A cresty neck is no laughing matter! What could your horse’s cresty neck being telling you… Read more…

If I had a dime, or a nickel for that matter, for every horse owner that ignores my warnings about their horse’s cresty neck, I could practice veterinary medicine for free! This used to drive me nuts, until one day I found myself saying the same thing about my own horse – she’s always had that, she’s a draft, drafts have a thicker neck than other light breed horses. Like most, we have had our horses for a long time and see them everyday, which allows sometimes important medical changes to sneak up on us.

So what is the significance of a cresty neck? Fat. We used to think of fat or adipose tissue as an inert storage depot for excess energy, but since then it has been discovered that fat is actually very active, metabolically and endocrinologically. In humans and horses, obesity can lead to insulin resistence. Insulin is important to many tissues as an aid in tissue uptake of glucose (sugar) from the blood following a meal. If tissue is resistant to the effects of insulin, then less glucose gets into these vital tissues resulting in high amounts of glucose remaining circulating in the blood.

Researchers have shown that high levels of insulin and glucose in the bloodstream can lead to LAMINITIS. Researchers have also shown that fat (adipose tissue) releases certain chemical substances related to the inflammatory cycle – making horses at higher risk of laminitis.

Interestingly, in humans the most significant (or detrimental in terms of health) region of body fat in terms of anatomical location is abdominal fat. In horses, researchers have recently shown that nuchal crest fat (that pesky cresty neck!) is the most significant fat!

*most reactive fat depot (with respect to inflammatory signaling)

*accumulation of nuchal crest adipose tissue is a risk factor for laminitis associated with equine obesity

*obese horses with insulin resistance had greater mean neck circumferencescores than non-obese mares

*Accumulation of nuchal ligament adipose tissue has predictive value in assessing risk of pasture-associated laminitis….ponies that have larger neck crests being at greater risk for developing the condition.

That said – not every obese horse or horse with a cresty neck has insulin resistence or Equine Metabolic Syndrome. Further evaluation would be required to determine this in individual horses. If your concerned that your horse may be at risk, call your veterinarian for an evaluation.

My goal is to educate horse owners so we can identify horses at risk and address it through change in diet and management, BEFORE I get a call because the horse now has laminitis.

Source: J Vet Intern Med 2010;24:932–939 Proinflammatory Cytokine and Chemokine Gene Expression Profiles in Subcutaneous and Visceral Adipose Tissue Depots of Insulin-Resistant and Insulin-Sensitive Light Breed Horses. L.A. Burns, R.J. Geor, M.C. Mudge, L.J. McCutcheon, K.W. Hinchcliff, and J.K. Belknap


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: