Do Horses Get Diabetes?


People often believe that animals can’t get diabetes. However, animals face increased blood sugar the same way we do, but the names of the diseases differ. In horses, it’s called Equine Metabolic Syndrome.The leading player in all such cases is insulin, whose presence allows tissues to uptake glucose. Insulin resistance in the case of EMS causes a rise in blood glucose levels, which can often lead to adverse health impacts. You need to know such problems in detail if you own a horse, so we’ve collected some information on the disease that might just come in handy.

EMS vs. Diabetes

EMS works the same way as Diabetes Mellitus by impacting the tissues in your organs that use insulin to uptake glucose. When the tissues become incapable of this function, the glucose builds up in the blood, causing organs not to get enough energy to function correctly. As a result, you might feel your horse isn’t as energetic as it used to be. This disease is widespread in horses, and wasn’t taken seriously before.

It has been known for many years that many horses are intrinsically insulin resistant. This trait of theirs was thought to be a survival advantage. Since insulin-resistant individuals gain weight quickly when there is food, they can use those fat reserves when no food is available. Now, the condition is known to be problematic and can be dangerous for the horse in case of overfeeding.

Detecting EMS

The leading cause of insulin resistance is obesity, as excessive fat tissues can produce hormones that have an adverse effect on your horse’s organs. To detect obesity in your horse, look around the base of the tail, over the eyes, behind the shoulders, and on the crest of the neck for signs of fat accumulation.

Another sign of EMS is laminitis, which is the inflammation of your horse’s hooves. Checking the feet could give you an idea of whether your horse is healthy or needs a medical exam. A blood test is an indicator of insulin resistance. It either measures the amount of insulin in the blood or looks for adiponectin, a hormone associated with fat.

Preventing and Treating EMS

Assessing your horse’s diet is the first step to controlling EMS, as the condition only gets dangerous if a horse is overfed. The horse’s health will not be affected if its diet is kept in check.  You’ll have to stop feeding your horse carrots, apples, and grains and letting it graze grass, as all these are high in fat. You need to ensure that your horse gets daily exercise as well. This can keep their weight under control and mitigate the impact of insulin resistance. For drug treatment, doctors prescribe Metformin, an effective treatment for Diabetes Mellitus.


EMS is not alarming, so there’s no need to worry. Make sure that your horse gets regular checkups and maintains its diet and exercise regimen, as no amount of drugs can work as effectively as a good diet and exercise. Insulin resistance is not a disease but a gift that allowed them to survive on sparse food in the past. Once you start your horse on a planned schedule, their weight will decrease, and so will the symptoms.


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