Archived Issue

Holistic Horse Issue 111

The link between insulin resistance (IR) and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) has been studied for years in humans and is now being seen in horses. When COPD horses are starting to move gingerly over rocks in the driveway and when IR horses are puffing like freight trains just standing in the field, we see firsthand that these are systemic and not just local tissue diseases. Farriers report that COPD horses have poor hoof quality, white line disease, and laminitis signs and foot pain. Owners are doing all they can to with good management of IR, but their horses continue to be foot sore or are experiencing breathing issues now. These two diseases have
created a co-morbidity that churns each other into COPD, making IR worse and IR making COPD worse.

Consider This:

  • Why inflammation of both diseases is effecting the entire body – not just feet in IR or just lungs in COPD
  • Thyroid dysfunction/suboptimal levels make both COPD and IR worse
  • Why muscle loss in both IR and COPD advances the disease progress in both
  • Why COPD treatments with clenbuterol can further increase IR
  • Blood flow problems in both COPD and IR

It’s not just local, it’s all over the body
Both IR and COPD are systemic diseases – they affect multiple organs and muscles. In both IR and COPD, inflammatory mediators are showing in the whole body. Specific mediators such as IL-1, IL-6, TNF and free radicals are well documented to be common to both diseases, so inflammation in the lungs will go on to attack hoof laminae and inflammation from fat in IR attacks lung tissue.

In addition, oxidative stress in the diseases will create depletion of antioxidants such as vitamin E. Vitamin E is proven to help lung tissue protection, and if it’s depleted not just from COPD but also IR inflammation, the tissues get damaged, quicker and harder.

Thyroid problems created by both IR and COPD
Thyroid dysfunction is frequently detected in chronic diseases. In COPD, studies show that TSH hormone decreases (TSH is the hormone in brain that goes to thyroid gland to trigger thyroid hormone release), that T3 thyroid hormone also decreases. The inflammatory mediators of COPD alter body systems in lung, brain, and muscle, leading to alterations in thyroid hormone levels in the blood stream. The more severe the COPD is, the more the impaired of the thyroid gland’s ability. This leads to suboptimal thyroid levels–run at the far low end of range. In COPD, veterinary testing of thyroid function needs to be increased to ensure proper health and management.

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