Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)
Equine Metabolic Syndrome can affect all types of horses and is particularly prevalent in ponies. Certain breeds have been recognised to be at greater risk of EMS including Welsh, Shetland ponies Morgans, Arabs and Warmblood horses. It is a condition of obesity which can predispose to laminitis and shares similarities with Type II diabetes in humans.
The disease is characterised by a reduction in the normal response to insulin (insulin resistance). Insulin’s most important function is the control of glucose levels in the blood and when insulin resistance occurs the normal relationship between insulin and glucose levels becomes disrupted.
In addition to insulin resistance the syndrome also encompasses other potential metabolic derangements including:
- altered energy metabolism
- changes in fat composition
- clotting disorders
- inflammation and damage to blood vessels, especially those in the feet giving rise to laminitis.
Management of EMS cases involved dedicated attention to feeding and exercise for the life of the horse. Horses with EMS should be fed a diet that is low in soluble sugars and starches, and additional medication such as Metformin can be used in short term management of cases.