Return to Spotlight on Equine Nutrition Series

Excerpt from Laminitis – A Scientific and Realistic Approach



Prevention Is the First Defense  (small excerpt of longer section)

Exercise. We’ve known this for years really but a recent study presented at the 2011 Equine Sciences Society’s Symposium demonstrated that exercise improves insulin sensitivity and reduces cytokine production. From this we know that the insulin receptors on the surface of the cells are increased by exercise and that allows insulin to come down to normal.

Feed. Make sure that you’re feeding a low-NSC hay or forage, and if you choose to feed a commercial feed, then check the ingredients. It should not contain oats or corn or barley—any cereal grains. It should not contain wheat middlings, which are pretty high in NSC. It should not contain rice bran, which is lower, about 24% NSC, but still too high for the insulin-resistant horse. Certainly it should not contain molasses. If it contains soybean oil, that could increase inflammation due to omega 6 fatty acids, so you want to make sure the horse is getting enough omega 3s to counteract any inflammation.

Soaking your hay is effective but it’s difficult to do (and certainly in the wintertime it’s nearly impossible) but if you test your hay, test it after you soak it. Let it dry and then test it so that you can see what your horse is getting. The studies that have been done with soaking hay vary in the amount of time and the air temperature. The warmer the temperature and the longer the time, the more sugar is removed. But you have to be careful because when you soak hay for too long (for instance overnight), that removes a lot of the sugar but it also removes minerals and also the water-soluble fiber, the pectin, which is so beneficial to the hind gut. So what you’re left with is the water insoluble fibers, the cellulose and the hemicellulose and lignin, so you’re feeding basically a very poor quality, very low in nutrient product. So soaking can really be a catch-22, and you may need to add another water-soluble fiber source such as beet pulp. I usually recommend soaking the hay for about thirty minutes to an hour.

Remember to feed your hay throughout the night. As I mentioned, horses will gorge themselves if fed only periodically. The transformation from feeding free-choice is beautiful to see. Those of you who have done this know what I’m talking about: When your horse used to grab at the hay when you would greet him in the morning, he doesn’t do that anymore. After you get him accustomed to knowing that he has all the hay that he needs and wants and he can walk away from it, when he sees you in the morning with a fresh batch, he will just kind of look at you as if to say a simple “Good morning,” and “Just set it down in the corner, I’ll get to it later.” Food is no longer an issue. And the fascinating thing is that they don’t eat as much.


Treatments for Laminitis (excerpt of longer section)

·         Cryotherapy

·         Drugs

·         Rest?                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

·         Farriery


Supplements  (excerpt of longer list)

Psyllium. In terms of supplementation for laminitis cases, there are a few things that I like and one of them is psyllium. Psyllium is best known for its prevention of sand colic. Products like Sand Relief or any kind of psyllium husks are generally given to horses that feed off the ground and consume a lot of dirt and sand, and for these horses, the recommendation is to give psyllium for seven days out of a month. That’s fine and you can continue doing that if you are doing that already. But if you have an insulin-resistant horse, I recommend giving psyllium every day because psyllium actually inhibits the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, and when you reduce glucose absorption, then insulin doesn’t rise as dramatically. So it’s very helpful for the insulin-resistant horse. A good rule of thumb is to give one-third of a cup per meal; if you feed meals twice a day, that will total two-thirds per day; if you feed three times a day, that will add up to a full cup, but the point is that they should have some with each meal. (By “meal” I mean a feeding that is in addition to the normal hay and/or pasture you’re providing.)