Decoding Equine Metabolic Syndrome

Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) — it's a term that most horse owners are unfortunately familiar with, but do we really know what it entails? More importantly, are we truly able to identify its signs in our equine friends in time? Let’s delve into what EMS entails, who it affects, and how to manage these lovable creatures better. Under the Microscope: What is Equine Metabolic Syndrome?

EMS: Not A One-Size-Fits-All Condition

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's be clear: EMS isn't a singular affliction. Specialists from the Equine Endocrinology Group have emphasized that it's a collection of risk factors for laminitis in horses, primarily caused by hyperinsulinemia, or elevated insulin levels. This collection of risk factors is frequently referred to as insulin dysregulation (ID).

Fact Check: Identifying EMS in Horses

One consistent symptom of EMS is insulin dysregulation linked often to increased generalized or regional adiposity — that's fat deposits for those of us without a veterinary degree. This could mean fat being stored all over the horse, or just in certain areas. The main takeaway here is that ID plus unusual fat deposits often equals EMS. However, it's vital to keep in mind that not every horse with a few extra pounds has EMS, making professional diagnosis essential.

Where Does EMS Come From: Genetics vs. Environment?

It's quite simple: EMS is a byproduct of influential genetic and environmental factors. That means a horse with a high genetic risk may develop EMS even with minimal environmental stressors, such as a diet high in nonstructural carbohydrates (NSCs). Conversely, a horse with a lower genetic risk may develop EMS when exposed to improper environmental conditions.

The Face(s) Of EMS: Identifying High-risk Horses

Now that we've got a grasp on the basics, let's discuss which horses are most likely to be affected by EMS. Research points mainly towards ponies being at high risk, especially those carrying a little extra weight. However, horse breeds like American Saddlebreds, Morgans, Tennessee Walking Horses, Paso Finos, and Arabians also show a predisposition for EMS. It's important to identify and manage these high-risk horses because EMS, if left untreated, can put them at risk of more severe complications like endocrinopathic laminitis.

The Road To Recovery: BMP Equine Metabolic Syndrome

If you suspect your horse is showing symptoms of EMS, it's time to have a serious conversation with your veterinarian. They can guide you through the appropriate tests to confirm the diagnosis and then lay out a management plan. This could potentially include changes in diet, increased exercise, and medication. The goal here is to keep our four-legged friends healthy, happy, and far from the clutches of EMS. Now, you're armed with all the necessary information about Equine Metabolic Syndrome. It's time to implement this knowledge for the well-being of all the ponies and horses in your life. After all, there's no 'i' in team, but there is most certainly an 'EMS' in horse teams. Article inspired by The Many Faces of Equine Metabolic Syndrome, authored by Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc.