As the understanding of equine metabolic diseases advances, so too must the management strategies implemented to care for horses at risk of developing or diagnosed with these problems. For some of these syndromes, dietary changes can completely ameliorate clinical signs. For other syndromes, dietary modifications decrease the likelihood of serious complications.

Some metabolic diseases such as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID or Equine Cushing’s disease) and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) involve problems with the endocrine system.  Others, such as those that result in tying-up, are related to inherited genetic defects and abnormal muscle metabolism. Laminitis, however, may occur from a variety of causes and horses with some metabolic syndromes are at higher risk for this condition.

Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), a problem seen most often in older horses, is caused by  tissue overgrowth in the pituitary gland. It is also known as Equine Cushing's Disease. Horses with PPID have high levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone, resulting in increased secretion of cortisol from the adrenal glands. These horses are at higher risk of developing laminitis and may develop cortisol-induced insulin insensitivity. PPID horses that are insulin insensitive require feeds with a low glycemic response (relatively mild increase in blood glucose and insulin following a meal). Fructan-rich pasture and grain meals may quickly lead to laminitis in horses with PPID, but these horses must still meet their requirement for basic nutrients.

Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) is a condition characterized by obesity, insulin resistance and an increased risk of pasture-associated laminitis. EMS horses epitomize the term “easy keeper” and often have an obese, cresty appearance. Like overweight horses with PPID, EMS horses need to lose weight while still meeting their nutritional requirements. Hay or limited grazing can meet the forage requirement, and supplementation with a ration balancer can be used to assure proper nutrition. Except in cases where the horse is lame from laminitis or other causes, exercise should be increased gradually to encourage weight loss.

Recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis (RER) is a condition that involves abnormal intracellular calcium regulation during muscle contraction. Horses with RER suffer from painful muscle cramping when they exercise. This form of tying-up is sometimes triggered by excitement or stress, and is seen  more often in young, nervous fillies  in race training. Horses with RER are often training and exercising at an intense level, so they usually have a need for more calories than can be supplied by fat and forage. High grain intakes are associated with RER and tying-up. 

Polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) is commonly seen in horses with Quarter Horse breeding, and also in some draft and warmblood breeds. PSSM may be characterized by abnormal glycogen accumulation in muscle tissue caused by excessive activity of glycogen synthase (one of the enzymes that produces glycogen) and hypersensitivity to insulin and elevated blood glucose. Physical problems range from muscle quivering and cramping to sudden collapse. Horses with PSSM are best managed on a program similar to that of RER horses, with energy and nutrients provided by a low-starch, high-fat feed.

Which solution is right for your horse?

EO-3 Product Image

EO-3™ Omega-3 supplement. EO-3 is a rich source of  omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, compounds found to optimize the well-being of all horses, regardless of age or use. Specifically DHA and EPA supplementation has been shown to mediate inflammation as well as improve insulin sensitivity. Choose EO-3 to promote a more natural balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the body and the benefits this can confer on systemic inflammatory response, immune function, and insulin sensitivity. Recommended for horses with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, metabolic syndrome, and in any horse that is insulin resistant.

EquiShure Product Image

EquiShure® Time-released hindgut buffer. Developed to combat hindgut acidosis, this innovative, one-of-a-kind delivery system allows for the buffering of the hindgut, the site of fermentation in the horse. Choose EquiShure to reduce the risk of hindgut acidosis escalating to laminitis in horses receiving significant intakes of starch laden grains as well as those grazing high-fructan pastures, including those at risk for or with a history of laminitis.

Nano-E Product Image

Micro-Max™ Ration fortifier. Micro-Max is a low-intake concentrated source of vitamins and minerals for mature horses. Micro-Max is ideal for horses that maintain body weight on diets of forage and small amounts of concentrate. The use of Micro-Max ensures that all vitamin and mineral requirements of mature horses and ponies are satisfied. Because of its low feeding rate, Micro-Max can be fed by itself or mixed with a concentrate.

Nano-E Product Image

Nano-E® Nanodispersed, liquid natural-source vitamin E supplement. Nano-E provides highly a highly bioavailable natural (d-α-tocopherol), water soluble source of vitamin E to horses through a unique delivery system. Choose Nano-E to provide potent antioxidant support to horses with PSSM or RER, to provide optimal support of immune function in horses with Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction and to provide highly bioavailable vitamin E to horses that have limited access to pasture.

RE-LEVE Product Image

RE-LEVE® Veterinarian-recommended feed for horses requiring a low-starch diet. RE-LEVE, the first research-based low-starch feed, is beneficial for horses prone to the following muscular disorders: polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) and recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis (RER). (Please note, discounts and promotions do not apply to this product.)

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