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Guelph researcher publishes study on gut microflora and EMS in horses September 2017

Story: Nicole Weidner

obese fat horseEquine metabolic syndrome (EMS) is becoming an increasingly important health concern in horses, especially with the rising rates of obesity in these animals. The consequences are serious, and include an increased risk of laminitis and pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (Cushing’s disease). Research into EMS is essential to gain an understanding of the disease and to find ways to detect it earlier.

The gut microflora is gaining attention for its link to health in many species, and studies in humans show that metabolic disorders are associated with changes in gut microflora. However, there was no information of the intestinal microflora of horses with EMS until this study was published.

A new area of investigation in EMS was explored by scientists at the University of Guelph and the Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky and recently published in The Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. Researchers wanted to determine whether there were changes to the gut microflora of horses affected with EMS when compared to healthy horses.

Researchers compared 10 horses with EMS to 10 horses that were metabolically normal. Fecal samples were collected and analyzed using next generation sequencing to determine the intestinal microflora. Horses affected with EMS have differences in microbial diversity and overall community structure. Scientists concluded that these differences may influence health, and may be related to the clinical characteristics of the disease. The results of this study are helping scientists to better understand EMS. Continued research in this area will provide insight on optimal ways to prevent or manage EMS.

For more details of the study.

If you’re interested in learning more about signs of metabolic syndromes such as EMS, visit Equine Guelph's Senior Horse Challenge healthcare tool.