Hyperlipidemia is most often seen in Miniature Horses, ponies, donkeys, and other easy-keepers. These horses usually become hyperlipemic following a period of stress or anorexia (not eating).
Any time your Miniature Horse isn’t eating as usual, you need to be very concerned about this possibility and do everything you can to get feed into him while immediately consulting your vet.
What Is It?
In response to a stressful event or lack of food, the body’s response is to use the fat stores. Hyperlipemia occurs when this process triggers a mass dump of lipids (fat) into the blood stream. When blood is drawn on a lipemic horse, the lipids quickly separate from the rest of the blood, and sit on top, a thick layer of fat. The liver and kidneys attempt to do their job and filter the blood, but the huge amount of lipids are too much for them. Organ failure is the usual cause of death in hyperlipemic horses.
Overweight horses, as they have more fat accessible to dump into the bloodstream, are more at risk, so maintaining a healthy weight is a good practice. However, hyperlipemia isn’t going to spontaneously occur without an additional event. Any time your horse has a traumatic experience—a difficult foaling, colic, for example—or if he simply stops eating for a period of time, you need to be concerned about him becoming hyperlipemic.
Immediate veterinary care anytime your horse goes off his feed is critical. Once a horse is hyperlipemic, your veterinarian will put him on IV fluids to try to help flush the lipids out of his blood, but prevention is more effective than treatment. Being proactive and ensuring immediate treatment any time your horse is ADR (Ain’t Doin’ Right) is the best thing you can do.
Want to learn more about health issues in Miniature Horses? The Big Book of Miniature Horses is available now!