Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) is a complex disorder involving the horse's endocrine system, characterized by obesity and insulin resistance. One of the major complications with this disease is its association with recurrent or chronic laminitis in affected horses. EMS is similar to Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) and Type 2 diabetes in humans. EMS occurs most frequently in obese horses with regional clusters of body fat, however it is also found in horses with a leaner body condition. These horses are often labeled as "easy keepers" or "good doers" for they are able to maintain their body condition with little feed required.
Clinical Signs of EMS
- Cresty neck: Score of 3 or above
- Fat deposits: Found along the side of the chest, hip region, and/or tail head.
- Body condition: Body condition score of 7 or greater (our of 9).
- Laminitis: Previous history, often related to grazing on lush pasture. Mild episodes can sometimes be mistakenly attributed to foot soreness following a farrier visit, sole bruising, or arthritis.
Treatment of EMS
The primary treatment goal for horses with EMS is to maintain the horse's body condition score at a seven, ideally a five. This is usually accomplished through weight control and conducting a nutrition analysis, modifying the horse's diet accordingly (usually includes switching to a low-stach diet and regularly soaking hay low in NSCs), and establishing a regular exercise program.