New studies to shed more light on laminitis and equine endocrine issues

Generalized obesity and regional adiposity in a Morgan horse mare with Equine Metabolic Syndrome
Generalized obesity and regional adiposity in a Morgan horse mare with Equine Metabolic Syndrome. © Equine Endocrinology Group

Several new studies at the cutting edge of laminitis research are to be published this year.

Some of the work was shared at the prestigious, invitation-only Havemeyer International Equine Endocrinology Summit, held in January in Florida.

The summit is held periodically for invited clinicians and researchers to share the latest findings or works in progress on the subject of equine endocrinology, with emphasis on PPID (pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction) and EMS (equine metabolic syndrome)/insulin dysregulation.

Members of the Waltham International Laminitis and Obesity Research Consortium gave nine of the 50 presentations, including how best to identify those animals with insulin dysregulation that could be at increased risk of laminitis.

Laminitis is a serious, painful and incapacitating inflammatory condition affecting the tissues within the equine hoof. In some cases it can lead to euthanasia and any equine can be susceptible. Improving knowledge about those at greater risk of laminitis and the possible risk factors involved will help to reduce the incidence of the condition and ultimately should help to prevent it.

Advanced pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction – this horse has developed a long curly haircoat that is referred to as hypertrichosis or hirsutism.
Advanced pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction – this horse has developed a long curly haircoat that is referred to as hypertrichosis or hirsutism. © Equine Endocrinology Group

One of the studies, to be published this June in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, demonstrates limitations in the horse owner and enthusiast’s ability to identify overweight animals from photographic images and suggests that perceptions of weight/condition have shifted recently and may alter depending on what activity the horse/pony is intended for. This supports the finding of a paper from the other side of the world, published at the end of last year,which showed that owners can find it difficult to recognise obesity.

Another explores a novel scoring system for looking at the association of regional fat deposits with clinical disease.

A paper confirming that cold-blooded type animals under 149cm in height, such as certain native ponies, as well as those kept on high quality pasture are at an increased risk of developing laminitis for the first time. This will be published in June in the  Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. It also highlights the important role that a change in grass intake, in terms of both type and amount, may play at any time of the year not only the spring as commonly thought.

In a study to be published later this year, Australian research has revealed that, unfortunately, the recommended changes in feeding and management to help reduce the risk of laminitis are not always followed, even in those animals that have already suffered from the condition.

Finally two key papers, one describing the conclusions of the first ever prospective study looking at factors that could help predict which animals may develop laminitis within a group of unaffected animals and the other looking at how feeding may influence the interpretation of the oral sugar test, are currently in press in the Equine Veterinary Journal.

Clare Barfoot, research and development manager of British feed manufacturer Spillers, said: “Not only are we very proud to be at the forefront of important scientific research that helps horse owners reduce to the risk of laminitis but the findings also provide us with invaluable information to enable us formulate our feeds appropriately. Current understanding still supports the use of high fibre, low sugar and starch, low glycaemic feeds.”

Havemeyer International Equine Endocrinology Summit

 

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