Recurrent laminitis/founder, minerals, dosing

Kirsten Rasmussen

Maxine, I'm with you on this, but defer to Dr Kellon. 

In my experience, the only time when we don't recommend jiaogulan when it could be helpful is when the trim needs major corrections, because jiaogulan speeds up hoof growth and can worsen the trim situation.

Kirsten and Shaku (EMS + PPID) and Snickers (EMS) - 2019
Kitimat, BC, Canada
ECIR Group Moderator
Shaku's Case History
Shaku's Photo Album

Snickers' Case History
Snickers' Photo Album

Maxine McArthur

On Tue, Jan 31, 2023 at 09:17 AM, AnneCat wrote:
Joseph wanted me to inquire about JIAOGULAN.  We had purchased some, but the internist said (Jan. 2): ”The medication works as a vasodilator, and even its proponents, including Dr. Eleaonor Kellon VMD, strongly recommend against its use in a situation where the Cushing’s disease and metabolic/hyper-insulinemia conditions are not yet controlled.  The increased digital pulses already indicate increased blood flow into the feet, so we don’t want to increase that any further.  I’d prefer ice-therapy…ie going in the other direction of vasoCONTRICTion.”
Hi Ann
I'm interested in Dr Kellon's reply to this also. I would have thought that the increased digital pulses indicate vasoconstriction--the blood can't pump through the constricted vessels effectively, which is why we can feel pulses. The jiaogulan helps by allowing the constricted blood vessels to relax and let the blood flow normally. 
We don't usually recommend ice therapy for endocrinopathic laminitis (ie from high insulin) for this reason. (I think--happy to be corrected by more experienced mods.)
Maxine and Indy (PPID) and Dangles (PPID)

Canberra, Australia 2010
ECIR Primary Response



Thank you so much both for your replies.  We didn’t know cyproheptadine is not effective– we are having ACTH checked this Thursday again, as well as xrays taken.  We will not hesitate to increase pergolide then, if that’s really the only effective thing, if the results warrant it (i.e. are still not down to mid-range).

The RF is still quite sore, and we aren’t sure at this point if it’s because of the abscess needing to heal (the hole is still there– Joseph got soaking boots for the vinegar soaks and E! is in EasyCare Clouds), or if it’s still unresolved laminitis.  (She is able to walk around a bit more now, but just sore still quite sore.).

Joseph wanted me to inquire about JIAOGULAN.  We had purchased some, but the internist said (Jan. 2): ”The medication works as a vasodilator, and even its proponents, including Dr. Eleaonor Kellon VMD, strongly recommend against its use in a situation where the Cushing’s disease and metabolic/hyper-insulinemia conditions are not yet controlled.  The increased digital pulses already indicate increased blood flow into the feet, so we don’t want to increase that any further.  I’d prefer ice-therapy…ie going in the other direction of vasoCONTRICTion.”

What is your opinion on this?  E! is no longer taking any anti-inflammatory drugs as we were concerned it could harm the healing process long-term (she had been taking Banamine for about 2 months).


January 2023; Lake Worth, Florida

Evrika!’s Case History:

Evrika!’s Photos:

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

Your internist is correct, not KER.  It was demonstrated a long time ago that cyproheptadine does not work and there has been no new evidence to show that it does.  The 4 mg dose is not unusual. See the poll results here - and add your data while you're at it!
Eleanor in PA  BOGO 2 for 1 Course Sale Through End of January
EC Owner 2001
The first step to wisdom is "I don't know."


Hi Anne,

Welcome to the ECIR group!  Your first post here triggers our formal welcome message with a great deal of reading material relative to your being the partner of an IR and/or PPID horse.  Some of it will be very familiar to you and other ideas might be new to you.  Don’t forget to explore the links as well.

I have read through your case history, some in more detail than others, but all very interesting.  Thanks for taking the time to share all the nitty gritty with us.  I’ve also explored your photo album.  She’s very easy to look at!

We advocate adding minerals to the diet as needed to balance her hay.  A representative sample of the hay you are feeding is sent for testing, using traditional wet chemistry techniques.  We recommend the Equi-Analytical 603 Trainer test.  When the results come back, they supply the ESC and starch values, which gives those with IR horses guidance with respect to the need for soaking the hay.  It also reports on the mineral content of the hay, which allows someone with appropriate training to determine how much of each mineral is needed to make the hay ‘perfect’.  While it’s necessary to meet the daily minimums of each for good health, even more important is that their ratios are appropriate.  If your hay has not been tested, recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt, so to speak.  We do recommend Vitamin E because IR horses should not be eating grass and Vitamin E loses its potency once the grass is cut.  I usually give my horses 2-3 tablespoons of salt.

There is definitely a difference between 4mg of pergolide all at once and the same amount divided up over the course of the day.  Our guidance has been to give it all at once but there have been a few people who have found dosing more frequently to be helpful.  Whether they gave multiple doses of the original amount or divided the original amount to stretch it out is unclear.  The effects of pergolide in the body are much longer lasting than the activity of the actual drug so, to my mind, dividing the dose up would mean that the horse would only ever experience 1 mg of pergolide, which is very different from a 4 mg dose.  I can appreciate that she might have been a bit dopey, especially if she had not been pretreated with an adaptogen.  We don’t recommend the use of Cyproheptadine although there may well be some people here using that combination.  We’re always interested in hearing about new experiences.

If you’re referring to the change in Pergolide dosing protocol, I would think 3 weeks would be enough.  Less time for insulin but it makes sense to do it all at once.


Now for all the details I promised.  Keep this information handy as it will continue to be useful.

Welcome to the group! 

The ECIR Group provides the best, most up to date information on Cushing's (PPID) and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)/Insulin Resistance (IR). Please explore our website where you'll find tons of great information that will help you to quickly understand the main things you need to know to start helping your horse. Also open any of the links below (in blue font) for more information/instructions that will save you time.

Have you started your Case History? If you haven't done so yet, please join our case history sub-group. We appreciate you following the uploading instructions so your folder is properly set up with the documents inside. Go to this CH message with info on how to use various devices and forms. If you have any trouble, just post a message to let us know where you are stuck. 

Orienting information, such as how the different ECIR sections relate to each other, message etiquettewhat goes where and many how-to pages are in the Wiki. There is also an FAQs on our website that will help answer the most common and important questions new members have. 

Below is a general summary of our DDT/E philosophy which is short for Diagnosis, Diet, Trim and Exercise.


DIAGNOSIS: There are two conditions dealt with here: Cushings (PPID) and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)/Insulin Resistance (IR). These are two separate issues that share some overlapping symptoms. An equine may be either PPID or EMS/IR, neither or both. While increasing age is the greatest risk factor for developing PPID, IR can appear at any age and may have a genetic component. Blood work is used for diagnosis as well as monitoring the level of control of each.

PPID is diagnosed using the Endogenous ACTH test, while EMS/IR is diagnosed by testing non-fasting insulin and glucose.

The fat-derived hormone leptin is also usually abnormally elevated in insulin resistance but because there are many other things which can lower or increase leptin ECIR is not recommending routine testing for this hormone. Leptin is the hormone that says "stop eating".

In Europe, adiponectin is tested instead of leptin. Adiponectin helps regulate glucose and fat burning, and maintain insulin sensitivity. Low levels are associated with EMS. It has come to be preferred over leptin because it is not influenced by things like weight or exercise, and also because it was the only factor other than insulin levels that predicted laminitis risk

*Before calling your vet to draw blood for tests, we suggest saving time and wasted money by reading these details and then sharing them with your vet so that everyone is on the same page regarding correct testing and protocols.

*Please remember to request copies of the results of all the tests done rather than just relying on verbal information. Your vet should be able to email these to you. If you have previous test results, please include those as well. All should go in your CH, but if you are having any trouble with the CH, just post in the messages for now. 

Treatment: EMS is a metabolic type - not a disease - that is managed with a low sugar+starch diet and exercise (as able). The super-efficient easy keeper type breeds such as minis, ponies, Morgans, Arabs, Rockies are some of the classic examples. PPID is a progressive disease that is treated with the medication pergolide. Some, but not all, individuals may experience a temporary loss of appetite, lethargy and/or depression when first starting the medication. To avoid this "pergolide veil" (scroll down for side effects), we recommend weaning onto the drug slowly and the use of the product APF. The best long term results are seen when the ACTH is maintained in the middle of the normal range at all times, including during the annual seasonal rise. To accomplish this, the amount of medication may need to increase over time. Neither condition is ever "cured", only properly controlled for the remainder of the equine's life. If your partner is both PPID and IR then both medication and diet management will be needed. 

DIET: Almost all commercial feeds are not suitable - no matter what it says on the bag. Please see the International Safe Feeds List for the safest suggestions.

No hay is "safe" until proven so by chemical analysis. The diet that works for IR is:

  • low carb (less than 10% sugar+starch)
  • low fat (4% or less) 
  • mineral balanced  

We use grass hay, tested to be under 10% ESC + starch, with minerals added to balance the excesses and deficiencies in the hay, plus salt, and to replace the fragile ingredients that are lost when grass is cured into hay, we add ground flax seed and Vitamin E. This diet is crucial for an EMS/IR horse, but also supports the delicate immune system of a PPID horse. 

*Until you can get your hay tested and balanced we recommend that you soak your hay and use the emergency diet (scroll down for it).  The emergency diet is not intended for long term use, but addresses some of the most common major deficiencies. Testing your hay and getting the minerals balanced to its excesses and deficiencies is the best way to feed any equine (look under the Hay Balancing file if you want professional help balancing). If you absolutely cannot test your hay and balance the minerals to it, or would like to use a "stop gap" product until you get your hay balanced, here's a list of "acceptable" ration balancers

There is a lot of helpful information in the start here folder so it is important you read all the documents found there. The emergency diet involves soaking your untested hay for an hour in cold water or 30 minutes in hot water. This removes up to 30% of the sugar content, but no starch. Starch is worse than sugar since it converts 100% to glucose while sugar only converts 50%, so starch causes a bigger insulin spike. Make sure you dump the soaking water where the equine(s) can't get to it. 

What you don't feed on the EMS/IR diet is every bit as, if not more important than, what you do feed! No grass. No grain. No sugary treats, including apples and carrots. No brown/red salt blocks which contain iron (and sometimes molasses) which interferes with mineral balancing, so white salt blocks only. 

No products containing molasses. No bagged feeds with a combined sugar and starch of over 10% or starch over about 4%, or fat over about 4%. Unfortunately, even bagged feeds that say they are designed for IR and/or PPID equines are usually too high in sugar, starch and/or fat. It’s really important to know the actual analysis and not be fooled by a name that says it is suitable for EMS/IR individuals.

We do not recommend feeding alfalfa hay to EMS/IR equines as it makes many of them laminitic. Although it tends to be low in sugar, many times the starch is higher and does not soak out. Additionally, protein and calcium are quite high, which can contribute to sore footedness and make mineral balancing very difficult.

TRIM: A proper trim is toes backed and heels lowered so that the hoof capsule closely hugs and supports the internal structures of the foot. Though important for all equines, it's essential for IR and/or PPID equines to have a proper trim in place since they are at increased risk for laminitis. After any potential triggers are removed from the diet, and in PPID individuals, the ACTH is under control, the realigning trim is often the missing link in getting a laminitic equine comfortable. In general, laminitic hooves require more frequent trim adjustments to maintain the proper alignment so we recommend the use of padded boots rather than fixed appliances (i.e. shoes, clogs), at least during the initial phases of treatment.

Sometimes subclinical laminitis can be misdiagnosed as arthritis, navicular, or a host of other problems as the animal attempts to compensate for sore feet. 

You are encouraged to make an album and post hoof pictures and any radiographs you might have so we can to look to see if you have an optimal trim in place. Read this section of the wiki for how to get a hoof evaluation, what photos are needed, and how to get the best hoof shots and radiographs.

EXERCISEThe best IR buster there is, but only if the equine is comfortable and non-laminitic. An individual that has had laminitis needs 6-9 months of correct realigning trims before any serious exercise can begin. Once the equine is moving around comfortably at liberty, hand walking can begin in long straight lines with no tight turns. Do not force a laminitic individual to move, or allow its other companions to do so. It will begin to move once the pain begins to subside. Resting its fragile feet is needed for healing to take place so if the animal wants to lay down, do not encourage it to get up. Place feed and water where it can be reached easily without having to move any more than necessary. Be extremely careful about movement while using NSAIDs (bute, banamine, previcox, etc.) as it masks pain and encourages more movement than these fragile feet are actually able to withstand. Additionally, NSAIDs (and icing) do not work on metabolic laminitis and long term NSAID use interferes with healing. Therefore, we recommend tapering off NSAIDs after the first week or so of use. If after a week's time your equine's comfort level has not increased, then the cause of the laminitis has not been removed and keeping up the NSAIDs isn't the answer - you need to address the underlying cause.


There is lots more information in our files and archived messages and also on our website. It is a lot of information, so take some time to go over it and feel free to ask any questions. If you are feeling overwhelmed, don't worry, you will catch on, and we are always here to help you! Once you have your case history uploaded, we can help you help your equine partner even better.

For members outside North America, there are country specific folders in the files and many international lists in the wiki to help you find local resources.

If you have any technical difficulties, please let us know so we can help you. 

Martha in Vermont
ECIR Group Primary Response
July 2012 
Logo (dec. 7/20/19), Tobit(EC) and Pumpkin, Handy and Silver (EC/IR)

Martha and Logo


Hello, first post here.  We are in need of advice with our mare.  The case history has the full story, but right now she is recovering from a subsolar abscess in the hoof (RF) which refoundered (rotation), has ”incredibly thin” soles in front feet according to the trimmer, and besides soaking in vinegar solution to harden the very soft RF sole, she advised increasing vital minerals to ”therapeutic levels.”

We are not clear what that would be above the adequate amounts.  The minerals she mentioned were magnesium, vitamin E, zinc, copper, possibly chromium, and iodine.

Of those, Evrika! is already getting 9000 mg Magnesium, 3355 IU Vitamin E, 800 mg Zinc, 225 mg Copper, 21 mg Chromium, and 3.5 mg Iodine  (+about 2 tsp(?) iodized salt).

Evrika! was started Dec. 30, 2022 on Cyproheptadine in addition to Prascend (she was already up to 4g/day of pergolide) and Metformin (36 g/day); and internist said to give all 4 tabs of Prascend at once each morning on empty stomach, rather than divide the dose in 3 as we had been doing.  Today Joseph (my partner and official owner of mare) found from KER that it might be more beneficial to divide the dose as we had been doing.  Who is right…?

Also, when should we test her ACTH and insulin again after these changes?

I hope folks here can help clear up our confusion…thank you.


January 2023; Lake Worth, Florida

Evrika!’s Case History:

Evrika!’s Photos: