Larry Ross, Scott Creek Miniature Horse Farm
Hyperlipemia is a somewhat rare occurrence in the general horse
population but seems to be slightly more prevalent in the
miniature breed. This condition comes on suddenly and can have
deadly consequences if not diagnosed rapidly and treated in an
Hyperlipemia is self explanatory if a person examines the word
carefully. "Hyper" means over'active, over-abundant, excessive,
etc. "Lipemia" is derived from the word lipid which means fat.
For some reason fat reserves in the horse rapidly start entering
the bloodstream. As we understand it, this overloads the horse's
liver and if the situation is not corrected very quickly, liver
failure occurs and the horse dies.
From the resources we have consulted, there does not seem to be a
clear picture as to why horses suddenly contract this condition.
It can effect them in a matter of a few days with fatal
consequences if it goes undiagnosed and untreated. There seems to
be a connection to stress situations such as foaling,
transportation, high internal parasite, excessive weight;
although under-weight horses can also be effected. Mares who have
recently foaled or who are lactating (producing milk for the
foal) appear to be the highest risk group.
From what we have been told, the most notable symptom is that the
horses become quite depressed and refuse to eat almost
everything. They are not interested in grain, hay or pasture.
Diagnosis of this problem is through a variety of blood tests.
Treatment is to stem the release of fat from the body tissues,
break down the over abundant fat in the bloodstream, provide
nutrition to the horse. Apparently the treatment can get exotic
depending on how advanced the condition has become. Insulin and
glucose are used to keep the body from releasing more fat into
the blood stream. Heparin ( an anti-coagulant) is used to break
down the fat that is already in the bloodstream. The horse's pH
balance needs to be regulated. In short, Hyperlipemia is scary
and definitely a life threatening condition that comes on quickly
and requires immediate attention. This would be a good topic for
miniature horse owners to discuss with their veterinarians for
precautionary reasons if for none other.