Wednesday 7 June 2017

Laminitis Risk Analysis

Although there are numerous benefits to maintaining a healthy body weight, our prime concern as equine practitioners is to prevent laminitis from occuring. With a proactive approach to the nationwide problem of horse obesity, we hope to make changes to reduce the prevalence of laminitis, a painful, debilitating and at times, fatal disease.

"If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got" Henry Ford 

So, instead of reacting to cases of laminitis, let's be proactive and prevent them from occurring in the first place. 

Studies have shown that up to 90% of laminitis cases have underlying endocrine disease. Both Cushing's disease (PPID) and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) can lead to hyperinsulinaemia, an over-secretion of the hormone insulin. We now know that these spikes in insulin are directly linked to laminitis. When healthy horses are exposed to insulin infusions over a few days, laminitis will develop (De Laat et al, 2010).

Therefore we can use simple blood tests to perform a laminitis risk analysis BEFORE laminitis develops. Horse's can then have their management adapted depending on their current risk level.

An ACTH blood test will evaluate for Cushing's disease. In borderline cases this diagnosis may be confirmed with a TRH stimulation test.

An oral-glucose challenge test is a dynamic test for insulin resistance, seen with Equine Metabolic Syndrome. This test is easy to perform, involving holding the horse off feed over night, feeding a chaff meal containing 1g/kg body weight of glucose powder, then a blood sample 2 hours later to evaluate insulin levels. This process mimics the horse's response to exposure to carbohydrates and sugars in the grass. Both tests can easily be performed within one veterinary visit, they are quick and non-invasive.

We recommend that both tests are carried out as part of the Weight Wise program. Archie had blood drawn and submitted to the laboratory for laminitis risk analysis. Stay tuned to find out his results and what they mean.


De Laat et al (2010) Equine laminitis: induced by 48 hour hyperinsulinaemia in standardbred horses. Equine veterinary journal 42 129-135

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