Identifying and Managing Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)

Diagnosing EMS and taking steps to manage it can allow your horse to live a healthy and productive life.

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Identifying and Managing Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)
Remember that not all obese horses actually have EMS and not all horses that have EMS are obese. Work with your veterinarian to determine if you horse has EMS and how to best manage it. | Photo: iStock
Is your horse obese? Has he been diagnosed with insulin resistance? Does he suffer from intermittent bouts of laminitis? If you answered ‘yes’ to any or all of these questions, your horse might be suffering from equine metabolic syndrome (EMS).

But, says equine researcher Ray J. Geor, BVSc, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, pro vice-chancellor of the Massey University College of Sciences, in Palmerston North, new Zealand, identifying EMS and taking steps to manage the disorder can allow your horse to live a healthy and productive life.


Geor explained that the endocrine/metabolic disorder EMS can be defined as “increased adiposity (fat deposits), insulin resistance, and a predisposition to laminitis,” but the disorder appears to manifest itself in several different ways. He added that EMS research is ongoing, and researchers are currently exploring the possibility of different subtypes of EMS.

Veterinarians will diagnose EMS on the basis of history, findings from clinical examination, and the results of blood tests and radiographs of the feet (checking for evidence of subclinical laminitis), but obesity, insulin resistance, and laminitis—especially in combination with one another—are strong indicators of EMS

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Written by:

Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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