Insulin is a hormone produced by special cells within the pancreas in order to do many important jobs, one of which is the transportation of glucose from the bloodstream into each individual cell. When foods high in glucose enter the body, more insulin must be released. Insulin resistance (IR) is a condition where the cells of the body no longer respond to the hormone, causing many serious health problems. There are several causes of this condition, such as genetics, obesity, lack of exercise and a poor diet to name a few. Equine Insulin Resistance sometimes occurs because of the domestic life of many horses, which involves consuming food high in starch and sugar, but a lack of exercise in order to burn off the extra energy.

Equine insulin Resistance can cause several symptoms such as unusual fat deposits, excessive drinking and urinating, loss of muscle mass and laminitis. Laminitis is a disease that affects the hooves of the horse, causing inflammation and lameness. Testing for blood insulin and glucose levels is a simple way to diagnose a horse with IR. Once diagnosed, several steps must be taken in order to manage this condition.

The most obvious change that needs to be implemented is an improvement in diet. Feeding the horse hay that is low in starch and sugar can help prevent laminitis. One trick to make the hay healthier is to soak it in water for a period of time. Another important change is cutting down the amount of fat the horse consumes; therefore, food rich in fat such as oils and rice bran are not helpful.  Specific vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, can benefit a horse with insulin resistance.

Although not all horses with IR are obese, most usually gain weight and so an increase in exercise is very important for the affected horse. Staying active can help manage the amount of glucose in the horse’s blood and as a result, decrease insulin production. Physical activity cannot be ignored when dealing with insulin resistance; it must be combined with a diet change to help improve the horse’s condition. Lastly, because laminitis is a serious threat linked to equine insulin resistance, the horse’s hooves must be given proper attention in order to prevent this disease.

Equine insulin resistance is a serious condition that is connected with Cushing’s disease and laminitis that must be managed thoroughly and carefully. Nevertheless, with a balanced diet and a healthy amount of exercise, horses with insulin resistance can live a normal life, and owners with unaffected horses can be encouraged to maintain a healthy lifestyle for their horse, regardless of the presence of this disease.

References

Kronfeld, D.S., Treiber, K. H., Hess, T. M., & Boston, R. C. (2005). Insulin resistance in the horse: Definition, detection, and dietetics. Journal of Animal Science, 83(13), E22-E31. Retrieved from http://jas.fass.org/content/83/13_suppl/E22.short.

Kellon, E. (2009). Treatment – Insulin Resistance. In Ecir Horse. Retrieved from http://www.ecirhorse.com/index.php/insulin-resistance/treatment-of-ir.

Balanced Equine Nutrition. (January 7, 2006). Insulin Resistance in Horses-Management and Signs of Laminits. In Balanced Equine Nutrition. Retrieved from http://www.balancedequinenutrition.com/IRArticle.html.

Reilly, F. K., & Smedley, J. E. (n.d.). Answers for Insulin Resistant Horse. In Holistic Horse. Retrieved from http://www.holistichorse.com/Nutrition/dietary-strategy-for-your-ir-horse.html.

Equine Health. (June 28, 2012). Equine Insulin Resistance. In My Equine Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.myequineclinic.com/equine-insulin-resistance/.

Adams, M. (n.d.). Feeding the Insulin Resistant Horse. In Southern States. Retrieved from http://www.southernstates.com/articles/feed-insulin-resistant.aspx.

Gustafson, K. (n.d.) Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance. In Harley Wood. Retrieved from http://www.harleywood.ca/Equine_Cushings.htm.

Harman, J. (June 7, 2011). Insulin Resistance and Laminitis Treatment from a Natural Medicine Perspective. In Harmany Equine. Retrieved from http://harmanyequine.com/2011/06/insulin-reistance-and-laminitis-treatment-from-a-natural-medicine-perspective/.

Horse Talk. (April 29, 2011). Diet, exercise still supreme in controlling insulin resistance. In Horse Talk. Retrieved from http://www.horsetalk.co.nz/health/175-insulinresistance.shtml.

Worth, M. (2007). Diet Recommendations for Equine Cushings and Cushings-Like Syndrome, AKA Insulin Resistance. In The Mane Street. Retrieved from http://www.themanestreet.com/authors/melyniworth/nutrition/dietrecommendations.htm.

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