are necessary- celery is a good- no sugar snack.
Glucosomine is TOXIC to IR and EMS horses- find an alternative to joint supplements such as Boswellia Serrata- it’s a natural anti-inflammatory but will not raise blood sugar.