Is Insulin Resistance the Only Cause of Laminitis?
No. The tendency to treat laminitis by switching to a low starch feed, removing your horse from pasture, and taking away the carrots and apples as treats, is the first approach most horse owners will take. Certainly, insulin resistance (typically resulting from obesity, metabolic syndrome, and equine Cushing’s disease) is the main cause of this debilitating condition, and reducing the sugar and starch content in the diet is the best way to lower circulating insulin levels. But if you’re not certain of the cause, rule out the following before making dramatic changes.
Carbohydrate overload from overconsumption of starchy feeds. You might be thinking, “Isn’t this the same thing as what happens with insulin resistance?” Actually, it’s an entirely different cause. If you feed a very large meal made from cereal grains (oats, corn, barley, etc.), the grain can reach the hindgut where the bacterial flora will ferment starch to lactic acid. The resulting bacterial destruction causes the release of endotoxins, which enter the bloodstream, leading to laminitis. This is a very different mechanism than elevated insulin. The problem is not consuming starch; the problem is consuming too much at one time.
Physical stress to feet. Poor farrier care, no barefooted rest periods, walking on a hard surface, trailering during the summer, or injury to one limb, causing increased weight on the healthy limbs, can all lead to laminitis.
Infections and illness. Antibiotic usage for a bacterial infection will kill the beneficial bacteria in the hindgut, as well as the ones causing the problem. Reducing the hindgut microbial population can lead to laminitis. A potent probiotic is necessary during antibiotic use. In addition, laminitis can be caused by a blood infection resulting from a retained placenta after foaling.
Stress and pain. Any type of stress, whether physical or mental, stimulates the release of cortisol (stress hormone). When cortisol rises, insulin rises, leading to laminitis.
Selenium or iron overload. Pay attention to the total amount of selenium in your horse’s diet. It has a narrow range of safety. And avoid supplementing iron – forage (hay and/or pasture) provides more than enough.
Toxic plants. Purchase a field guide with photos of toxic plants, and walk your pasture to determine any trouble areas.
The above article offers some of the basics involving laminitis. For more details, please refer to Feed Your Horse Like A Horse:
· Chapter 1 – Ground Rules for Feeding A Horse. Pages 15-18.
· Chapter 11 -- Laminitis. Entire chapter.
· Chapter 12 – Weight Management. Pages 174-181.
· Chapter 13 – Metabolic and Endocrine Disorders. Pages 193-217.
· Chapter 17 – Stress and Behavior. Pages 297-317.
March 2011 Forage for Thought
If you are concerned about preventing laminitis, and want to offer a comprehensive vitamin/mineral supplement that does not contain molasses or added iron, consider one of the following:
· High Point (Horsetech): http://gettyequinenutrition.biz/products/highpointgrass.htm
· Glanzen Complete or Glanzen Lite Complete (custom product made by Horsetech to fill in nutritional gaps found in hay). These two supplements are flaxseed meal based, providing omega 3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation, regulate immune function, and normalize circulating insulin levels: http://gettyequinenutrition.biz/products/glanzencomplete.htm or http://gettyequinenutrition.biz/products/glanzenlitecomplete.htm
· Glanzen Complete and Glanzen Lite Complete can be made without selenium. This is beneficial if your horse is already receiving selenium from another source or your hay/pasture contains sufficient amounts of this mineral.
During times of illness, pain, or stress, a probiotic along with a prebiotic is helpful. These two supplements are worth considering:
· SynBiotic EQ (MVP Pharmaceuticals): http://gettyequinenutrition.biz/products/synbioticeq.htm Contains support for microbial growth via yeast and D-Mannose. Beta-glucan content helps support immune function. And there are substantial levels of live microbes.
· Daily Start (Equi-Shine): http://gettyequinenutrition.biz/products/dailystart.htm Excellent choice for horses on antibiotic therapy. Also provides additional vitamins A, C, and E.
For permission to reprint this article, in part or in its entirety, arrange for a private consultation or schedule Dr. Getty as a speaker, please contact her directly at email@example.com .