Equine Metabolic Syndrome: Treatment
Before you get on line and Google Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) and Treatment be sure to take some Advil because you are likely to end up with a headache! There are many companies marketing supplements aimed at horse owners desperate to help their insulin resistant laminitic horses, and it is very easy to become confused and tap out your checking account trying to help your horse and not really accomplishing much.
Try to keep going back to basics when you think about EMS: it is a disorder of energy metabolism. Any effective treatment should be directly related to diet, exercise, and/or the body's energy processing mechanisms. Here I will go down the list of things that we KNOW, based on clinical and laboratory research, can help the EMS horse.
Regular exercise is a critical part of the management of horses with EMS. Upcoming posts will be directed at specific conditioning recommendations for various types of sport horses. Unless afflicted with active laminits, there is no reason your EMS horse cannot be an athlete, even if it is on a limited basis.
3) Hoof Care
Whether your EMS horse is laminitic or not, regular attention by an experienced farrier or qualified barefoot trimmer is essential.
Metformin is a human medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. In humans, it lowers blood sugar, decreases glucose production by the liver, improves insulin sensitivity, and decreases glucose absorption from the gastrointestinal tract. Metformin activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme that plays an important role in insulin signaling, whole body energy balance, and the metabolism of glucose and fats.
There is conflicting evidence for the efficacy of metformin in horse with EMS. The problem is that metformin is not consistently absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract of horses, so the concentration of the drug that is reached in the bloodstream may vary significantly from horse to horse. However, in at least one research trial, at a dose of 30 mg/kg twice a day, there was a beneficial effect on insulin levels and glucose handling in the group of horses tested. Because metformin is affordable and has no significant negative side effects, it is widely used in laminitic horses with high insulin levels.
Feeding 4 ounces of psyillium daily may have beneficial effect on insulin regulation, based on a recent research trial at Montana State University in a group or normal horses. Go to our HighDesertEquine Facebook page to find links to more on this topic. This is another easy, safe addition to your EMS horse's diet that may have beneficial effects.
7) Chromium and Magnesium
Chromium and magnesium are involved in glucose and insulin regulation. There is evidence in humans that supplementation can benefit people with type 2 diabetes. Conflicting results with chromium supplementation exist in horses. It is unlikely that supplementation will do harm, but cost and the quality of products must be taken into consideration. If you decide to use a chromium/magnesium supplement in your EMS, first be sure to buy from a reputable company, be sure that the supplement does not contain additional carbohydrate, and ask the manufacturer for research or clinical trials conducted with their product. If they cannot produce hard data supporting their product, don't buy it.
I believe that education is the key to evolution. I believe that animals are the key to compassion. I believe the learning never stops.