Early diagnosis of equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) is an important area of study, especially considering one of the first signs can be laminitis, a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition. Catching EMS in its initial stages can facilitate early intervention with an appropriate exercise and diet plan to reduce the chances of laminitis developing.

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, in Lexington, and the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada, have been collaborating to find out if there are changes in the intestinal microbiota of horses afflicted with EMS. Researchers know that humans with metabolic disorders have these changes, so the researchers set out to compare ten horses with EMS to ten horses in a control group by analyzing fecal microbiota with next generation sequencing of DNA.

“The study revealed a decrease in the fecal microbial diversity for the EMS horses as well as differences in the overall community structure when compared to the metabolically normal control group of horses,” said J. Scott Weese, DVM, DVSc, Dipl. ACVIM, a professor in the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College.

Both groups of horses were of comparable age and fed a similar all-forage diet for at least two months before sampling. Links have been made between obesity and lower microbial diversity in human, dog, and horse studies, but there is still much to learn about optimal values for diversity. With more research toward understanding the changes in microbiota and what influences these changes, it is possible this technology could