Severe hypertriglyceridaemia in horses and ponies with endocrine disorders

B Dunkel, S A Wilford, N J Parkinson, C Ward, P Smith, L Grahame, T Brazil, H C Schott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


REASONS FOR PERFORMING THE STUDY: Severe hypertriglyceridaemia in horses and ponies with endocrine disorders has been reported anecdotally but has not been documented in the literature.

OBJECTIVES: To describe historical and clinicopathological findings as well as progression and outcome in horses and ponies with severe hypertriglyceridaemia (serum triglyceride concentration >5.65 mmol/l) secondary to an endocrine disorder that were otherwise apparently healthy.

METHODS: Cases from 6 participating institutions were identified and case details extracted from the medical records.

RESULTS: Case details of 3 horses and 4 ponies were available. Presenting complaints included weight loss despite good appetite in 4 animals, while in 3 hypertriglyceridaemia was identified incidentally. All animals were bright and alert and showed a normal or increased appetite. Serum triglyceride concentrations ranged from 10.5 to 60.3 mmol/l. Other abnormalities included hyperglycaemia in 6 animals, suspected insulin resistance and mild to severe increases in hepatic enzyme activities. In 2 animals, moderate hepatic lipidosis was confirmed histologically. Three horses and 3 ponies were diagnosed with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction based on clinical signs and basal adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) concentrations or dexamethasone suppression test results. In 5 of these, type 2 diabetes mellitus was also confirmed, while one pony suffered from type 2 diabetes mellitus without concurrent pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction. Laboratory abnormalities improved in 4 animals with treatment (pergolide and/or insulin), in one horse specific treatment was not attempted, and in 2 ponies treatment was impaired by the owner or only partly effective. In one of the latter cases, biochemical abnormalities persisted for 7 years without apparent ill effects.

CONCLUSIONS AND POTENTIAL RELEVANCE: Horses and ponies may develop severe hypertriglyceridaemia secondary to endocrine disorders that are associated with insulin resistance. Hypertriglyceridaemia can resolve with treatment of the endocrinopathy. Although biochemical evidence of hepatic compromise was present, clinical abnormalities were not noted in these animals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-22
Number of pages5
JournalEquine Veterinary Journal
Issue number1
Early online date12 Apr 2013
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Apr 2013


  • Animals
  • Endocrine System Diseases/complications
  • Female
  • Horse Diseases/blood
  • Horses
  • Hypertriglyceridemia/etiology
  • Male


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