Excess Selenium and Equine Metabolic Conditions

Excess Selenium and Equine Metabolic Conditions

Is There a Correlation Between Excess Selenium and Insulin Resistance, PPID, or Laminitis?

Life Data® has performed whole blood testing on horses in our in-house lab utilizing whole blood trace mineral ICP-MS analysis. Our research showed that Insulin Resistant, PPID (Cushing’s Disease), and laminitis-prone horses are consistently higher in some nutrients and lower in others compared to the average healthy horse.

Selenium Excesses in Whole Blood

Selenium is one of the whole blood minerals that test higher than average in most horses with a metabolic condition such as insulin resistance or PPID.  The research at Life Data® has not determined the basis or mechanism leading to higher selenium whole blood levels. Higher than average whole blood selenium levels may or may not be related to selenium intake. However, as a precaution, Life Data® does not recommend giving an Insulin Resistant or PPID horse any feeds, ration balancers, or supplements containing selenium. Almost all fortified feeds and balancers contain selenium.

Selenium

What Does Selenium Do for the Horse?

Selenium is required in the diet for normal metabolic functions and is naturally present in forages. Unless the forage or hay is grown in a selenium-deficient area, the horse will not likely be selenium deficient.

Excess selenium in the diet, usually through fortified feeds or supplements, will substitute for the stronger sulfur bonds in connective tissue, leading to weaker tissue. This excess can negatively impact hooves, skin, hair, and ligaments.

Equine Whole Blood Testing

Nutrition for Horses with Metabolic Conditions

Life Data® has formulated several specialty equine products based on our Whole Blood Research. When our research shows that nutrition may benefit horses with a condition, a formulation is produced for field trial testing. Low or high whole blood element levels are often either positively or negatively correlated with other nutrients such as other trace minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. The formulations for these conditions are designed to bring the high levels down and supplement the low nutrients. The formulation is not a treatment for a condition and is not intended to replace veterinary-prescribed therapeutics.

Life Data® Products for Specific Equine Conditions

Life Data® has developed three specialty products to help metabolic horses:

These formulations address the differences found in our whole blood testing. They do not contain added selenium and will replace ration balancers and/or complete feeds. They are also formulated to be given along with Farrier’s Formula® for additional support to the connective tissues of the ligaments, skin, joints, and hooves.

Scott Gravlee, DVM, CNS

Equine Nutrition Consultant

Life Data Labs, Inc

www.lifedatalabs.com

cservice@lifedatalabs.com

The Pony and Equine Metabolic Syndrome

Three overweight ponies

Ponies are at a High Risk of Insulin Resistance, Laminitis, and Cushing’s Disease

Ponies are generally considered to be less than 14 hands tall at the withers. Although energy requirements vary between ponies, most are easy keepers with low caloric requirements and seem to gain weight from the air they breathe! The ancestors of today’s ponies endured harsh conditions and barren environments. Ponies became genetically “wired” to survive with little food. With today’s pastures and plentiful hay, the incidence of obesity and the subsequent health issues are commonplace.

Why Ponies Are Prone to Obesity

In the evolution of the wild pony, he/she instinctively consumed sufficient forage to gain additional weight during the Summer and Fall to prepare for the harsher winter months. The added fat was burned as needed to help maintain metabolic functions through the winter. The wild Pony would utilize the excess fat by spring, emerging lean but healthy, and the cycle began again.

The domesticated pony goes through the same cycle, but human interference has interrupted this natural process by providing a rich diet throughout the year. The pony goes into winter fat, continues receiving the same rich diet, and the stored fat is never expended. When Spring arrives, the pony is not only overweight but also has additional access to sugar-rich spring grazing. This dietary routine leads to chronic obesity and impacts the metabolic health of the pony.

The Overweight Pony and Equine Metabolic Syndrome

Overweight Pony with EMS

A diet too rich in calories and the resulting obesity is the leading contributor to the development of Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS). Obesity continues to be on the rise for ponies in the United States. Some studies show that around 72% of the pony population is overweight. Obese ponies are at a high risk of metabolic issues such as:

Insulin Resistance

Obesity affects how the pony utilizes insulin. The abdomen is the largest fat storage compartment for adipose tissue (fat). Mammals store most of their fat in their abdomen. Abdominal fat storage is called omental, or visceral fat. The visceral fat helps regulate several body processes that support the wild pony’s survival through winter. One of these functions of adipose tissue is the production of an insulin resistance factor to allow the pony to maintain slightly higher levels of blood glucose, or energy, through the harshness of winter. It is nature’s intention that this mild state of insulin resistance is to gradually reverse as the pony burns the visceral fat for winter energy.

However, the overfed domesticated pony does not need to utilize this fat; therefore, there is a continuance of insulin resistance. In Spring, this insulin resistant pony has access to forage high in sugar, leading to further weight gain and increasing insulin resistance, predisposing the pony to metabolic issues and laminitis.

Equine Metabolic Syndrome

A horse is commonly labeled as affected by Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) if he/she has high blood insulin levels (insulin dysregulation), concurrent obesity, and a history of laminitis, or at least a likely candidate of laminitis. EMS usually begins appearing in ponies between the ages of 5 to 15 years of age. There are common signs of EMS that pony owners can look for.

  • Obesity
  • Bouts of Laminitis
  • Frequent Urination
  • Unwillingness to Move or Perform
  • Cresty Neck and Regional Fatty Deposits
  • Easy Keeper that Gains Weight Easily
  • Constant Appetite
  • Infertility in Mares
  • Poor Hoof Quality

Preventing Equine Metabolic Syndrome

Prevention is vital when it comes to EMS. Pony owners must maintain a healthy body condition score through a balanced diet. Here are a few tips for establishing a healthy diet for your Pony.

  • Feed a “basic diet” of pasture grass and hay.
  • Avoid complete feeds, sweet feeds, and sweet treats.
  • Utilize a quality hay and pasture balancer.
  • Provide plenty of water and free choice white salt.

Exercise is also essential in maintaining the pony’s body condition. Regular exercise will help burn off excess visceral fat that has been deposited. Active ponies are also less likely to develop EMS. If the pony has not been conditioned for exercise, start slowly to allow the pony to adjust. Ponies that compete or perform regular work and are not obese may need additional calories for energy. In this case, extra calories may be added to the feeding program in the form of oats, beet pulp, or copra. 

A quality hoof supplement, such as Farrier’s Formula®, may also be added to maintain hoof health.

Feeding the Obese Pony to Address EMS

Feeding Ponies with EMS

Our first goal in addressing an obese pony with EMS is to help him/her establish a healthy body condition score. Control calorie intake by removing all complete feeds, sweet feeds, and treats from the feeding program and transition the pony to the “basic diet” of hay and pasture. As mentioned earlier, a regular exercise program is also important.  

Life Data® research has been instrumental in the development of effective nutritional products to help the metabolic horse. These new products are formulated to address specific metabolic issues.

For Ponies with Insulin Resistance:

Life Data® Insulin R Formula supports insulin resistant ponies by supplying active ingredients to assist with glucose metabolism, fat metabolism, insulin action, and help reduce inflammation. Life Data® Insulin R Formula also supports proper metabolism to encourage weight control and general health. This is recommended for ponies diagnosed with the following:

  • Insulin Resistance
  • Insulin Resistance + Cushing’s Disease/PPID
  • Insulin Resistance + Laminitis
  • Insulin Resistance + Cushing’s Disease + Laminitis

For Ponies with Cushing’s Disease

Life Data® Adrenal Formula provides active ingredients that can benefit horses with PPID, or Cushing’s Disease. The active ingredients may help improve glucose metabolism, regulate adrenal and thyroid hormones, and improve metabolism. Life Data® Adrenal Formula is recommended for ponies diagnosed with the following:

  • Cushing’s Disease/PPID
  • Cushing’s Disease + Laminitis

For Ponies with Laminitis

Life Data® Lamina Formula is a laminae support supplement for ponies with acute or chronic laminitis.  Life Data® Lamina Formula ingredients assist in laminitis recovery, reduce inflammation, support the maintenance of blood flow in the inner hoof wall, and help protect from or reduce the incidence of future bouts of laminitis.

Life Data® Insulin R Formula, Life Data® Adrenal Formula, and Life Data® Lamina Formula should not be combined or provided together. Ponies with insulin resistance, PPID, and/or laminitis are prone to hoof issues, so for best results, we also recommend feeding Farrier’s Formula®.

If your horse has EMS or other health issues, advise your veterinarian and farrier. If you have questions regarding feeding and supplementing your pony or the information in this blog article, feel free to contact us.

Insulin Resistance in Horses

Insulin Resistance in Horses Blog

What is Equine Insulin Resistance?

The most basic explanation when discussing Insulin Resistance in horses is that we are dealing with an insulin problem within the horse. When a horse consumes carbohydrates, the pancreas is triggered to produce and release insulin. Insulin regulates and lowers glucose levels in the bloodstream by assisting the transport of glucose into the cells. When we have an Insulin Resistance problem, the cells become resistant to the action of insulin. As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas secretes more insulin in the attempt to regulate blood sugar. Blood glucose levels begin to rise along with insulin levels when the pancreas reaches the limit of insulin production. 

Horses at Risk of Insulin Resistance

Although all horses are at risk of developing insulin resistance, factors such as age, diet, exercise, and genetics can increase the risk. For example, certain breeds are more conducive to developing insulin resistance. These breeds include:

  • Morgans
  • Pasa Finos
  • Andalusians
  • Arabians
  • Peruvian Pasos
  • Mustangs
  • Ponies
  • Minis
  • Donkeys

Another example is the average age of these horses. If we look at the correlation between age and Insulin Resistance, horses in the 5-15 age range are predisposed to the development of Insulin Resistance. Insulin Resistance is a metabolic issue, so diet and weight also play a significant factor. Horses that are overweight with a body condition score (BCS) between 7 and 9 or who receive diets rich in sugar and carbs have a higher risk of developing Insulin Resistance than a horse who receives regular exercise and a balanced diet.

Clinical Signs of Equine Insulin Resistance

Overweight Horse
Horse with a Body Condition Score of 8

Since Insulin Resistance is a metabolic problem occurring within the horse, it may be difficult to see the signs of a problem. A common warning sign that can be associated with the development of Insulin Resistance is an obese horse.  Other signs we can look at include:

  • Fast weight gain
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Fatty deposits on the body of the horse
  • Development of a “cresty” neck
  • Loss of topline
  • Increased appetite
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Inflammation
  • Frequent bouts of laminitis

Laminitis & Insulin Resistance

Most Insulin Resistant horses are prone to bouts of laminitis. This can be attributed to the abundance of fat tissue, which is extremely common in insulin-resistant horses. In overweight horses, research has uncovered evidence that there is an “insulin resistance” hormone factor produced by the excessive adipose (fat) tissue that contributes to the cells’ inability to uptake glucose from the bloodstream. Adipose tissue may also contribute to higher cortisol levels.  The high glucose and cortisol levels are inflammatory and therefore predispose the horse to laminitis. We highly recommend including a quality hoof supplement in the diet of these Insulin Resistant horses

Preventing Insulin Resistance in Horses

The first ten years of your horse’s life often sets the stage for the development of metabolic conditions. Horse owners should start providing the correct nutrients and a balanced diet to the horse at conception. This balanced diet must be continued throughout the horse’s life to maintain health and prevent future metabolic problems. Other factors that can help prevent the development of Insulin Resistance:

  • Regular work and/or exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy body condition score
  • Feeding grass/hay with a quality hay balancer
  • Refraining from feeding “sweet” feeds or treats

Caring for the Insulin Resistant Horse

There is no cure for Insulin Resistance, but we can help make the life of these horses as comfortable as possible. The first step in this process is to examine the horse’s current diet and develop a feeding plan that will assist the horse in dropping excess weight. This new diet will be focused on reducing the number of sugars and carbs the horse consumes daily. This means no sweet feeds, limited treats, and no grasses with high fructan. Grasses likely to have high fructan content include:

  • Fertilized and growing pastures
  • Pastures stressed from drought or frosts
  • Grazing in the afternoon and evening
  • Tall fescue and ryegrass

Monitored grazing, dry lotting, and grazing muzzles may also be necessary depending on the horse and pasture.

Adding exercise to the horse’s daily routine is the next step. If the horse is not accustomed to exercise, it should be introduced slowly, 2-3 times a week, and built up over time. Eventually, we want the horse to exercise daily with body condition steadily improving.

Supplementation for Insulin Resistance

Supplementation is vital for horses with Insulin Resistance, especially when we begin cutting calories from the diet. We want to cut calories without cutting the horse’s required daily nutrients. If the horse’s diet is not balanced nutritionally, we are not providing the support needed to maintain our horse’s health.

As mentioned above, a quality hoof supplement is essential for insulin-resistant horses to help improve hoof wall density. A denser hoof wall is more resilient to the effects of laminitis and may reduce the risk of founder. One good option is to utilize a hay and pasture balancer alongside a hoof supplement to replace the missing nutrients from the low-calorie diet. Another option is to use a quality hoof supplement and a supplement specifically formulated to support horses with Insulin Resistance.

Life Data® Insulin R Formula and Farrier's Formula® Double Strength
Life Data® Insulin R Formula and Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength

Life Data® Recommendation

Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength and the new Life Data® Insulin R Formula work in conjunction to support horses with Insulin Resistance by supplying active ingredients to assist with glucose metabolism, fat metabolism, insulin action, and help reduce inflammation. Life Data® Insulin R Formula also supports proper metabolism to encourage weight control and general health.

Support for Equine Insulin Resistance

Insulin R Formula Logo

Life Data® Insulin R Formula FAQ

The Life Data® Insulin R Formula is designed to help reduce the symptoms associated with insulin resistant horses such as occasional bouts of laminitis, obesity, regional adiposities, thin soles, lethargy, and low exercise tolerance. Life Data® Insulin R Formula supplies active ingredients to assist with glucose metabolism, fat metabolism, insulin action and help reduce inflammation. The formula supports proper metabolism to encourage enhanced weight control and general health.

Research Behind Life Data® Insulin R Formula

Life Data® Insulin R Formula was formulated based on research, including whole blood macro and trace mineral analysis. Test results from horses diagnosed with insulin resistance were compared to healthy horses. The research was performed in our in-house laboratory equipped with conventional equine hematology and chemistry equipment (Abaxis HM5 and VetScan VS 2) and specialized equipment such as CEM Mars 6 microwave digestion and Thermo iCAP RQ ICP-MS.

Insulin Resistance Testing and Field Trials

Diagnostic testing, insulin testing, and other additional tests were performed by the horse owner’s veterinarian. Life Data conducted two years of field-trial testing on insulin resistant horses, with intermittent retesting on these horses. A survey of the 20 horses completing the field-testing trials showed that 50% of horse owners reported the product had “Pronounced Improvement” of “General well-being”, 35% showed some improvement and 15% reported no improvement.

Support for Equine Insulin Resistance

In addition to the benefits of Life Data® Insulin R Formula, Farrier’s Formula® or Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength given along with Life Data® Insulin R Formula helps build the connective tissue of the hoof wall, creates a denser hoof wall, and increases the growth rate to give the farrier more to work with.

Life Data® Insulin R Formula is not a treatment for insulin resistance, has not been proven to significantly reduce blood insulin levels, and is not intended to replace any veterinary prescribed therapeutics. A minimum of 6 to 8 months of administration is required before owners typically notice any changes in their horse. Additional information about the Life Data® Equine Nutrition Research program, the blood testing laboratory, and the Life Data® Insulin R Formula can be found on our website www.lifedatalabs.com .

Our goal is to help horses. By determining how nutrition impacts horses with specific conditions we hope that specific dietary changes can prevent these conditions or improve the lives of afflicted horses.

Ingredients that Benefit Horses with Insulin Resistance

Life Data® Insulin R Formula Active Ingredients:

  • Inositol
    • Also known as vitamin B8, has been shown in laboratory studies to increase insulin sensitivity and insulin signaling
      • (The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Volume 24, Issue 2, February 2013, Pages 457-466; Int J Endocrinol, 2018; 2018: 1968450.)
  • Choline
    • Works synergistically with inositol as components of the phospholipids in cell membranes. Choline and phosphatidylcholine intake have been associated with a lower Type 2 diabetes risk in Finnish men.
      • (European Journal of Nutrition volume 59, pages 3857–3861 (2020))
  • Thiamine
    • Or vitamin B1, is essential for glucose metabolism
      • (Acta Diabetol. 2008 Sep;45(3):131-41. doi: 10.1007/s00592-008-0042-y.)
  • Chromium
    • Is necessary for proper insulin function and to help maintain appropriate blood glucose levels. Chromium helps maintain insulin receptor function on cells.
      • Human research: (Diabetes Educ. 2004;Suppl:2-14.)
  • Vitamin E
    • (Supplied as natural source vitamin E) Is an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and resulting tissue damage. Oxidative stress from a lack of antioxidants may contribute to insulin resistance. Sufficient vitamin E is usually present in green pasture grass; however, is deficient in stored hay. Vitamin E has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity in overweight human patients.
      • (Diabetes Care 2004; 27(9):2166–2171)
  • Tyrosine
    • An amino acid, helps regulate thyroid and adrenal hormones. Tyrosine is a building block of thyroid hormones and is therefore involved with metabolism.
  • Threonine
    • An essential amino acid, is necessary for collagen formation.
  • Vitamin D3
    • Functions as a hormone as it circulates through the blood stream. Fresh pasture grass contains vitamin D2; however, vitamin D levels drop quickly in stored hay. Horses stalled due to metabolic issues with pasture restriction may not receive enough sunlight for the skin to produce sufficient vitamin D. [Vitamin D reduces insulin resistance probably through its effect on calcium and phosphorus metabolism and through up regulation of the insulin receptor gene.
      • (Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome volume 5, Article number: 8 (2013))]
  • Copper Amino Acid Complex
    • Low copper levels have been associated with insulin resistance and higher iron levels.
  • Proprietary Silicon Complex
    • Contains macro and trace minerals that are typically in low levels in the whole blood of horses with insulin resistance, as determined by research conducted in the Life Data® blood testing laboratory.
Product Char for Specific Conditions