Laminitis is a crippling disease that affects the feet of horses and ponies. Research has shown us that 90% of laminitis cases occur due to either Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) or Cushing’s disease now known as Pars Pituitary Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID).
EMS is a condition brought on by a combination of genetic and environmental factors and is linked to obesity and insulin resistance. It is far too easy to look at a thin horse and criticise its condition. Unfortunately, studies in the UK have revealed that 80% of horses are classed as overweight. Winter is naturally a time of year for horses to lose weight. Modern management of horses often involves inactivity and overfeeding during the winter months, and the consequence is weight gain. Overweight horses and ponies are at a high risk of laminitis due to Equine Metabolic Syndrome. Turning out onto lush Spring grass can lead to the development of laminitis in these susceptible individuals. Blood tests can be used to diagnose EMS. Think of overweight horses being comparable to an overweight person at risk from heart disease – they may not have laminitis currently, but they are at a much higher risk. Exercise and weight loss are key to treating and preventing EMS.
Avoidance of obesity requires regular monthly condition scoring. Look at the Dodson and Horrell web page on how to fat score:
Weigh tapes provide some idea of weight and can give you an idea of weight gain or loss. However condition scoring the crest, chest and rump gives a much more objective idea of excess fat depots.
Before the fresh grass comes through in Spring and also in Autumn, prevent further weight gain and consider whether weight reduction is needed if your horse has a fat score of 4 or 5 out of 5. Please be aware that horses should never have a severe reduction in feed without veterinary supervision.
PPID is caused by an alteration in the pituitary gland, a hormonal gland in the brain. Horses and ponies over the age of ten may be suffering from PPID. It can affect the horse’s immune system and increase their susceptibility to laminitis. A blood sample can be used to diagnose PPID. The disease may be controlled with tablets.
Liphook Equine Hospital in conjunction with the drug company Boehringer continues to carry out research into PPID. Throughout the year, there are vouchers towards the lab fees to test for PPID. For more information go to http://www.talkaboutlaminitis.co.uk/