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Fat horses face health problems

Blacksburg, Va. --Americas growing obesity problem has alarmed physicians and public health officials, and veterinarians have recently focused their attention on fat dogs and cats. Now, a team of researchers in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Virginia Tech has determined that horses are also facing serious health risks because of obesity.

Fifty-one percent of the horses evaluated during the pioneering research were determined to be overweight or obese and may be subject to serious health problems like laminitis and hyperinsulinemia. And just like people, it appears as though the culprits are over-eating and lack of exercise.

This study documented that this is an extremely important problem in horses that has been under-reported, said Dr. Craig Thatcher, a professor in the VMRCVMs Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS) and diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. Thatcher and his colleagues believe the study results suggest that horse-owners should change some of the ways in which they care for their horses and hinted that horses could emerge as an important model for studying the health implications of human obesity.

Obesity, over the past decade, has become a major health concern in horses, said Dr. Scott Pleasant, an associate professor in DLACS and diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. This is primarily because of its association with problems such as insulin resistance and laminitis.

In fact, it was a spike in pasture-associated laminitis cases that led Dr. Pleasant to grow curious and seek the collaboration of Dr. Thatcher, an internationally renowned veterinary nutritionist, on the innovative research project. Dr. Ray Geor, the Paul Mellon Distinguished Professor of Agriculture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of the Middleburg Agricultu
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Contact: Christy Jackson
cljacks@vt.edu
540-231-7239
Virginia Tech
9-Jul-2007


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