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Cushings, IR, MS and Low Starch Feeding

Category: Horse Health

Added 21st December 2017

Cushing’s Disease, Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome and Low Starch Feeding Stuffs

Cushing’s disease is caused by a tumor of the pituitary gland. The resulting metabolic disturbances stem from excessive levels of a hormone secreted by the tumor, which in turn leads to high blood cortisol levels and the development of insulin resistance. These horses typically have high blood sugar (glucose) levels and will benefit from low carbohydrate dietary management.

Insulin resistance refers to increased blood glucose in combination with normal to increased levels of blood insulin. Insulin’s function of transporting glucose into the cells is impaired resulting in an increase of glucose inside the circulatory system and a decrease of glucose within the cells. The pancreas secretes more insulin in the quest to bring the blood glucose down resulting in both increased blood insulin and blood glucose levels. The tissues are often glucose deprived. Insulin resistance is likely an “early warning” of additional metabolic related diseases, including colic, laminitis, and endocrine related problems. 

Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) is a term that is used to describe horses with a condition related to metabolic disturbances, and is commonly represented by the combination of obesity, insulin resistance (IR) and laminitis. Although much is not understood about the disease it is known that “easy doer” horses have an increased risk of developing EMS. A properly managed diet along with exercise to maintain appropriate body condition will prevent the majority of cases and help manage existing cases.

Weight management has been shown to be an important component in the treatment of most metabolism related problems. Although a low calorie and low starch feedstuff is not a treatment for these conditions, it certainly can be a valuable tool for weight control and restriction of carbohydrate/starch/sugar intake.

If you have a horse with the previously mentioned conditions, we recommend replacing your compounded feed with Barn Bag® – a concentrated nutrient source, which unlike other compounded feeds, contains a minimal amount of calories and starch. When fed with forage, 85 grams of Barn Bag® is sufficient to fulfill the daily nutrient requirement of an average 450 kg horse.


J. Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS 
Founder of Life Data Labs, Inc. 
Developer of Farrier’s Formula® 
H. Scott Gravlee, DVM, CNS 
Equine Nutrition Consultant

Learn More at http://www.lifedatalabs.co.uk/