Feeding Horses With Endocrine Disorders

Learn more about nutrition’s role in the development and management of equine endocrine disorders and how you can reduce your horse’s risk of developing a secondary disease.

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Feeding Horses With Endocrine Disorders
Feeding horses with conditions such as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (equine Cushing’s disease) involves managing hyperinsulinemia. | Photo: iStock

Nutritional management revolves around weight loss and low-sugar and -starch diets

The horse’s body functions like a harmonious orchestra. Think of the endocrine system, which includes organs such as the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and thyroid gland, as that orchestra’s conductors. By secreting signaling chemicals called hormones (your hypothetical batons) into the bloodstream, they can direct the entire orchestra or just individual musicians—specific organs—to perform certain tasks. The results? A pitch-perfect symphony.

Now, think of endocrine disorders as resulting from misdirected musicians. When organs and glands over- or under-secrete hormones or when tumors affect an organ, cacophony happens. The two most common equine endocrine disorders are pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID, or equine Cushing’s disease) and equine metabolic syndrome (EMS).

What is nutrition’s role in the development and management of these disorders and, more importantly, in reducing a horse’s risk of developing secondary diseases such as laminitis? Let’s take a look

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Written by:

Kristen M. Janicki, a lifelong horsewoman, was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and later attended graduate school at the University of Kentucky, studying under Dr. Laurie Lawrence in the area of Equine Nutrition. Kristen has been a performance horse nutritionist for an industry feed manufacturer for more than a decade. Her job entails evaluating and improving the performance of the sport horse through proper nutrition.

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