Diabetes is a well known disease among humans. However, humans are not the only mammals that can be diagnosed with diabetes. Some horses also must battle this disease with the help of their owners.
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What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease in which the pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that tells the body's cells to take in glucose, also known as blood sugar. Glucose is the body's primary energy source. Often insulin resistance, when the cells reject insulin, leads into diabetes.
For more than 30 years, veterinarians have recognised that many ponies are naturally insulin resistant. This gives ponies an advantage in the wild by allowing them to gain a lot of weight when food is plenty and then live off the fat when it isn't.
Overfeeding is another cause of diabetes in horses. Too many treats, sugar cubes and apples are not always good. However, not all horses who have been overfed will become insulin resistant.
Insulin resistance causes obesity, which can be damaging to the horse's skeletal system, heart and joints by putting undue stress on them. Laminitis, or foundering, is another consequence of insulin resistance. Loss of weight and muscle mass can also occur because the horse's cells are starving for glucose.
Diet and exercise are the best treatments for diabetes and insulin resistance in horses. At this time there are no medications available to treat horses with diabetes.
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