Welcome to the group!
I'm sorry to read that your horse is still having issues with laminitis as the goal of this group is NO laminitis. To reach that goal we follow the philosophy of D (Diagnosis), D (Diet), T (Trim) and E (Exercise). It sounds like you have a diagnosis but your lacking in the area of Diet and Exercise at the very least. We can't comment on trim without seeing current trim pictures (more on that in the TRIM section below).
We ask that all new members start a case history (you should have received an email on that) which helps us get an overall view of the horse - not just age and breed but current weight/ideal weight/current diet and actual numbers on test results.
To address your main question - many vets believe (incorrectly) that putting a horse on Thyro-L will help reduce their insulin levels. This has not been found to be true. What it can do is jump start weight loss, but long term use results in it replacing the actual thyroid function so if you want to wean your horse off of it you must do so gradually - we usually recommend a decrease of a half a teaspoon a week. The scoop that comes with Thryo-L is a 1tsp scoop so you can see this will be quite a long process.
As a group we have found that getting IR under control will usually level out any issues with thyroid levels. We have also found that most IR horses need to be on a dry lot 24/7 with a measured amount of hay that has been tested to be below 10% ESC+starch being fed to them to do best. Any hard feeds also need to be below 10% ESC and are fed as only enough to get required supplements (whatever is needed to balance the hay) into the horse.
So a quick analysis of the diet you've had Buck on shows he's on unlimited hay (not one of our recommendations) and on a feed that is well over our 10% ESC+starch upper limit. Safe Choice is anything but safe for most IR horses and a starch level of 10% - as per Nutrena, we have several tests that show this is actually less than the grain contains - is well over our 4% max. It's also above our 4% max. for fat in a grain fed to an IR horse. As an aside, nothing manufactured by Nutrena is actually safe for an IR horse. I'm not sure what 'stock salt' is but if it's more like a mineral and contains extra iron which is not good for any horse, but definitely not one with IR it should be stopped. And again, for a horse that is suffering from laminitis we do not recommend anything other than a dry lot unless they are in a completely closed muzzle which allow for drinking but no eating of any grass.
So, where do you go from here?
1- it would help us help you to know what his current insulin, glucose and ACTH numbers are. As we're heading into the seasonal rise you want to make sure all of those numbers reflect good control of both PPID and IR.
2- no grazing. He can be out with a completely closed muzzle for up to 4 hours a day but otherwise he should be in a dry lot.
3 - measured amounts of hay. If your hay was tested via wet chem and you know it's below 10% ESC+starch you do not need to soak it. If the testing was done via NIR the numbers you have could be off by up to 20% from the wet chem numbers and the hay may need to be soaked. If he needs to lose weight he should be eating 1.5% of current weight or 2% of ideal weight - whichever is greater per day- this includes hay AND any concentrates so keep that in mind.
4 - stop the Nutrena feed now.
5 - stop the Vigortone Triple V Free Choice minerals as it may or may not be balancing anything and it has added iron
6 - continue the vitamin E and salt and add flax and Mg as outlined in the emergency diet outlined below. This should be fed in rinsed/soaked/rinsed beet pulp (molasses free). Use a minimal amount of beet pulp to get the supplements in as the majority of the diet should be hay.
With all that, what follows is our rather long welcome letter which is full of information. Please be prepared to have more questions after you have a read through.
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 etiquette, what 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.
EXERCISE: The 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.
If you have any technical difficulties, please let us know so we can help you.