Feeding for metabolic disorders in horses

Feeding for metabolic disorders in horses

Metabolic disorders in horses are a group of health conditions that affect the normal functioning of a horse's metabolism. These disorders can have profound effects on a horse's overall health and well-being.

There are 3 typical types of metabolic disorders that commonly occur in horses

  1. Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS): EMS is a complex disorder characterized by insulin dysregulation and abnormal fat deposition, leading to obesity, laminitis, and increased susceptibility to other health issues. It primarily affects ponies and certain horse breeds predisposed to insulin resistance.
  2. Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID): Also known as Cushing's disease, PPID is an age-related disorder caused by the progressive degeneration of the pituitary gland. This results in hormonal imbalances, leading to excessive cortisol production, coat abnormalities, muscle wasting, and increased susceptibility to infections.
  3. Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM): PSSM is a hereditary disorder characterised by abnormal glycogen storage in muscle cells. Horses with PSSM experience muscle stiffness, pain, exercise intolerance, and a higher risk of developing exertional rhabdomyolysis (tying-up).

Causes and Risk Factors which are associated with Metabolic disorders in horses can arise from a combination of genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and management practices. Factors that contribute to these disorders include:

  1. Insulin Resistance: Genetic predisposition, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and a diet high in sugars and starches can result in insulin resistance, a common underlying cause of EMS and PSSM.
  2. Hormonal Imbalances: PPID is primarily caused by age-related degeneration of the pituitary gland, resulting in hormonal imbalances, specifically increased production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).
  3. Hereditary Factors: Certain horse breeds are more prone to metabolic disorders. For instance, ponies and some draft horse breeds are more susceptible to EMS, while certain warmblood breeds are predisposed to PSSM.

Symptoms and Diagnosis: The symptoms of metabolic disorders in horses can vary depending on the specific disorder but may include: - Weight gain or obesity - Insulin resistance - Laminitis (hoof inflammation) - Abnormal fat distribution - Muscle wasting or stiffness - Coat abnormalities (long, curly hair) - Increased thirst and urination - Recurrent infections Diagnosis typically involves a combination of clinical examination, blood tests, hormonal assays, and muscle biopsies. It is essential to consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Management and Treatment: The management and treatment of metabolic disorders in horses focus on several key aspects:

  1. Diet and Nutrition: Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in managing metabolic disorders. It is essential that a balanced diet is provided that is low in sugars and starches, high in fibre and rich in vitamins and minerals which is tailored to the horse's specific needs.
  2. Exercise and Weight Management: Regular exercise where possible helps improve insulin sensitivity and aids weight management. Controlled exercise regimes should be implemented gradually to avoid muscle stiffness or injury and in conjunction with veterinary support especially in the early stages of diagnosis.
  3. Medications and Supplements: Medications may be prescribed to manage hormone imbalances and insulin resistance. Additionally, the use of vitamin dense balancers, specific supplements like omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants may be recommended to support overall metabolic health.
  4. Regular Veterinary Monitoring: Regular check-ups and monitoring by a veterinarian and farrier support are crucial for evaluating the horse's progress, adjusting treatment plans, and detecting any potential complications.

Metabolic disorders in horses can significantly impact their health and quality of life. Understanding the different types, causes, symptoms, and management strategies is vital for horse owners and caretakers. By implementing appropriate management practices, working closely with veterinarians, and providing a supportive environment, horses with metabolic disorders can lead fulfilling lives and maintain optimal health.

Equibalancer’s support for Metabolic conditions: Meta-Trim is a complete balancer specifically developed for horses with suspected or diagnosed metabolic disorders. Providing a high content of vitamins, minerals and trace elements which are vital and particularly beneficial when horses may be on restricted grazing and my not be receiving nutrition elsewhere, Meta-Trim also provides a balancer of 3, 6 an 9 omega oils and anti-oxidants to support a healthy metabolism. Probiotics are included to benefit digestion and improved uptake of nutrients through the hind gut. Meta -Trim is extremely low in both sugar and starch with a combined level of under 4%. Recommended feeding between 20-40g per day together with a handful of low sugar chaff such as Honeychop Light and healthy.


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