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  • Help keep your horse safe from laminitis

    Posted on by Abii Dowdy

    To help avoid the potentially lethal condition laminitis, make sure you take a read of our following tips to help protect your horse.

    Obesity or high sugar diets can lead to and complicate laminitis, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. It has been shown that high sugar diets lead to an increase in inflammatory markers which can negatively impact health including laminitis and arthritis.

    It is important to remember there are different types of laminitis: supporting limb laminitis (when they weight bear more on one leg, for example if they have a fracture of one forelimb), inflammatory (secondary to retained placenta or sepsis) and endocrinopathic laminitis (caused by high insulin levels) Endocrinopathic laminitis accounts for 90% of cases, where underlying diseases including Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), Cushing’s (PPID) and use of corticosteroids leads to insulin resistance.

    Don’t let them get overweight

    Horses’ daily intake should be 2% of their body weight in dry matter (hay/haylage/grass) OR 1.5% of their body weight in dry matter and 0.5% in concentrates.

    e.g.500kg horse should eat 10kg of hay and grass over a 24 hour period

    If you are trying to promote weight loss, this can safely be reduced to 1.5% (or lower under veterinary direction). Make sure you make changes in diet slowly.

    Provide regular exercise

    Exercise has many benefits including helping to keep glucose and insulin levels in check, as well as burning calories!

    • Check bodyweight regularly

    Using a weigh tape is a simple and easy way to monitor your horse’s weight; although not 100% accurate, if used in the same way every week they are a great way to track weight changes. You can also Body Condition Score (BCS) your horse to ensure that they are at the correct weight. The British Horse Society and several feed companies have BCS scaling systems and explanations on how to assess your horse online. Alternatively, you can ask your vet to body condition score your horse at any visit or bring your horse to the clinic to use our weigh bridge.

    Restrict intake by using a muzzle or strip grazing when on grass and slow-feed hay nets 

    Horses, and especially ponies, are very good at eating as much as they can when they have the opportunity – they can eat up to 70% of their daily intake of grass in just 3 hours. Having a muzzle on for half a day can help restrict their intake but probably isn’t enough if you are struggling to keep on top of their weight.

    Turn your horse out at night when the grass contains less fructan (the storage form of sugar) and avoid turning your horse out on sunny, frosty mornings, when the grass may contain high levels of fructan

    Fructan levels increase when grass photosynthesises but can’t grow e.g. cold weather. Levels are highest at the start and end of growing season, making Spring and Autumn high risk periods. Topping the grass or keeping it regularly grazed can reduce fructan levels, as they are mostly produced in the newest leaves.

    Feed a low sugar, low starch diet

    Soaking hay for 1 hour in cold water or 30 minutes in warm water will reduce the sugar content without stripping the hay of important nutrients and avoid cereal-based feeds. These feeds have a high carbohydrate content which can lead to insulin spikes and if gorged on, can cause inflammatory laminitis.