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EMS & Obesity

EMS horses have the following characteristics:

  • Insulin dysregulation (ID);

  • Increased adiposity (i.e. excess fat deposits, often appearing on the neck crest and as fat pads at the base of tail); and

  • An increased risk for developing laminitis.

EMS can occur at ANY age in ANY breed of horse. However, certain breeds are more prone to developing EMS including:

  • Pony breeds;

  • Domesticated Spanish mustangs;

  • Peruvian Pasos;

  • Paso Finos;

  • Andalusians;

  • European Warmbloods;

  • American Saddlebreds;

  • Morgans; and

  • American Quarter Horses.

Diagnosing EMS: 

  • The current recommended method for diagnosing EMS is measuring insulin responses to an oral sugar test.

  • Testing only basal, fasting insulin levels can also be helpful, especially for monitoring.

  • During diagnosis, it is important to determine whether the horse also has PPID.

Treating EMS includes: 

  • Dietary modification (i.e. reducing caloric intake and avoiding diets high in starch and non-structural carbohydrates);

  • Exercise, if possible;

  • Veterinarian-prescribed medications, including Thyro-L or Metformin; and

  • Regularly monitoring the horse's weight, body condition and cresty neck score, and insulin levels.

​Our goals, through our research, are to:

  • Better understand the effects of obesity and EMS/ID on the horse's inflammatory response and how these inflammatory processes may contribute to laminitis;

  • Identify novel diagnostics and treatments to monitor and prevent endocrinopathy-associated laminitis; and

  • Learn how to better manage the EMS/ID horse through nutrition.

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