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.

Equine Cushing’s Disease and PPID

Cushing’s Disease

Horse with Cushing's Disease

The number of horse’s affected by Cushing’s Disease (PPID) is steadily increasing in the United States as the horse population is living longer. Unfortunately, there are still many unanswered questions revolving around Cushing’s Disease and how it impacts the horse. Cushing’s Disease falls into the same category of diseases as Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance in that the extent of the problem is relatively “new” to the equine industry. Continued research into the disease and other metabolic problems must be conducted before we can fully understand the full extent of these diseases. What we do know about equine Cushing’s Disease can be used to help identify the disease early and assist in improving the overall quality of life for affected horses.

What is PPID in Horses?

PPID, or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, is another name used to identify Cushing’s Disease. Breaking down the name, PPID, helps us better define what is occurring in the Cushing’s horse. For example, “Pituitary” refers to the gland that is being affected in the horse. The pituitary gland in the horse is only as large as a prune and is located at the base of the brain and produces hormones in response to brain signals. The word “dysfunction” relates to the dysfunction occurring in the small middle region of the pituitary gland (Pars Intermedia). This dysfunction effects the inhibitory function of the gland, resulting in the excessive production of the hormone ACTH. The excess ACTH stimulates the adrenal gland to overproduce cortisol. High levels of circulating cortisol lead to a multitude of problems.

Signs of Cushing’s Disease in Horses

The average horse with Cushing’s Disease is around the age of 15, when signs of the disease appear. It is estimated that the disease will impact approximately 30% of the population of horses who are 15 years of age or older. It is beneficial for horse owners to watch for any signs of Cushing’s Disease, especially if they have an older horse, so that it may be diagnosed in the early stages. Early identification can make the disease easier to manage and increase the quality of life of the Cushing’s horse. Below is a list of early signs:

  • Increased lethargy
  • Regional shaggy hair coat
  • Delayed shedding
  • Loss of topline
  • Regional fat pockets
  • Abnormal sweating
  • Recurrent laminitis
  • Recurrent hoof abscesses

Cushing’s Disease can progress slowly, but the advanced stages can also develop unknowingly. These advanced stages are much more severe and have a greater impact on the horse’s health. Symptoms of the advanced stages of Cushing’s include:

  • Dull hair coat
  • Poor shedding
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Round abdomen (potbellied appearance)
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Regional adiposity
  • Poor performance
  • Loss of topline
  • Increased thirst/urination
  • Blindness
  • Delayed healing
  • Laminitis
  • Hoof abscesses
  • Suspensory ligament/tendon laxity 

Feeding a Horse with Cushing’s Disease

A horse’s diet plays a major role in every aspect of the horse’s overall health. As such, feeding a proper, balanced, and basic diet to a horse with Cushing’s Disease is one of the most beneficial lifestyle changes to make. Many horses with Cushing’s will struggle maintaining a normal weight, either developing an overweight or underweight body condition score. In either case, horse owners must be mindful of the calorie, carbohydrate, and sugar intake their horses consume daily. The addition of a quality hoof supplement is also recommended to help in the recovery of many of the hoof related issues that often develop from Cushing’s Disease. Below is our recommended feeding routine for horses with Cushing’s.

  • Grass/Hay
    • Be mindful of the sugar in the grass
      • You may consider limiting grazing
    • Allow grazing only in the morning to early afternoon hours
    • If the horse is overweight, consider a dry lot.
  • Additional Calories (Only for Underweight Cushing’s Horse)
    • Avoid carbohydrates
    • Remove all “Complete Feeds”
    • Shredded sugar beet pulp or copra (coconut pulp)
      • High in Fiber
      • Low in Carbs
      • Good option for underweight Cushing’s Horse
      • Soaking prior to feeding helps prevent choking and excess sugar

*Overweight horses will not require additional calories*

  • Farrier’s Formula®
    • Promote Hoof Quality
    • Assist in laminitis recovery
    • Assist in hoof abscess recovery and prevention
    • Improves hair coat and skin quality
  • Life Data® Adrenal Formula
    • New formulation from Life Data
    • Designed specifically for the support of Horses with Cushing’s

Life Data® Adrenal Formula

By conducting blood analysis research, Life Data® has discovered many correlations in horses diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease. Life Data® Adrenal Formula was formulated using this research and will provide additional support for horses with Cushing’s. The active ingredients may help improve the function of the adrenal gland, improve metabolism, regulate thyroid hormones, and reduce the effects of Cushing’s. It also provides essential antioxidants and helps rebuild healthy connective tissue. Life Data® Adrenal Formula is designed to help promote:

  • Normal adrenal gland function
  • Improved glucose metabolism
  • Rebuilding of healthy connective tissue
  • Regulation of thyroid and adrenal hormones
Adrenal Formula for Equine Cushing's Disease

Treating Cushing’s Disease in Horses

Unfortunately, no cure for Cushing’s Disease has been found. If you believe your horse may have Cushing’s Disease, it is important to consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian can conduct yearly tests to evaluate your horse’s condition and provide medication to assist in regulating symptoms. Providing proper nutritional support along with Farrier’s Formula® and Life Data® Adrenal Formula can also assist in relieving the effects of Cushing’s Disease. If you have any questions regarding proper equine nutrition or any of the products mentioned, please contact us.