Monday, March 07, 2016

Decreasing the Risk of Laminitis in the Spring - Full Article

Written by: Shannon Pratt-Phillips, Ph.D.

Equine nutritionist, Shannon Pratt-Phillips, Ph.D., explains how to avoid pasture associated laminitis in the spring.

Q.: I know laminitis risk increases with spring grass. Is there anything I can do nutritionally to help decrease the risk?

A.: The reason the risk of laminitis increases in the spring is that as the days get longer, the extra sunlight increases photosynthesis, which results in starch, sugar and, in some plants, fructan production. We also tend to have cooler temperatures at night, which prevents the plants from using these sugars, and they accumulate.

Fructans are poorly digested within the horse’s small intestine, so they pass through to the large intestine, as do sugars when consumed in large amounts. When these reach the large intestine, the microbial organisms residing there ferment these new substrates rapidly, resulting in a shift towards the production of lactic acid and compounds called vasoactive amines (substances containing amino groups), as well as a drop in pH.

Changes in pH alter the permeability of the intestinal lining, which is believed to allow the absorption of the vasoactive amines and potential other toxins, and can contribute towards laminaellar separation.

Elevated insulin concentrations have also been shown to trigger laminitis, and horses that are consuming “sugary” pasture or that are already insulin resistant (and have high resting insulin concentrations) may have their insulin concentrations reach critical levels. So, prevention of laminitis is two-fold: limit pasture intake, particularly when sugar content is expected to be high and prevent/manage insulin resistance...

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