How is EMS treated?
Where laminitis is not a limiting factor, daily exercise aids weight loss and improves insulin sensitivity. Exercise intensity does not have to be high, but aim to build up to regular exercise of 30 minutes or more daily once recovery from laminitis is complete. Obtaining and maintaining your horse or pony's correct body weight is vitally important. Ask your vet to show you how to use a weight tape correctly and how to assess body condition score and cresty neck score – this will help you to monitor progress.
Dietary management should reduce both energy intake and non-structural carbohydrates (simple sugars and starches) but changes to your horse or pony’s diet should be made slowly (over the course of at least 2 weeks).
Restriction of grazing using a muzzle or starvation paddock can reduce grass intake while still maintaining exercise obtained during turnout. Simply limiting duration of turnout is unlikely to be successful as horses and ponies are able to consume a large portion of their grass intake in the first 2-3 hours of grazing.
Soaking hay can be a very useful way of reducing the sugar and therefore the calorie content. The length of time you need to soak hay varies considerably between different hays, so it may be worth having a forage analysis done to find out the energy content of your hay. Soaking hay would normally be between 1-12 hours, depending on the type and quality of your hay. When giving soaked hay it is also advisable to feed a broad spectrum multivitamin/mineral and amino acid supplement (ask your vet for advice).
Feeding hay in haylage nets or inside two hay nets (“double netting”) can help slow down your horse or pony to prolong feeding time.
Regular check-ups from your vet will help monitor the response to management changes and any other treatment, and allow assessment of your horse or pony’s insulin levels.
- De Laat et al (2010) Equine Veterinary Journal 42 (2) 129-135