Researchers have learned that genetics have more of an influence on a horse's risk of developing equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) than previously thought. EMS is a complex disorder associated with an increased risk of laminitis from insulin dysregulation and fatty deposits, altered adipokine concentrations, inability to lose weight or abnormal levels of fat in the blood. EMS has an 80 percent chance of being inherited by the foal.
The Horse reports that Dr. Molly McCue, professor and interim associate dean of research at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, along with coworker Dr. Elaine M. Norton, used 264 Welsh ponies and 286 Morgan horses to test EMS heritability. This was the largest study population used to date. Both scientists expected the heritability of genetic traits linked to EMS would be about 40 percent, much lower than it turned out to be.
While it was known that some breeds, like the Morgan and Welsh ponies, are predisposed to developing EMS, the results of the study emphasize the need for strategic breeding to minimize the chance of inheriting EMS. It will never be possible to completely breed out EMS.
The researchers hope that a test can be developed that will determine which horses are high-risk for developing EMS. This knowledge would allow horse owners and veterinarians to make management modification like controlled diet and exercise early to reduce the chance of laminitis.
Read the study here.
Read more at The Horse.
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