By Garrett Metcalf, DVM
It is that time of year when cases in veterinary practices are diagnosed with EMS or Equine Metabolic Syndrome spike. The reason cases of EMS spike is because of the fast growth that pastures experience in the spring. Before EMS was well understood or discovered, many of these horses were diagnosed with grass founder, but through research the process of the disease is now better understood. The disease is caused by obese overfed horses and breeds of horses that have “hardy genes.” These are breeds that generally need less caloric intake to meet their daily energy needs. Although some breeds are at higher risk such as ponies, just about any breed can develop EMS.
Risk Factors for EMS
The key risk factor for development of EMS is weight gain, breed, high caloric intake, and very little or inconsistent exercise. Horses that gain weight easily on pasture turn out or are getting too many calories from grains plus hay can be put at risk of EMS.