South Shore Equine Clinic & Diagnostic Center
Equine Veterinary Services South Shore Boston Massachusetts

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Bits & Pieces: Spring 2010

Equine Metabolic Syndrome

equine metabolic syndrome Now that spring is here and summer is quickly approaching, it is important to know whether your horse or pony may be at risk for developing laminitis as a complication from Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS). Horses and ponies that are at highest risk are already obese.  Obesity causes the tissues to be increasingly insulin resistant over time. Obesity, insulin resistance, and laminitis (founder) are the hallmarks of Equine Metabolic Syndrome. EMS in horses is similar to diabetes in humans, although not exactly the same.  Typically these ponies are "easy keepers" and can literally subsist on very little feed. We can test your pony for EMS by measuring blood insulin and glucose levels, as well as providing a nutritional consultation to facilitate dietary recommendations.
"Patches" is a 15 year old mixed breed pony used as a child's riding pony. Patches' diet consisted of free choice grass hay, pasture turnout, and a handful of sweet feed twice daily. Despite the moderate level of exercise he received, Patches was overweight and had developed laminitis in both front feet several years ago.  Fortunately the two laminitic episodes were mild, and Patches was able to return to his previous level of use.  Patches owners became concerned with his weight and thought that it was potentially contributing to chronic founder.  Simple blood testing would reveal that that the pony was normoglycemic (normal blood sugar level) and hyperinsulinemic (high blood insulin level). EMS was diagnosed and changes to Patches diet and lifestyle were made. He was switched to grass hay that was soaked in water for an hour before feeding in order to decrease the starch content of the hay. All grain was eliminated. Thyro-L (a thyroid supplement) was administered twice daily to encourage weight loss, and to help increase tissue sensitivity to insulin. In addition, when Patches is turned out on pasture, he wears a grazing muzzle, as the carbohydrate level of fresh green grass is very high.  An oral hypoglycemic medication to decrease blood sugar level was not indicated for Patches, as his blood sugar was normal. Today, approximately one year post EMS diagnosis, Patches has lost weight, and his blood insulin level has normalized. He has tolerated the dietary changes very well, and has not had an episode of laminitis in the past year. 
Research for Equine Metabolic Syndrome is ongoing, and there is likely much to still be learned about this condition. Although this is a complex, multifactorial disease, we can help to manage it and improve you pony's quality of life.  The changes we recommend are case specific and will depend on the specific needs of your pony.  If you think your pony is at risk due to obesity or chronic laminitic episodes, please schedule a consultation with us.  We can help you better manage this syndrome in your horse.

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Should I vaccinate against Equine Herpes? 

There have recently been concerns about whether or not to vaccinate against the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV), or Rhinovirus, due to an outbreak in New Jersey. The vaccination that SSEC currently administers for Flu/Rhino (product name is Calvenza) protects your horse against EHV so there is no need to administer additional vaccinations. Please note that your horse must be properly vaccinated to be protected i.e. the horse must be healthy (not sick) and not over vaccinated (too many vaccinations in one visit). If you have further questions please call 781-585-2611.

Streptococcus Equi
Infections in your barn

guttural pouchAs many of you have heard there have been confirmed cases of Strep. equi infections, otherwise known as strangles, in the area. Simply stated, Strangles is a bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract of horses with particular affinity for the guttural pouches, which are extensions of the auditory canal from the pharynx, or throat. It can cause signs of depression, fever, anorexia, swelling of the lymph nodes, edema or swelling of the legs and ventral abdomen, snotty nose and draining abscesses, most commonly from the submandibular area. Strangles is usually introduced to a farm by a horse who appears totally healthy, but is harboring the bacteria in his or her guttural pouches. These are known as "carriers". The disease is then spread to other horses through shared water sources in a paddock, nose to nose contact, shared bits and tack, or through other fomites, such as hands and hoses.

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