Equine Obesity: Current Perspectives

David I. Rendle, caroline McGregor, Mark E Bowen, Harry Carslake, Alexander J German, Pat Harris, Edd Knowles, Nicola Menzies-Gow, Ruth Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Equine obesity is now so common that is has become accepted by many as the norm (Owers and Chubbock, 2012). Rates of obesity may be as high as 70% in some populations and obesity is often associated with morbidities that may ultimately result in mortality. Obesity is a common feature in animals diagnosed with equine metabolic syndrome, a conflation of metabolic disturbances including insulin dysregulation, which may lead to laminitis. Obesity is a risk factor for insulin dysregulation and is therefore implicated in laminitis risk. In addition to laminitis, adverse consequences of obesity include orthopaedic disease, hyperlipaemia, hyperthermia, infertility and poor performance. Over time, perception of what constitutes a healthy body condition in horses has shifted, with the result that potentially harmful excess adiposity may not be recognised by owners or those working in the equine industry (Owers and Chubbock, 2012). In addition, increasing numbers of equines are kept as companions rather than athletes and live relatively inactive lifestyles favouring the development of obesity. Finally, owners of leisure horses often think their horses are working hard when, in reality, their exertions have minimal impact on their energy requirements.

Despite increasing awareness within the veterinary profession and equine industry of the impact of obesity on equine welfare, little progress seems to have been made in tackling it. This document was commissioned in order to provide veterinary surgeons with up-to-date information on equine obesity and to equip them to tackle it within their own practices. Recommendations were developed using an informal two-round Delphi process, considering published and unpublished research relating to equine obesity using a round table forum and online discussion. Where research evidence was conflicting or absent, collective expert opinion based on the clinical experience of the group was applied. The opinions expressed are the consensus of views expressed by the authors. Where agreement was not reached, opposing views are presented such that readers can understand the arguments fully. The document is focused on the management of horses and ponies; while much of the information herein is applicable to donkeys it is important to recognise that the metabolism and management of donkeys are different and further research is required before specific recommendations can be made. The expert group was organised by UK-Vet Equine with sponsorship from Baileys Horse Feeds.
Original languageEnglish
JournalUK-Vet Equine
Volume2
Issue numberSupp 5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sep 2018

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