Life Data Labs, Inc.

Equine Insulin Resistance: Definition, Causes, Signs, Treatment and Prevention

1. Definition
2. Causes
3. Early Signs
4. Prognosis
5. Feeding and Care practices
6. What should be avoided
7. How to Prevent?
8. Why is IR on the rise?

What is insulin resistance?

‘Insulin resistance’ is the accepted term for increased blood glucose in combination with normal to increased levels of blood insulin.

In a normally functioning system, glucose in the bloodstream is transported into the cells by the action of insulin. In the case of insulin resistance, this glucose transport function is impaired, resulting in an increase of glucose inside the circulatory system and a decrease of glucose within the cells. This excess of glucose in the circulatory system signals the pancreas to secrete even more insulin in an attempt to bring the blood glucose back to normal.

The end result is an increase in both insulin and glucose in the circulatory system and a decrease in glucose in the tissue, thus the term insulin resistance.

What causes insulin resistance?

The relationships between metabolic mechanisms leading to or resulting from IR are complex. It is unclear whether insulin resistance is a symptom resulting from other metabolic dysfunctions or a primary disease.

A major point to understand is the ‘disconnect’ between calories consumed and calories utilized. When horses consume more calories than they need they store the calories as fatty tissue. When they are burning more calories than they are fed, they utilize these fat reserves for energy. When the balance between calories consumed and calories used is upset, the horse is at risk for metabolic problems, including insulin resistance.

For example, an overfed horse that does very little work (or none), will increase his fat storages. This will result in an increased risk of metabolic diseases which include insulin resistance as a contributing factor.

Early signs of Insulin Resistant Horse:

  • Abnormal weight gain or weight loss.
  • Increased or excessive water consumption
  • Loss of stamina and muscle tone
  • Tendency to develop laminitis or colic
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Increased blood triglyceride levels

A definitive diagnosis can be accomplished by your veterinarian utilizing blood tests. The tests could include a series of blood samples drawn before and after either administration of an injection of glucose or a feeding of grain. Sophisticated glucose challenge tests can be performed in an equine clinic or hospital setting.

Insulin resistance is likely an early warning of additional metabolic related diseases, including colic and laminitis, and endocrine related problems such as Cushings. If the horse is diagnosed at an early stage, it can allow the attending veterinarian to take preventative measures rather than treatment measures in the care of the horse.

What is the prognosis for a horse with IR?

The prognosis, in terms of performance and quality of life, depends on the type and quality of the care. Many times, a horse can return to previous activities provided the proper attention has been given to any disorders related to or resulting from IR.

The caretaker must understand the nature of the disease and be willing to carry out the instructions given by the attending veterinarian.

What feeding and care practices should be implemented for IR horses?

The feeding and care should be under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. Issues the veterinarian may address are as follows:

  • The veterinarian will first attempt to establish the cause of the excess blood glucose and insulin, and treat or manage the cause. Examples of contributing factors include excess calorie consumption, lack of exercise, Cushings, administration of medications such as glucocorticoids, and hypothyroidism.
  • A strict weight control program should be implemented with regards to total energy intake, and with a careful consideration of balance between sugars, carbohydrates and fats. Strict attention should be paid to the restriction of soluble carbohydrate intake. There should be periodic insulin, glucose, thyroid and adrenal monitoring utilizing the appropriate blood tests.
  • The veterinarian will likely prescribe a specialized exercise program for the horse.
  • Any associated conditions should be addressed such as laminitis, colic and structural hoof damage resulting from excess weight. The excess weight can also result in other lameness related conditions.

What should be avoided when caring for an IR horse?

The use of feed high in starches and carbohydrates should be avoided. The horse owner should limit the consumption of soluble carbohydrates (sugars and starches) present in high levels in some bagged feeds and forage.

If there is need to take additional action, limit cellulose by restricting bran or sugar beet pulp, and increase lignin intake with “high stem” content hay or straw. Assure adequate nutrient intake by supplying a product designed to balance hay and pasture without contributing to calorie intake.

Are there any ways to prevent IR?

The first step to minimize problems associated with IR should be to avoid compounded feeds. Instead, furnish a balanced diet utilizing grass hay or pasture and a hay/pasture balancer.

An excellent balancer is Barn Bag®, a concentrated nutrient source low in calories and starches.

The second step, if necessary to control weight, is to reduce the grade of hay or pasture, or substitute straw for some of the hay.

Why is IR on the rise?

There are several contributing factors:

  • In compounded feeds, calorie intake is directly tied to other nutrients. Therefore, when we reduce or increase calorie intake we are also under or over supplementing other nutrients. The resulting imbalance may contribute to metabolic problems, including IR.
  • Today’s hays and pastures are often more carbohydrate and sugar dense with the “high energy content varieties”, irrigation and fertilizers. The increased calorie content is good for cattle and commercial milk production, but is inappropriate for many horses. It may be necessary to limit grazing, dilute the hay with straw or feed “high stem content” hay.
  • Another contributing factor in the increased incidence of IR may be the number of horses that are receiving less exercise.
  • Further contributing to lack of exercise is that modern horses do not have to search for forage or water, as these are usually under their nose.

From a practical matter, all this ‘boils down’ to the fact: if there’s either an imbalance between calories consumed and calories utilized or imbalanced nutrient intake, problems will develop over time.

J. Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS
Founder of Life Data Labs, Inc.
Developer of Farrier’s Formula®
H. Scott Gravlee, DVM, CNS
Equine Nutrition Consultant

 

1. Definition
2. Causes
3. Early Signs
4. Prognosis
5. Feeding and Care practices

6. What should be avoided
7. How to Prevent?
8. Why is IR on the rise?

 

What is insulin resistance?

‘Insulin resistance’ is the accepted term for increased blood glucose in combination with normal to increased levels of blood insulin.

 

In a normally functioning system, glucose in the bloodstream is transported into the cells by the action of insulin. In the case of insulin resistance, this glucose transport function is impaired, resulting in an increase of glucose inside the circulatory system and a decrease of glucose within the cells. This excess of glucose in the circulatory system signals the pancreas to secrete even more insulin in an attempt to bring the blood glucose back to normal.

 

The end result is an increase in both insulin and glucose in the circulatory system and a decrease in glucose in the tissue, thus the term insulin resistance.

 

What causes insulin resistance?

The relationships between metabolic mechanisms leading to or resulting from IR are complex. It is unclear whether insulin resistance is a symptom resulting from other metabolic dysfunctions or a primary disease.

 

A major point to understand is the ‘disconnect’ between calories consumed and calories utilized. When horses consume more calories than they need they store the calories as fatty tissue. When they are burning more calories than they are fed, they utilize these fat reserves for energy. When the balance between calories consumed and calories used is upset, the horse is at risk for metabolic problems, including insulin resistance.

 

For example, an overfed horse that does very little work (or none), will increase his fat storages. This will result in an increased risk of metabolic diseases which include insulin resistance as a contributing factor.

 

Early signs of Insulin Resistant Horse:

  • Abnormal weight gain or weight loss.
  • Increased or excessive water consumption
  • Loss of stamina and muscle tone
  • Tendency to develop laminitis or colic
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Increased blood triglyceride levels

A definitive diagnosis can be accomplished by your veterinarian utilizing blood tests. The tests could include a series of blood samples drawn before and after either administration of an injection of glucose or a feeding of grain. Sophisticated glucose challenge tests can be performed in an equine clinic or hospital setting.

 

Insulin resistance is likely an early warning of additional metabolic related diseases, including colic and laminitis, and endocrine related problems such as Cushings. If the horse is diagnosed at an early stage, it can allow the attending veterinarian to take preventative measures rather than treatment measures in the care of the horse.

 

What is the prognosis for a horse with IR?

The prognosis, in terms of performance and quality of life, depends on the type and quality of the care. Many times, a horse can return to previous activities provided the proper attention has been given to any disorders related to or resulting from IR.

 

The caretaker must understand the nature of the disease and be willing to carry out the instructions given by the attending veterinarian.

 

What feeding and care practices should be implemented for IR horses?

The feeding and care should be under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. Issues the veterinarian may address are as follows:

  • The veterinarian will first attempt to establish the cause of the excess blood glucose and insulin, and treat or manage the cause. Examples of contributing factors include excess calorie consumption, lack of exercise, Cushings, administration of medications such as glucocorticoids, and hypothyroidism.
  • A strict weight control program should be implemented with regards to total energy intake, and with a careful consideration of balance between sugars, carbohydrates and fats. Strict attention should be paid to the restriction of soluble carbohydrate intake. There should be periodic insulin, glucose, thyroid and adrenal monitoring utilizing the appropriate blood tests.
  • The veterinarian will likely prescribe a specialized exercise program for the horse.
  • Any associated conditions should be addressed such as laminitis, colic and structural hoof damage resulting from excess weight. The excess weight can also result in other lameness related conditions.

What should be avoided when caring for an IR horse?

The use of feed high in starches and carbohydrates should be avoided. The horse owner should limit the consumption of soluble carbohydrates (sugars and starches) present in high levels in some bagged feeds and forage.

 

If there is need to take additional action, limit cellulose by restricting bran or sugar beet pulp, and increase lignin intake with “high stem” content hay or straw. Assure adequate nutrient intake by supplying a product designed to balance hay and pasture without contributing to calorie intake.

 

Are there any ways to prevent IR?

The first step to minimize problems associated with IR should be to avoid compounded feeds. Instead, furnish a balanced diet utilizing grass hay or pasture and a hay/pasture balancer.


An excellent balancer is Barn Bag®, a concentrated nutrient source low in calories and starches.


The second step, if necessary to control weight, is to reduce the grade of hay or pasture, or substitute straw for some of the hay.

 

Why is IR on the rise?

There are several contributing factors:

  • In compounded feeds, calorie intake is directly tied to other nutrients. Therefore, when we reduce or increase calorie intake we are also under or over supplementing other nutrients. The resulting imbalance may contribute to metabolic problems, including IR.
  • Today’s hays and pastures are often more carbohydrate and sugar dense with the “high energy content varieties”, irrigation and fertilizers. The increased calorie content is good for cattle and commercial milk production, but is inappropriate for many horses. It may be necessary to limit grazing, dilute the hay with straw or feed “high stem content” hay.
  • Another contributing factor in the increased incidence of IR may be the number of horses that are receiving less exercise.
  • Further contributing to lack of exercise is that modern horses do not have to search for forage or water, as these are usually under their nose.

From a practical matter, all this ‘boils down’ to the fact: if there’s either an imbalance between calories consumed and calories utilized or imbalanced nutrient intake, problems will develop over time.

 

J. Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS 
Founder of Life Data Labs, Inc. 
Developer of Farrier’s Formula® 
H. Scott Gravlee, DVM, CNS 
Equine Nutrition Consultant

 

  • Sulfur Over Supplementation +

    Sulfur Over Supplementation in Horses. Sulfur is abundant in the hoof. The “rotten egg” odor produced during hot-shoeing is the smell of sulfur gas resulting from burning the sulfur – rich connective tissue proteins of the hoof. Why is Sulfur Important for Horses? The connective tissues of all mammals are rich Read More
  • Farrier's Formula@ Double Strength Plus Joint Questions and Answers +

    Farrier's Formula® Double Strength Plus JointQuestions and Answers Thank you so much for your support for our new product, Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength Plus Joint! There have been many questions about this revolutionary product and its benefits, and we’d like to share a few of the answers here. QUESTION Is Read More
  • Summer vs. Hooves +

    The hot and dry days of summer typically bring a rise in dry hooves. Dry and brittle hoof walls will often crack and chip, especially with horses that work on hard surfaces. Read More
  • How to Trailer Train a Horse +

    Trailers can be scary to a horse that has not become accustomed to loading. Anything that horses perceive as potentially harmful activates their flight mechanism. It’s the nature of a horse to not only run from predators but also avoid being cornered – and an enclosed trailer certainly does not provide Read More
  • Feeding for Hoof Health +

    Hoof quality can be influenced by many factors, such as: • Genetics • Farrier work • Type of environment • Work intensity • Microbial invasions • Nutrition In this article, we want to focus on the role that nutrition plays in hoof health. Read More
  • Equine Insulin Resistance: Definition, Causes, Signs, Treatment and Prevention +

    ‘Insulin resistance’ is the accepted term for increased blood glucose in combination with normal to increased levels of blood insulin. In a normally functioning system, glucose in the bloodstream is transported into the cells by the action of insulin. In the case of insulin resistance, this glucose transport funct Read More
  • White Line Disease: Definition, Causes and Solutions +

    White Line Disease: Definition, Causes and Suggestions White Line Disease is caused by bacterial and fungal invasions that damage the medial (middle) hoof wall. These organisms require a nutrient-rich environment that is lacking oxygen to flourish. They are often introduced into the hoof wall at the junction of the sole Read More
  • Case Report: Laminitis with sloughing of all four hooves in a 13-year-old Quarter Horse gelding resulting from a bladder atony episode of unknown origin. +

    Laminitis in its most simple definition is inflammation of the sensitive laminae of the hoof wall. The cause however can vary from trauma, to grain overload, to toxins, and beyond. This case study is meant to show that even the most severe of cases have a chance of survival and Read More
  • Thrush: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment +

    Thrush is a common bacterial infection of the sole and frog of a horse’s foot. The infection “eats away” at the tissues of the frog, sole and heel and if untreated will eventually result in loss of foot structure, increasing sensitivity, progressive lameness, and bleeding. Read More
  • Sedatives or Nutrients for Calming Horses? +

    Sedation of a horse undergoing a procedure often results in a calmer and safer environment for the horse and the handlers. However, there is also the chance of a drug reaction or profound sedation leading to injuries to the horse or handlers due to the horse falling. The invasiveness of Read More
  • Guidelines for Feeding a Senior Horse +

    Guidelines for Feeding a Senior Horse As horses age they usually require increased medical and dental care from your veterinarian. The best senior horse feeding program will improve the nutrient balance and increase the feed efficiency of the natural hay and pasture diet. Hay and pasture nutrient balancers furnish the Read More
  • Allergic dermatitis in dogs: what can be done? +

    Allergies in people usually create respiratory symptoms; however dog allergies usually create skin rashes, smelly skin, ear infections, oily flakey skin, chewing, scratching and feet licking. In medical terms, an allergy is due to an immune mediated response to an antigen that makes its way into the body. Read More
  • Nutrients that Influence Hoof Health +

    The nutritional demands of domesticated modern horses are much different than the nutritional demands of wild horses. A myriad of feed stuffs and supplements have been developed and marketed in reaction to these changing needs. While proper supplementation can provide numerous benefits, insufficient or excessive supplementation of any nutrient can Read More
  • Protecting the hooves during summertime +

    It’s during the hot and dry days of summer that we typically see a rise in dry hooves. Dry and brittle hoof walls will often crack and chip, especially on solid surfaces. Then a thunderstorm arises and forces the horse to stand in mud for a prolonged time, making the Read More
  • Can the Amino Acid Tryptophan Help Nervous Horses? +

    Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is converted to a chemical responsible for nerve transmission and brain health. It can be found in pasture grasses but often in marginal or deficient levels. Unlike drugs that take effect immediately, nutrients such as tryptophan may not be directly active but are Read More
  • Factors that Affect Hoof Quality +

    Hoof wall defects can develop as a result of one or more contributing factors. To name a few, hoof wall quality can be influenced by genetics, environment, microbes, trimming, and nutrition. Genetics: Breeds such as Thoroughbreds are genetically predisposed to have thin hoof walls and thin soles, which have an Read More
  • Hooves and Muddy Conditions +

    The mud and muck that comes along with the rainy season can wreak havoc on horse’s hooves. The resulting softening of the hoof capsule not only leads to increased wear and tear but also creates an ideal environment for the invasion of “hoof eating” microbes that cause thrush and crumbling Read More
  • Can Excess Dietary Salt Affect Hoof Quality? +

    Salt, or sodium chloride, is a necessary component of a horse’s diet and metabolism. However; too much salt will increase thirst and urination. Hoof quality can deteriorate from the additional urine and moisture in the environment. Horses that are confined for periods of time are primarily affected. Read More
  • How to Choose an Equine Nutrition Supplement +

    There are so many supplements in the market. Unfortunately, it is easy for a manufacturer to enter the hoof supplement market with little or no credentials. That is why the following factors should be considered to choose a reputable nutrition supplement... Read More
  • Cushing’s Disease, Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome +

    Cushing’s Disease, Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome and Low Calorie/starch Feedstuff. Cushing’s disease is caused by a tumor of the pituitary gland. The resulting metabolic disturbances stem from excessive levels of a hormone secreted by the tumor, which in turn leads to high blood cortisol levels and the development of insulin Read More
  • Over Supplementation of Nutrients +

    Over Supplementation of Nutrients in the Equine Diet Over-supplementing NutrientsExcessive supplementation of any nutrient, even if the nutrient is not toxic, requires metabolic and organ functions in order to eliminate the nutrient from the body. This is a waste of valuable resources whether in the form of enzyme activity, energy, Read More
  • Whole Oats to Horses with a History of Laminitis +

    Feeding Whole Oats to Horses with a History of Laminitis Laminitis and colic are often the result of undigested starch entering the caecum of the horse where it is broken down and fermented by microbes. It is this fermentation process along with alterations in the gut flora that produces the Read More
  • Feeding the Modern Horse, Properly +

    Feeding the Modern Horse, Properly. To understand how to feed and to manage equine nutrition, we must understand the digestive system of the horse and how the horse differs from other animals.  Horses are ‘hay burners’. This means horses can convert cellulose (fiber) to energy in the pouches of their Read More
  • Feeding the PSSM Horse +

    Feeding the “Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy” Horse Since Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy involves the deposition of a non-bioavailable form of glycogen into the muscle tissue, the best diet is one that minimizes glycogen formation. If the horse needs a calorie source in addition to the cellulose provided by pasture hay to maintain Read More
  • Can You Love a Neglected Horse Too Much? +

    Can You Love a Neglected Horse Too Much? The natural tendency is to over-feed the thin horse that has been neglected, especially if the horse is a Rescue and Rehab. It is important to note that these horses often have medical issues along with inadequate nutrition. The most common medical Read More
  • Product Freshness +

    Product Freshness Would you drink sour milk or eat stale bread? No, because product freshness is vital to the taste, safety and effectiveness of products consumed, not only for our families and ourselves, but for our horses as well. There are several ways to ensure freshness in the products we Read More
  • Veterinarian and Farrier Relationship in Treating Laminitis and Founder +

    Veterinarian and Farrier Relationship in Treating Laminitis and Founder “Laminitis and founder is a complicated systemic disease that severely affects a horse’s feet. For the best chance of success in the management and treatment of the disease, veterinarians and farriers must work together. The horse owner assumes the economic responsibility Read More
  • Feed Supplementation for Laminitis and Founder +

    Feed Supplementation for Laminitis and Founder Proper feed supplementation can help repair damage done during a laminitis/founder cycle. Many horses are being fed rations deficient in the nutrients necessary to maintain and rebuild their health after having suffered from laminitis and founder. Some hays are deficient in essential nutrients, especially Read More
  • Vegetable Oil as a Source of Calories +

    Vegetable Oil as a Source of Calories Vegetable oil may be fed to horses at the proper rates for the purpose of increasing calorie density for maintaining weight or energy levels. However, since the horse does not have a gall bladder he is unable to digest large amounts of oil Read More
  • Topical Hoof Dressings +

    Guidelines for choosing Topical Hoof Dressings Many horse owners tend to overlook the fact that as tough as equine hoof horn may appear, it is 95% protein (similar to your own skin). One should avoid use of any product that will denature protein and affect the normal function of the Read More
  • The Amino acids Methionine and Cystine +

    The amino acids Methionine and Cystine There are twenty amino acids known that make up the building blocks for mammalian body protein. Approximately one-half of the amino acids are essential (this means the body is unable to make those nutrients therefore; the nutrients must be ingested). Methionine is an essential Read More
  • Recognizing Nutrition Related Hoof Problems +

    Recognizing Nutrition Related Hoof Problems I have worked with horses suffering from mild to serious hoof problems for the past 50 years. During that time I have determined that horses with hoof problems often are deficient in many nutrients that negatively affect changes in the dermal tissue structure. The hoof Read More
  • Wet/Dry Hooves +

    Wet/Dry Hooves Summertime is when horses are most likely to be bathed and hosed off frequently. It is possible to keep your horse cool without damaging the hooves through the wet-dry cycle. Most importantly, do not use products on your horse’s hooves you would not use on your hands. Horse’s Read More
  • Your Horse Needs to Chew +

    Your horse needs to chew The mechanical action of chewing is the major stimulus for salivation in horses. Feeding your horse whole grains requires the horse to use the teeth as a grinder which not only helps to maintain proper dental health and reduce dental spurs, but also improves feed Read More
  • Beat Thrush and White Line Disease +

      Thrush and White Line Disease   Thrush and white line disease develop in the equine hoof when anaerobic microorganisms populate “oxygen poor” environments. The bacterial and fungal organisms causing thrush thrive and rapidly divide in these environments that have little available oxygen. These microbes are opportunistic and common in Read More
  • 1

Life Data Labs, Inc.

Germany - Life Data LabsUK - Life Data LabsMexico - Life Data LabsAustralia - Life Data Labs

12290 Hwy 72
Cherokee, AL
35616
Product
of the USA

+1 800 624 1873
+1 256 370 7555
Fax: +1 256 370 7509
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

12290 Hwy 72
Cherokee, Alabama
35616
Product of the USA
Google+

+1 800 624 1873
+1 256 370 7555
Fax: +1 256 370 7509
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.