Diagnosing Insulin Dysregulation in Horses: Consider Season’s Effect

Researchers found that both basal and post-oral-sugar-test insulin responses vary across seasons in horses with insulin dysregulation.

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diagnosing insulin dysregulation in horses
Insulin-dysregulated horses’ body condition and cresty neck scores did not reflect their basal insulin scores, an interesting finding, the researchers said. Therefore, they do not appear to be driving factors behind insulin dysregulation development. | Photo: iStock

As many as 89% of horses with the hoof disease laminitis develop this painful condition because of insulin-related endocrine disorders, so it’s important to monitor for these problems and make diagnoses early. Time of year can impact blood-insulin levels, though, complicating diagnosis for other endocrine diseases, such as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID, equine Cushing’s disease). So a University of Kentucky (UK) research group recently analyzed how season affects one type of endocrine test and visual indicators that could help veterinarians make a diagnosis.

Erica Macon, MS, a PhD candidate under Amanda Adams, PhD, at UK’s Gluck Equine Research Center, in Lexington, examined seasonal effects on morphometric—that is, body shape and size—measurements and insulin responses to the oral sugar test (OST) in horses with and without abnormal blood insulin levels (known as insulin dysregulation, or ID) in control and ID horses. She presented her results at the 2018 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in San Francisco, California,

The specific measurements she and her team considered were body weight, body condition score (BCS), and cresty neck scores

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Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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