EMS: Equine Enemy No. 1

Equine metabolic syndrome doesn’t just cause equids’ girths to expand; it can also lead to other health conditions.
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EMS: Equine Enemy No. 1
Equine metabolic syndrome doesn't just cause equids' girths to expand; it can also lead to other health conditions. | Photo: Erica Larson/The Horse

Equine metabolic syndrome doesn’t just cause equids’ girths to expand; it can also lead to other very serious health conditions

In recent decades, sedentary lifestyles and inordinate calorie intake have caused many Americans’ waistlines to expand. Subsequently, obesity and Type 2 diabetes have become two of the most pressing health threats to humans today. “From a public health perspective, these are public enemy No. 1,” says Philip Schauer, MD, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute, in Ohio.  

And just as we overeat, we lovingly overfeed our pets. Small animal veterinarians report that obesity in dogs and cats is one of the most common medical issues that these species face. Horses can be overfed as well, ending up obese and afflicted with associated health problems.  

Early horses were free-roaming grazing animals with digestive systems designed for constant consumption of native grasses. They also got sufficient exercise walking great distances to find this forage. Today’s horses are still equipped to graze for 10-12 hours per day with no complications, but horse owners that do not have adequate pasture acreage to accommodate this type of lifestyle (and nowadays that seems to include nearly all of us) keep their horses in stalls with daily turnout into small paddocks

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Written by:

Nan K. Huff, PhD, is Louisiana State University AgCenter’s assistant county agent for the state’s Concordia and Catahoula Parishes.

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