Anxiety is a common problem in the equine industry, often connected right back to stress on a physical and emotional level. There are many contributors to the anxiety, ranging from diet to training, including natural personality tendencies in some breed of horses. Anxiety and stress contribute to a host of health problems in the horse and even impact performance, leading to many owners struggling to find solutions.
Metabolic syndrome is a name applied to a collective group of risk factors that raise the risk of other health conditions. In humans, we see a rise in the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, vascular disorders, neurodegenerative conditions and many others. In horses, we generally see an increased risk for insulin resistance, Cushing’s disease and laminitis. The term ‘metabolic’ actually implies an alteration in cellular metabolism or biochemical processes, but is often quickly associated with a state of increased body weight or obesity. The syndrome is actually complex, involving many pathways, but as with other conditions, with a more indepth understanding comes better management.
Stress is something that we all encounter daily whether if we are animal or human. Stressors are the reason as to why we adapt and hopefully overcome new challenges, whether if that is a new task at work, a new exercise routine or environmental changes. It is what hopefully makes us stronger, more resilient. Those stressors create a stress response in our body, which then we hopefully adapt to over time. The question is how much stress is our body supposed to handle, or that body of our equine companions or even pets, and how does prolonged stressor exposure impact health, recovery and even soundness or injury?
Cushing’s disease in the horse is becoming a more popular diagnosis, creating confusion with many horse owners. Cushing’s disease or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID) is most commonly diagnosed in the aged horse, but is increasingly become more common in perceived younger horses with concurrent usage of medications to control the condition. The impact of Cushing’s disease in the equine community is large, with more cases being diagnosed as the lifespan of the horse increases, and can create many management frustrations for the horse owner. The syndrome is very complex, leaving many unanswered questions but many roads for possible exploration to enhance quality of life for these patients.