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Equine Cushing’s Disease (PPID) – What is it, and how does it affect my horse’s diet?

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Equine Cushing’s Disease, also known as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) is one of the two most common endocrine disorders diagnosed in horses. The other is Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS). While PPID and EMS are completely separate conditions, nutritionists often make similar feeding recommendations for both situations. First, let’s define each condition.  

Alphabet Soup – What is PPID and EMS? 

PPID is a condition in which the pars intermedia – the center lobe of the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain – grows abnormally. This results in the overproduction of the hormone ACTH (adrenocorticotropin hormone). In turn, ACTH stimulates the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands, resulting in an abnormally high concentration of the hormone over time. 

Chronically high concentrations of cortisol in the blood can lead to issues such as atypical fat deposits, long hair coat (even in the summer time), suppression of the immune system and insulin dysregulation. Cortisol is a steroid hormone, and long-term exposure to steroid hormones can predispose a horse to EMS. 

When it comes to EMS, the primary concern is with insulin (a hormone) and glucose (sugar). The body keeps tight control of the amount of glucose in the blood. When glucose concentration rises, insulin provides a signal to store extra glucose in muscles and the liver. When a meal is consumed, insulin is secreted from the pancreas in response to sugars and starches in the food. With EMS, an abnormally high concentration of insulin is needed to control the amount of glucose circulating in the blood. 

Chronically high concentrations of insulin, such as that seen with EMS, are known to cause laminitis. Additionally, a very high concentration of glucose in the blood over time can impair the small blood vessels in the body, which can cause problems with wound healing, vision, circulation and more. EMS can affect any horse of any age or breed, whether the horse is overweight or not.

A horse can have either PPID or EMS, and in some cases both. However, just because a horse has PPID does not mean he also has EMS, and vice versa. Horses diagnosed with PPID are certainly at risk for also developing EMS, but it doesn’t necessarily occur in every case. This is why testing by a veterinarian is so important. From a nutritionist’s point of view, the feeding recommendations will be very similar for both conditions. 

Nutrition for the PPID (and EMS) Horse

When it comes to nutrition for the PPID or EMS horse, the goal is to control the amount of soluble carbohydrates in the diet. Soluble carbohydrates include starches and sugars, compared to non-soluble carbohydrates which are sources of fiber. (For this discussion, limiting carbohydrates refers to soluble carbohydrates.) But what constitutes a so-called low-carb diet? While science is still working on the exact answer, there are guidelines nutritionists use.  

Here at BUCKEYE™ Nutrition and the WALTHAM® Equine Studies Group, we use the latest scientific research to develop nutrition plans for all horses, including those diagnosed with PPID and/or EMS. For general example, we suggest less than 20% starch and sugars in the total diet, with even lower recommendations (10-12%) for horses and ponies with a history of laminitis. Evaluation of the entire diet is essential, with particular attention paid to the source of forage and any supplemental concentrates fed on a daily basis. 

For horses that have PPID and are underweight, we typically recommend adding a fat source for additional calories and weight gain. Fat will not exacerbate glucose and insulin. Exercise may need to be modified to help preserve some energy for improving body condition.  

By contrast, the goal for overweight horses is to achieve weight loss without sacrificing essential vitamins, minerals and protein. Exercise is also a key factor in facilitating weight loss and maintaining muscle tone. A program can be designed for horses of all ability and soundness levels. For horses at maintenance, the focus would be on existing forage, ensuring limited carbohydrates and a controlled exercise program if the horse is sound enough to handle it.  

At the end of the day, each horse is an individual and should be fed as such. Dietary recommendations should be based on a horse’s health status, activity level and forage source among other factors. At BUCKEYE Nutrition, you can reach out to our equine nutritionists, all of whom have advanced graduate degrees concentrating in equine nutrition, about the needs of your horse. We’re here to help make the world a better place for horses, so don’t hesitate to ask us! 

Probiotics May Help Support Digestive System of Horses

Horse Eating From Bucket

Reproduction, performance, schedule changes, travel ­— all can affect a horse’s delicate digestive system. If gut health is an issue for your horse, or if your horse experiences regular stress, adding a probiotic may help support digestion.

What do probiotics do for your horse?

Increasingly, research shows the importance of the microbiome (population of microbes in the gut) to overall health. Life stressors can disrupt the microbiome, which is where probiotics may have benefits for both humans and horses.

“Colic, lack of appetite and a decline in performance are potential problems resulting from digestive issues,” says Dr. Nettie Liburt, PAS Senior Equine Nutrition Manager, Mars Horsecare US. “A consistent diet with the support of probiotics may be useful in reducing the effects of stress on the digestive system.”

What are probiotics?

The World Health Organization defines probiotics as live microorganisms that when administered at adequate concentrations confer a health benefit on the host. You may have heard them referred to as “good bacteria” or “good bugs.” 

Another name for probiotics is direct fed microbials (DFMs). DFMs are intended to provide live colonies of lactic acid-producing bacteria (LAB), typically found in the intestines of healthy animals1. LAB produce vitamins, enzymes and volatile fatty acids (used in energy production), all of which may aid digestion, provide nutritional value and promote gastrointestinal (GI) health1

“Common species of LAB include Lactobacilli and Enterococcus, which are added to BUCKEYE™ Nutrition EQ8™ products,” says Dr. Liburt. These species of bacteria are found in healthy equine microbiomes and are believed to help reduce or exclude the growth of potential pathogens.

Application is important

Probiotics are only useful if they’re still active once the horse consumes the feed. They’re heat sensitive, so they need to be added to a feed after processing.

BUCKEYE Nutrition uses trademarked technology to apply probiotics. This process ensures even distribution of live probiotics in the feed, so they remain protected to be beneficially active in the horse’s digestive system.

“Our probiotic application technology separates us from other companies,” says Amber Krotky, MS, PAS, Quality and Product Development Manager, Mars Horsecare US Inc. “It’s our proprietary method of guaranteeing proper application and delivery of live probiotics."

At BUCKEYE Nutrition, we formulate all our feeds based on current scientific research and knowledge of equine nutrition. If you’re looking for a horse feed to support optimal digestion, EQ8™ Gut Health Multi-Textured Feed or EQ8™ Senior Gut Health Multi-Textured Feed might be your answer.  

 


References

1. National Research Council. 2007. Nutrient Requirements of Horses, 6th Ed. National Academies Press, Washington, DC.

 

Nutrition Nuggets-Gastric Ulcers

Let's start 2019 off on the right foot with Nutrition Nuggets! Our own Dr. Nettie Liburt explains all about gastric ulcers, and how nutrition plays a role in managing the risks for ulcers.

Nutrition Nuggets-Bran Mashes

Do you feed your horse or pony a warm bran mash on cold winter days? Our Senior Nutrition Manager, Dr. Nettie Liburt, explains why feeding bran mashes in the cold, winter months might not be beneficial to your horse's digestive system and overall diet.

Nutrition Nuggets-Weighing Your Feed

Nutrition Nuggets is back and is all about weights and measures. Our own Dr. Nettie explains the importance of weighing your horse's feed and gives you some tips on how to do so.

Nutrition Nuggets-How To Use PERFORM 'N WIN

In this episode of Nutrition Nuggets, Dr. Nettie explains how to use PERFORM 'N WIN electrolytes to help keep your horses hydrated in the summer.

Nutrition Nuggets-Cost Per Day

Nutrition Nuggets is back! In this episode, Dr. Nettie explains how you can calculate how much you are spending per day on your horse's feed and why cost per day is more important than cost per bag.

 

 

 

Nutrition Nuggets-100% Med-Free Mill

Dr. Nettie Liburt brings us great information with her Nutrition Nuggets. In this episode, Dr. Nettie talks about our single mill in Dalton, Ohio and why being 100% medication-free (including ionophores) and is so important to us, as well as the health and well-being of your horse or pony.

New research confirms that diet can help manage gastric ulcer syndrome

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Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) can affect any horse. It can cause discomfort and may have a detrimental effect on behaviour and performance but new research has confirmed that a suitable diet can help to manage the condition, especially after veterinary treatment is stopped.

EGUS refers to the ulceration of the horse’s stomach lining. Several factors, including nutrition, have been shown to increase the risk of ulcers occurring, particularly in the non-glandular (squamous) part of the stomach.  In horses that are actively exercising and training, the incidence of gastric ulceration has been reported to be up to 90% in some sub-populations. Whilst dietary and management changes are often recommended to help reduce the risk of EGUS they are also suggested in conjunction with or following veterinary pharmaceutical treatment. However, until now there has been little published work to confirm their benefit under such circumstances. 

The new research study on the effect of changing diet on gastric ulceration in exercising horses and ponies following cessation of omeprazole treatment was conducted by Nanna Luthersson (Hestedoktoren, a private practice in Denmark) and Coby Bolger (Horse1 Spain), with colleagues from the University of Madrid and Glasgow, in collaboration with SPILLERS® and the WALTHAM® Equine Studies Group. The study was presented at the International Colic Symposium on 20th July 2017.

The study evaluated the effect of dietary change in combination with omeprazole treatment and after the cessation of treatment.  The 32 horses in this part of the trial had been diagnosed with significant equine squamous gastric disease (ESGD) and were in hard work. For the purpose of more accurate comparisons the horses were paired, according to the severity of their ulcers, their workload, management and original diet.  On a random basis one of each pair was assigned to a specified low starch, fibre-based diet consisting of their own forage alongside a restricted starch, high fibre, high energy cube (SPILLERS® HDF Power Cubes, which are commonly used in racing yards) and a high oil, low starch, chopped alfalfa based feed (WINERGY® Equilibrium® Growth) and the other stayed on their original diet.  All animals were scoped before, after the recommended course of omeprazole treatment and then six weeks after the omeprazole finished.

The horses in the no diet change group improved significantly with the omeprazole but when the treatment was stopped many regressed. Overall, by the end of the trial they were not significantly different to when they had started. However, the horses in the dietary change group overall showed significantly improved ESGD scores, not only following the omeprazole treatment but also after the treatment had stopped. This showed that a change in diet was able to help maintain the beneficial effect of omeprazole even after the omeprazole was removed.  The study achieved an award in 2016 for research in horse welfare from the Fundación para la Promoción del Deporte Ecuestre, Spain.

Clare Barfoot RNutr, the research and development manager at SPILLERS®, said: “This exciting work confirms what we suspected; that whilst appropriate dietary change can provide additional support to medical treatment for EGUS most importantly it can help maintain better gastric health post medical treatment.”

Last year the British Equestrian Trade Association, in consultation with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, introduced a new feed approval mark to help owners identify feeds suitable for horses and ponies prone to equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS). Currently six feeds in the UK carry the BETA Equine Gastric Ulceration Syndrome (EGUS) Certification Mark including WINERGY® Equilibrium® Growth and SPILLERS® Alfalfa Pro Fibre.

For more information from BUCKEYE® Nutrition on feeding horses with gastric ulcers, click here