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Feeding horses with EMS & Cushing's Disease

 

Dietary management for EMS or Cushing’s Disease

For a pony or horse suspected of having Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) or diagnosed with Cushings Syndrome, diet and exercise management is essential.

  • Try and keep them fit with a target body condition score of 5 (out of 9) on the Henneke Body Condition Scale for horses.
  • Feed little and often, and encourage them to eat slowly, to avoid large peaks and troughs in blood glucose and insulin – keep meal sizes small (less than 1kg for ponies, 2kg for horses).
  • Manage the diet to ensure a low starch and sugar content – the target is below 10% total starch and sugar in the overall diet:
    • Use feeds that are high in fibre and low in starch and sugar – Laminitis Trust approved main meals are a good indication of these nutritional parameters.
    • Feed low sugar forage
      • Hay and haylage can contain up to 10-15% sugar (they contain little starch).
      • The sugar content can be checked by feed analysis, or alternatively the forage can be soaked. 12-16 hours soaking will deplete the sugar content by half. (However in warm weather reduce this significantly to prevent the soaking water becoming foul and smelly.) Soaking haylage may seem counter intuitive given it is already moist, but the purpose of soaking is to remove readily soluble sugars from the material, which will not happen otherwise.
      • (Steaming doesn’t reduce the sugar content by as much as soaking)
    • Ensure the diet is fully balanced and contains plenty of antioxidants