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Insulin Resistance and Laminitis in Horses – A Case Study

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I spent time with a friend this past Memorial Day, and heard her horrific tale of how she had to put down her long time horse partner because of laminitis.

When Laminitis and Insulin Resistance are a Death Sentence

In the case of my friend’s horse, the lack of information about laminitis led to euthanasia, when it did not have to. From what she related to me the horse probably developed insulin resistance from the sudden onset of green grass, which was left untreated. Ultimately this condition led to laminitis, which led to euthanasia.

She lives in eastern New Mexico where it never rains much. Her horses are in dry, sandy pens or pastures all year round, and fed hay and grain daily. During the spring of 2009 it actually rained in NM, and she had lush green grass grow in her pastures, which her horses were not accustomed to.

As a result of eating this grass, one of her horses came up lame. She took him to her vet, expecting the best of care for him. The care she received is standard in the veterinary world… but it ended with him being put down.

The vet had her put special shoes on the horse, which didn’t stay on, but never told her to get him off the grass or change his diet in any way. The vet did tell her the laminitis was due to the grass, but was never able to tell her why he had problems with the grass when her other horses flourished on it. In other words, the vet never diagnosed insulin resistance. Horses with insulin resistance cannot properly use or respond to the insulin in their bodies, which means that they cannot properly metabolize glucose. This ultimately can lead to chronic laminitis, and, as in the case of my friend’s horse, euthanasia. Yet it does not have to be that way.

Insulin Resistance – A Case Study of Success

There but for the grace of God go I, literally! I had a horse develop insulin resistance last fall from all the mesquite beans on my place. In his case, a dietary change (the introduction of mesquite beans) triggered insulin resistance. However, I did not have to put him down. Today he is sound and barefoot because my vet understands insulin resistance and laminitis in horses. Dietary changes and sound barefoot trimming were all he needed to return to normal health.

This summer as the mesquite beans are blooming I have loaned him to my niece to use in her summer camp for kids. He will live in a large, dry pen with other horses on hay, grain and organic supplements. This gets him off the grass and mesquite beans, and gives him a daily job with lots of exercise. The exercise is as important as getting him off the grass and beans.

A diagnosis of insulin resistance, laminitis or Cushings (all related metabolic diagnoses) doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your horse, but it is life-altering. Dietary changes have to be made, and weekly exercise is critical. For more info on insulin resistance and laminitis take a look at http://www.holistichorsekeeping.com. There is an e-book on the subject along with other information.

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