Because of its association with laminitis, insulin resistance will be critical to the health of many horses as they are turned out on pasture this spring.
If you see a laminitic horse in your footcare that exhibits delayed haircoat shedding or a loss of skeletal muscle mass, the horse should be checked by a vet for insulin resistance. Another insulin resistance concern is the “easy keeper,” where body weight is maintained on a relatively low caloric intake.
Frank Nicholas says insulin resistance is often found in ponies, Morgans, Paso Finos and Norwegian Fjords. The equine vet at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., says the condition also occurs in Arabians, Quarter Horses, American Saddlebreds and Tennessee Walking Horses.
“Horses with this condition can often be recognized by their appearance,” says Nicholas. “Some exhibit generalized obesity while others are thinner through the mid region of the body, yet have a crusty neck or enlarged fat pads next to the tailhead.”
He told attendees at December’s American Association of Equine Practitioners meeting that the situation can be defined as Cushing’s disease, equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) or pre-laminitic metabolic syndrome.
“All of the pieces of the puzzle must be assembled before we can fully understand the association between insulin resistance and pasture-associated laminitis,” he says. “But it seems that non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) within pasture grasses play an important role in this process.”
Additional details on the role of proper feeding and insulin resistance in managing laminitis is found in the…