A study has shown owners of horses and ponies with equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) can, with veterinary guidance, achieve significant weight loss and improvements in insulin sensitivity, so reducing the risk of laminitis.

The study, “Treatment of equine metabolic syndrome: a clinical case series”, was jointly conducted by vets at the Universities of Liverpool and Edinburgh, and published in the Equine Veterinary Journal.

The study was performed as treatment of EMS is essential to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of laminitis, but although calorie restriction and increased exercise are the mainstays of treatment, there is potential for poor owner compliance.

The objective of the study was to determine whether significant weight loss, accompanied by improved insulin sensitivity, could be achieved in horses and ponies with EMS when managed by their owners in their normal environment, with veterinary support.

The study showed metabolically significant weight loss is achievable in horses and ponies managed by their owners when an individually tailored plan is implemented and veterinary follow-up encouraged.

Weight loss, without concurrent medical therapy, resulted in significant changes in basal and dynamic insulin and glucose measurements consistent with improvement in insulin sensitivity.

It was not possible to determine exactly what contribution the exercise versus weight loss had on the improvements in insulin sensitivity, and further controlled research studies are warranted to look at specific effects of exercise in horses and ponies with EMS.

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