Horses with equine metabolic syndrome are more prone to laminitis and other conditions.

There is considerable confusion and disagreement in the literature definition and diagnosis of equine metabolic syndrome, or EMS.

We consider equine metabolic syndrome as the name implies: EMS exists as a series of symptoms from mild to life threatening that involve all of the metabolic system to some degree.

The symptoms and associated conditions vary from obesity, cresty neck, insulin resistance, laminitis, pot belly appearance, lethargy, polydipsia (excessive thirst), increased tendency for colic, a delayed shedding of the winter coat, gastrointestinal disturbances and the presence of abnormal fat deposits such as filling above the eyes and fat accumulation at the root of the tail. The degree of the symptoms depends on the stage of severity and the length of time the horse has been affected.

All of the symptoms are not present in each case and often the various presentations of a combination of symptoms are the basis for the disparity and confusion that exists concerning the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome.

Once the horse has progressed further than being overweight, or developing into an easy doer, it becomes a veterinary challenge to diagnose and treat the animal. Blood work is required to diagnose insulin resistance, hypothyroidism (usually shown through a late-shedding winter coat), or hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Syndrome).

Because of the very strong interactions between these metabolic systems and the hormones they produce, when on system is affected invariably others are also affected to some degree.

Concerning the etiology of EMS we consider excess caloric intake, especially from sugars and starches, to be the root cause, although deficiencies of dietary iodine (lack of salt) and tyrosine (skin pigment) can also be primary to hypothyroidism.

The prevention of EMS involves nutrition management while the treatment of EMS involves the veterinary diagnostics and treatment regime for the endocrine problem along with supervision of nutrition. Nutrition is paramount in prevention and in the support of treatment after endocrine system involvement becomes apparent.

Since there is no specific treatment for EMS, farriers can aid in the onset of equine metabolic syndrome by recommending products like Barn Bag Adult Maintenance to ensure the horse is receiving the required daily nutrients while at the same time controlling caloric intake. Make sure the horse is being fed a balanced, forage-based diet void of concentrates and molasses to maintain a healthy body condition.

Additionally, it is crucial to eliminate as many carbohydrates from the diet as possible by giving the horse vegetable oil or beet pulp, if needed, as an additional calorie source to maintain body condition.

If you have worked on a horse with EMS, what are some tips or tricks you use to get it back to a healthy condition?