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Equine Metabolic Syndrome

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Obesity is about nutrient intake and nutrient processing; the gut bacteria are at the forefront of this process and have been cited as a crucial factor in the development of the human equivalent of EMS i.e. Type 2 Diabetes.

The gut microbes regulate and balance the host's (horse)

metabolism, they also control gut wall permeability (toxins and laminitis) and the gut wall integrity.

One of the features of Equine Metabolic Syndrome is hormone dysregulation, hormone secretion is stimulated by the microbiome. The dysregulation occurring in the hormones that produce the desire to eat, created by the release of (Ghrelin) whilst the hormone GLP-1 prevents this desire from becoming too strong.

Hormone dysregulation or an imbalance in these gut hormones causes an increase in ACTH levels which might lead to a positive diagnosis of Cushings.

There is clearly a strong relationship between the host (the horse) and the microbes in his gut, new technology allows us to identify important mechanisms linking the bacteria and host responses which lead to disease states and complex syndromes such as EMS.

Not only do the bacteria contribute to health and disease, so do the chemicals made by the bacteria, and the nutrients they use. All have a major effect. The science of measuring the physiological changes and the manufacture of secondary metabolites within the microbiome is called metabolomics. With the advent of new technology, metabolomic analysis has become a powerful tool in human and animal medicine.

Horses with Equine Metabolic Syndrome have altered products of the microbial and host metabolism of bile acids, vitamins, short chain fatty acids, purines and phenolic compounds. Being able to identify and measure these changes early on will help to prevent the long term medication, hormone dysregulation and laminitis that accompany EMS.

The horse is a hind gut fermenter, with ¾’s of energy production originating in the fermentation vat called the cecum. The microbiome of the horse is vast, diverse and highly variable between breeds, ages and diets.

We have been analysing the gut bacteria of horses with EMS since 2014 and have a vast data base, continuously improving and updating our knowledge with better technology and bioinformatics able to measure and quantify the complex data on the metabolome of the horse.


The microbiome of the horse with EMS is different from those without, one research paper found higher levels of planctomycetes in horses with EMS. Planctomycetes are a normal part of the microbiome but have been linked to gastric inflammation (colitis) in horses in high levels. Planctomycetes are strongly anti-biotic resistant, with numbers increasing following s course of antibiotics use. Could antibiotics be a contributing factor to EMS?

The Effect of Probiotics on Horses with EMS.

Lactobacillus Acidophilus are commonly added to probiotics supplements for horses, however this is not an abundant bacteria in healthy horses and may have a less than positive effect on horses with EMS.

Lactobacillus increases carbohydrate metabolism, especially the digestion of oligosaccharides and tetrasaccharides. An increased digestion/metabolism of carbs/sugars would be contraindicative for a horse with EMS.

The Equibiome analysis confirms that Lactobacillus Acidiphilus is a member of the equine microbiome, and that this species does survive the acid environment of the stomach and goes on to colonise the hind gut of the horse.

The addition of L. Acidiphilus to the microbiome by way of a probiotic, has the effect of –

1. altering the metabolome relating to the production of bile acids, reducing the conversion of primary bile to secondary bile acids.

2. increasing carbohydrate extraction and metabolism from complex undigestible plant material.

3. using up or robbing the horse of ingested vitamin e to achieve this.

4. Supplementing vitamin e in horses that have higher levels of lactobacillus will increase carbohydrate metabolism and weight gain.

· These are just two of the several examples of how the gut microbiome of EMS horses are different to healthy horses. There are several other bacteria involved in the development of EMS, manipulation of the biome to alter and/or reduce those that contribute to this syndrome.

· The New EquiBiome EMS Analysis Kit will clearly identify these bacteria, taking away the guess work on what to feed and how to manage the EMS horse.

Enter Discount Code EMS1 at check out to receive a 30% discount.

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