What is insulin resistance and how does it hurt horses?

Insulin needle for horse
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Introduction to Insulin resistance in horses

One of the horse diseases that has been the talk of many lately is insulin resistance. Also known as Equine Metabolic Syndrome or EMS, it can cause your horse’s health to degenerate, which is why we must pay great attention to it. After all, metabolism ensures that animals function like normal, and diseases that affect it must be addressed immediately.

One thing to note, is that generally speaking horses that are developing insulin resistance don’t need injections. We did put the image up as this is what comes to peoples minds when they think about insulin resistance. However, horses will only need an injection if they are suffering from Diabetes, and usually only when they have Diabetes 1. So we must apologize if there is any confusion that comes from the picture, we just know that this is sometimes where people minds go right away when talking about insulin as it relates to diabetes.

What is insulin resistance?

This disease is diagnosed when the horse produces abnormally high levels of insulin. This results in having high levels of fat and a lack of energy. Similar to humans in the early stages of diabetes, it can result from a mix of genetic and lifestyle results.

Insulin is a hormone naturally produced in order to regulate the levels of sugar whenever the horse eats. It helps in transforming the food into stored energy to be used later. Once a horse gets insulin resistance, the sugar will not be taken into their bloodstream unless a higher level of insulin is pumped. This results in very high levels of insulin, which is unhealthy.

One of the scariest side-effects of this is laminitis. This is an equine disease that causes the coffin bone and their hoof to separate. In its worst stages, it results in pain whenever they walk, and eventually, immobility and death. Here is a video that goes over how a vet would test for IR in horses:

Testing for insulin resistance in horses

Another side-effect is that their storage of fat becomes too much for their liver to handle. Called as hyperlipidemia, this can cause them to have less appetite. Eventually, it can also lead to death.

What causes equine insulin resistance?

The first cause is due to their genetics. Some breeds and subsets are more prone to this disease such as Quarter horse, Arabians, Morgans, donkeys, and ponies. Experts point it to the fact that these are more suited to areas with less food available and with harsher climates. Their energy reserves take more carbohydrates once it is available, and an excess of it easily forms. Once this happens, they are most likely to get insulin resistance.

Next is due to their lifestyle. Just like with humans, horses that receive less exercise yet eat frequently are more likely to have the disease. This is why you should always be wary of their day-to-day activities.

Once they suffer from this, you will notice them getting fatter. Specifically, their neck, trailhead, and ribs have more fat content. However, this is not applicable for all, as even thin ones can still have the disease. Because of this, it is best to have their insulin levels checked just to be sure.

Can insulin resistance be avoided?

Yes, but not completely. As we’ve stated earlier, a factor is the genetics of your equine companion. Because of this, the best you can do is to ensure that they follow a regular exercise schedule, have a healthy diet, and are regularly checked by a veterinarian.

What is the treatment for equine insulin resistance?

The best treatment is a planned diet that specifically aims to reduce carbohydrates. The amount of calories taken per day must also be limited. This can be done by limiting their contact to pasture while ensuring that they receive adequate exercise everyday.

It is best to consult a veterinarian to be able to choose a feed that fits your horse’s dietary needs correctly. Specifically, feed analysis is important so that the exact nutritional content will be analyzed.

A veterinarian can also give advice on how to reduce your horse’s weight at an appropriate pace. Through this, their chances of having insulin resistance’s symptoms will be lessened. Their chances of developing laminitis is also reduced.

You can also give them health supplements, but be sure that it does not contain additional calories so that they do not gain weight from it. One of the recommended ones is CBD or cannabidiol.

CBD can help by improving the metabolism of your horse through stimulation of their endocannabinoid system or ECS. Aside from this, it also helps in lessening the other side effects of the disease such as chronic pain, inflammation, and even anxiety.

Giving CBD to your horse

CBD is gathered from the hemp plant. It is treated to get its maximum benefits while ensuring that it is completely safe for regular consumption of horse. It comes with an oil carrier such as hemp seed oil and MCT oil.

Usually, it is sold in oil form. This comes with its own dropper so that you can measure the dose properly. You give it to the horse by rubbing it on their gums or dropping it on their tongue.

There are also horse treats and pellets with CBD mixed. It has horse-friendly flavors such as apple and cinnamon to make it easier to eat. Be sure to pick one with low calorie content so that you don’t end up making them gain weight.

Keep in mind that there are three CBD blends. First is the full spectrum blend, which incorporates terpenes and other phytocannabinoids from hemp to make a stronger dose. Next is the broad-spectrum blend, which removes THC to make it a mid-potency option. Lastly is the CBD isolate which is the purest and mildest form.

The difference in content affects its dosage requirements. Be sure to familiarize yourself with how to administer it properly as to see the best effects for your horse.

Conclusion to Insulin resistance in horses

Equine insulin resistance must be immediately addressed to prevent the development of other diseases, especially laminitis. Frequent tests, controlled diets, and increased exercise are good for lessening the chances of developing it.

We also recommend trying CBD as it can help in improving their metabolism and reducing their pain and inflammations. It is all-natural and easy to administer. Horses react positively with an active approach to the disease, which is why we advise immediately acting on it. Here is a great , and in depth, review of insulin resistance in horses that is worth the watch:

Insulin resistance in horses

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