Feeding to Avoid Laminitis

Q. How Can I Feed A Metabolically Challenged Horse To Avoid Laminitis?

Generations of horse people, including farriers and other hoof-care professionals, fully understand the destructive effects of laminitis. Over the last several years, researchers have revealed that laminitis seems especially commonplace in horses with certain metabolic conditions such as equine Cushing’s disease and equine metabolic syndrome.

In some cases, the proper nutritional management of horses prone to or diagnosed with these conditions can keep them from developing laminitis.

Equine Cushing’s Disease

Equine Cushing’s disease (ECD) or pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) results from a tumor located in the pituitary gland. It is frequently recognized in older horses.

Horses with ECD usually have one or more of the following signs:

  • A long, curly hair coat regardless of the season.
  • Excessive thirst and urination.
  • Pot-bellied appearance.
  • Lethargy.
  • Dental diseases.
  • Hoof diseases.

From a veterinary perspective, laminitis is probably the most important clinical manifestation of ECD. This is due to the pain that often accompanies the disease and the consequent decrease in the usefulness of the animal.

The best dietary strategy for horses with ECD will depend on several factors.

Because these horses tend to be insulin insensitive, a ration that produces a low glycemic response is essential. Rations containing large amounts of grain and lush pasture should be avoided to reduce the likelihood of laminitis. Additionally, the ration must supply the correct amount of required nutrients for the horse, including the correct caloric content to maintain or achieve the desired…

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