Cushing's Disease, Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome

Horse with cushing's disease

Cushing's Disease

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 

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

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 keeper” 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, which unlike other compounded feeds, contains a minimal amount of calories and starch. When fed with forage, half a cup of Barn Bag® (85 gm) is all you need to fulfill the daily nutrient requirement of an average 1,000 lb horse.

Learn More About Barn Bag®

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