Insulin and Laminitis

Insulin and Laminitis

Tuesdays with Tony

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic Today has been a good day so far. I wandered around outside, slept in a sunny spot, then moved to a shady spot when it got too warm, enjoyed the sound of birds chirping, and just generally enjoyed the weather! Meanwhile, I have seen pictures from adoring fans around country buried in snow. That’s a hard no from this cat! I have seen as many as 12 flakes of snow at one time, and that was plenty, thank you very much. I have no desire to see more of that cold, wet, white stuff. There’s one small problem with this time of year. All that warm sunshine makes the grass grow, and if you’re a horse with an insulin issue, that grass is going to get you in more trouble than I get in when catnip is involved.


Insulin: Can’t live without it, too much will kill you slowly


Let’s review insulin, and what it does. When you eat anything containing sugar, even small amounts, your pancreas releases insulin. This insulin attaches to cells to tell them, “Hey, there’s sugar here. Come absorb it!” The cells do just that, and either store that sugar for later, or use it right away to power their little cell manufacturing facilities. All this works great until there is way, way more sugar than the cells need, then the body switches to hardcore storage. And that’s where this week’s blog really gets interesting. A vicious circle, not unlike Teanie Cat chasing her tail, is set up with the body releasing insulin so the cells will soak up the sugar, the cells ignoring the insulin, so the body releases more, and the cells ignore the signal even more. This is how we get to what’s known as Insulin Resistance (IR).


All that Insulin floating around


It turns out insulin does way more than just tell the cells of the body to suck up the sugar in the bloodstream. It also gets the growth machinery, mostly a thing called IGF-1, geared up. You see, when there’s extra sugar around, it’s a good time to grow some stuff. Lay down some bone, grow some skin, you know, spruce the body up a bit. Our bodies, cat, human, horse, all of them, aren’t designed for this system to be switched on for long periods of time. We all evolved to handle long periods of, gasp, scarcity of food. The system would experience excess sugar, lay down a lot of fat for the future lean times, fix some stuff that needed fixing, and then use all that fat when food got hard to get. Enter the modern age. We never get to that food is hard to come by period of the year. I will argue this point since I can’t get food whenever I want, and I’m often sure I’m starving, but I will say I get two to three solid meals a day, so there’s that. The growth machinery never, ever shuts down. The insulin just keeps getting pumped out. The cells say no more, even louder. The growth machinery keeps trying to grow stuff. And this is how we get to laminitis.


The L word


I have learned that no one in the horse world likes the word laminitis. For a long time, no one quite understood how or why fat horses got laminitis. For a while it was thought the thyroid gland wasn’t working quite right since other species with bad thyroid glands get fat, and have issues similar to laminitis. The problem was horses with low thyroid levels got skinny, not fat. Back to the drawing board. That drawing board was especially confusing because these fat horses improved on thyroid medications. Eventually the wise humans of the world got a better understanding of what was going on. This would have been figured out long ago if anyone had allowed cats to be involved. We know everything.


It turns out that growth machinery, and the cells ignoring insulin are both to blame for laminitis. The laminae are finger-like projections that come off the hoof capsule side of things, and the bone side of things. They hold each other tight to keep the hoof attached to the leg. In the picture below you can see that normally these are short, rounded fingers with long projections on their sides. On the abnormal side you see they turn long and skinny with short, squat projection along the sides. You can imagine those abnormal lamellae don’t hold on very well.


Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic


How to make Insulin go down in three easy steps


The good news is insulin can go down, but it ain’t easy! Ask this fat cat how he knows…. No, don’t. I get a little testy when talking about my diet and exercise routine.


Step 1. Increase exercise. Even a little bit. Make sure your horse is exercising more each week than they were the week before. This can be as simple as walking for 10-15 minutes 3-4 times per week to start. Now if you already have laminitis going on, be sure you get one of my Docs to help you with an exercise plan.


Step 2. Decrease calories. Ration balancers, grazing muzzles, and slow feed hay bags are all excellent decrease-food-going-in options. The problem seems to be with you humans applying them. Got questions about the best way to do it? Ask my Docs!


Step 3. Medications to help. Sometimes even with diet and exercise, we need a little help to get things going the right direction. There are some great short term drug and supplement options to help get the diet and exercise going. Guess what? Ask my Docs for help!


It’s a tough time of year to be an easy keeper! Keep on top of your horse’s diet and exercise program, and know my minions are here to help!


Until next week,



P.S. Make sure you scroll down and subscribe if you haven’t already. Don’t rely on Facebook to deliver my blog to you. They’re terribly unreliable about things like that, and my blog is far too important to risk missing!


Also, have you made it to one of my seminars lately? They are a fantastic resource for all you horse people out there. Free food, free information, and free selfies with Your’s Truly. You can’t beat it! You can see the list of upcoming seminars on the front page of my website at .

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook!

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Horse Injuries, and How To Prevent Them

Horse Injuries, and How To Prevent Them

Tuesdays with Tony

Horse Injuries

It rained around here a lot over the last week. It’s Florida, and almost summer. It’s what we do here. For the record, I’m going to state that I don’t like rain. Wet paws are not something I enjoy, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. While it was raining here, I was watching (or attempting to watch) Justify run in the Preakness. Wow, was it raining!!! Also, while it was raining here, Dr. Lacher was showing her horses down in Venice, Florida, where it was also raining. Her event wasn’t nationally televised, so I couldn’t watch it (seems unreasonable, but she said it’s not nearly as exciting as the Preakness). However, she said she had some tough decisions to make about riding because of the rain, and the potential for horse injuries. That got me wondering: do horses hurt themselves in all that mud and slop? I mean, horses hurt themselves on sunny days, when the temperature is a lovely 72, and the wind is out of the east at 4 miles per hour. How can they not hurt themselves in the rain??

Springhill Equine Veterinary ClinicThe Short Answer: It Depends

Ah, that most-human of answers. Racehorses are running at top speeds, pushing the limits of how fast the equine skeleton was designed to go. However, they are running in mostly straight lines, and big curves. The tracks are also meticulously maintained, especially for a race as big as the Preakness. What that means is, yes, the horses may have to put in a bit more effort to overcome the wet track. Overall, though, you probably would have found the track to be quite good to run across, even in the chosen human running gear of sneakers and inappropriate shorts.

Events which require quick turns and changes of speed, like the jumping Dr. Lacher does, may have a different answer. The other major difference in pretty much any horse sport but racing is that the horses are going to be going over the same spot repeatedly. There should be serious thought put into how the footing will handle that, and if it can. If you are the last one to go before they drag the ring, what kind of damage has been done to the footing around the barrel, or the jump, or the obstacle? Horse factors should be considered as well. If your horse is young, or working on confidence, asking them to handle footing that is even a little challenging can be hard on the brain, if not the body.

Eventers are crazy and don’t even realize it’s raining, so we won’t talk about them. (Just kidding, eventers!) Same as everyone else who isn’t racing in the Preakness, I recommend you evaluate the track, and decide if it’s going to be OK. You humans have enormous brains. You should put them to good use.

Why rain matters less than you think

There are two kinds of injuries horses get: the wrong step/trip and something-tears kind, and the low-level repetitive strain kind. Guess which horse injury is more common? And guess which one is sometimes really disguised as the other? That’s right, repetitive strain is the real bad guy. Lots of times there’s a weak spot created by that repetitive strain that breaks when there’s a bad step or trip, so I’m counting that as a repetitive-use injury, too.

How to avoid injuries

Appropriate fitness is the answer. Just like people, horses need to be fit to do the job asked of them. Just like people, horses can get bored, bored, bored with the same old stuff. Know why CrossFit became a thing? Bo Jackson (if you’re under 40 you may need to Google him) got bored doing the same drills, and his injuries kept getting worse from doing those same drills over and over. He started incorporating strength and coordination exercises of all different types to keep him fit enough for baseball and football without the repetition. You can CrossFit your horse, too! It’s called dressage with your jumper, or jumping for your dressage horse. Team pen with your barrel horse. Take your reining horse to an obstacle challenge. The absolute best thing you can do for them is trail riding. I don’t mean the cat version of trail riding: a slow meander involving lots of naps. I mean a ride across terrain with a purpose. Ask them to collect downhill, push uphill, bend around trees. Take advantage of any training opportunity the terrain provides. While you’re busy enjoying nature, your horse will be working on coordination, strength, and balance without even realizing it. As an added bonus, the next time conditions are a little sloppy, your horse will be ready to deal with it.

Fitness is hard. Need help with a plan? Ask Dr. Lacher. She’s rehabbed not only client horses, but her own horses as well. Dr. Lacher seriously knows her stuff when it comes to fitness for equine athletes.

Now be a good human and scroll down a wee tiny little bit to the Subscribe button. This will ensure you get my weekly dose of wisdom delivered straight to your inbox!

Until next week,

~ Tony

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook!

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Horse Tech

Horse Tech

Tuesdays with Tony

Let me begin by saying I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday. What more could a cat ask for than shiny things on a tree followed by empty boxes and wadded up paper? I realize you humans have lots of holidays, for lots of different things, but this one gets my vote as best.

Moving on to an actual topic: Horse Tech. Dr. Lacher has an obsession with technology. She may not have all of it she wants, but she sure researches the heck out of it. So without further idle chit-chat, I bring you a few of her favorite things.

FitBit for Horse

There are four or five companies working on slightly different versions of the fitbit for horses. Equisense, SeeHorse, Orscana, and Trackener are just a few. The main drawback they all have at the moment is they work on one part of your horse’s life. They either are designed for use during work, or while they are hanging out, but not really both. We all love our fitness trackers because they tell us about our entire day. It would be great to know you rode your horse for 3 miles, and he did another 7 in the pasture last night. For the record, there will never be a fitness tracker for cats for obvious reasons.

These trackers do have some pretty cool things that they track. They can tell you how “even” your horse moves from right to left, they can tell you how much time you spent at the walk, trot, and canter, how you did on take-off distances for jumpers, and even how your horse compares today to his “normal.” Using some of these features, they found that you humans are really bad at knowing how much work you’ve actually done on your horse. Humans underestimated the time they had spent on walk breaks by 50%. And you think cats lay around all the time!


If you breed mares and want early babies, you know the struggle of mares under lights. You need them in the stall until 9:30 – 10pm every night, they think that’s stupid, and you wonder if the light is bright enough.

Enter Equilume. They did the work to prove that a blue light shining in one eye at a certain brightness for a certain amount of hours worked as well as being in a stall. Then they took that light and put it on a racehorse hood. Voila! Your mare can hang out in a field with her friends, with a light shining in one eye. Because that light is blue, and only on one eye, she can still see all she needs to see.

Bonus feature: just this year they found that mares wearing the hood who were due to foal early in the season had bigger, stronger, healthier babies than mares on the same farm not wearing the hood. Biggest downside of Equilume is the cost (around $500) for something that can only be used for one season. I imagine that like all tech it will improve and get cheaper as time goes on. I also know that some of you would pay a lot more than $500 to not have your mare in a stall.


Can’t decide how many clothes your horse wants to wear tonight? I’m going to tell you, it’s fewer than you think. I find you humans are always cold compared to those of us with a fur coat. I digress. Turns out there’s an App (and a sensor) for that. Horseware Ireland, being a manufacturer of some of the best blankets on the planet, found out that lots of people have that same question, so they made Horsepal.

This is a small sensor that fits inside your horse’s blanket and checks temperature and humidity. Using that information, the Horsepal app tells you if your horse is likely too hot, too cold, or just right. The App links weather from your area and compiles past data for your horse so over time you can figure out which clothes will be best for what weather. Downside: it can’t send that data to you from the field, but it does store three days worth of data for you to download and review. I’m also not sure how useful this is in Florida, but I do think it gets cool points for helping you humans know how your horses are feeling in the field at 2 am.


I’m including this one simply because it’s just so dang amazing! Seriously, when you humans put your mind to something, it’s unbelievable what you can do. The inventors of this system were trying to come up with a way to pre-train baby thoroughbreds. They looked at the research out there and found that if you could put babies through a build-up fitness program before you put a rider on them, you had fewer career (and even life) -ending injuries. But how do you do that?

Their solution certainly isn’t cheap, but it is pretty spectacular. The KurtSystem is basically a big monorail system for horses. They use this to start training horses on a track-size area (so way bigger than a roundpen) with no weight. The horses start with slow speeds and short distances and work up over 6 months to faster speeds (still not racing fast), longer distances, and even a bit of weight (around 70 pounds). The goal is to create horses who have some level of fitness, and an understanding of how to do their job before adding a floppy human to the whole system. It seems balancing you humans is really hard work! While I’m certain this won’t be a feature in every barn, it’s cool to geek out on it and to see someone trying so hard to prevent injuries in young thoroughbreds.

What’s your horse tech dream for 2018? My tech dream is a button I push to open the door. Although, I’ll admit, it is fun to watch my staff open and close and open and close it for me. Now scroll a little further down the page, enter your email, and subscribe to my blog. It will make you a better human.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook!

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Tuesdays with Tony – Old Fart Fitness

Tuesdays with Tony – Old Fart Fitness

As a Phat Cat (sounds like “fat cat”, but it’s way more cool!) fitness will, of course, be my least favorite topic covered in the Senior series. Cushing’s disease is intellectually interesting (especially since cats rarely suffer from it), and nutrition holds a special place in my stomach, um, I mean heart. However, my humans sneak exercise into my life to help my physique stay panther-like.  The humans say exercise is a key component to a long, happy life. So, let’s discuss exercise and your Super Senior.

How are you doing?

Step one will be a good exam by one of my amazing Docs. As horses (and humans and cats) age, they collect injuries.  Some of these are big, some are small, but they all add up over time.  Also, you see your horse every day.  You may not notice a slow change somewhere.  A fresh set of eyes will help you come up with the ideal plan for your Super Senior.  

A little help from my friends

Your horse may start every ride stiff, there may even be a little limping going on. Let’s be honest, you don’t leap out of bed in the morning as quickly as you used to either! The exam my Docs just performed may highlight areas that could use a little pharmaceutical assistance to get things back on the right track. Joint injections are the most common help Super Seniors appreciate. A little arthritis can stiffen up a joint to the point where movement becomes painful. My Docs put a little bit of steroid to fight off inflammation, and hyaluronic acid as a lubricant into these joints, and miracles happen.  Horses who were having trouble moving can go back to a comfortable life as a performance horse.  Some horses simply get systemic anti-inflammatories, like Bute, to help them stay comfortable.

A whole lot of a little

The exam and the help from joint injections or anti-inflammatories is all to help you design the best exercise program for your Super Senior.  Seniors need to do a whole lot of fitness work. I remember when I was a kitten; it seemed I could stay in shape just by getting up in the morning.  Now, should I want to be fit, I would have to do a lot more work! This is one of the many joys of growing older.  Our horses suffer the same fate. Fitness programs should be designed to be low impact, but long duration. Trail riding works great for this purpose. There’s nothing like a good walk and jog up and down hills to get you fit without realizing it.

Words of warning here: Seniors don’t take prolonged vacations well.  Letting your senior get soft will make it really hard to get them back fit.

Listen to what they’re saying

The most important thing to remember about any fitness work is to check in with your horse. If you are adding a new skill, try it 4-5 times or for about 3-5 minutes the first day, then quit. If your horse is really sore the next day, don’t drill harder on that new skill. Skip a day then go back. Plan on slowly increasing the workload. With Seniors, it’s important to watch for aggravations of old injuries, the appearance of new swelling, and explore any reluctance to perform a well established task.  

Ok I survived this little chat about fitness. Want to know even more? Come to our Super Senior Seminar TOMORROW April 19th, 2017 at 6:30pm at the Clinic! If you come early, I might even let you take a selfie with me for your Facebook wall.

Tuesdays with Tony – The New Year is Coming!

Tuesdays with Tony – The New Year is Coming!


It’s that time of year when you humans like to work on some goals for the upcoming year.  I listed mine out to show you how easy it can be:  1. Improve human response time to food demands, 2. Get better at using the computer so I can order my own cat treats, 3. Continue to find new and improved sleeping locations.  Now see how easy that was?  Look at what’s going on that you feel needs to change or improve and write down a goal to address it.  OK, here we go.


Eat better.  Beth looks at equine diets all the time and her mantra: simplify, simplify, simplify.  Most of you humans like to make life sooo complicated.  Go with quality hay, then add quality concentrate, then add supplements only if your horse needs them for a specific problem.  This plan makes life easier and so much less expensive.  Don’t believe me? Check your inbox later this week for Beth’s amazing breakdown on how much cheap feed costs!


Exercise more for the fat horses (like this cat).  I struggle with this one, mostly because I hate to exercise.  As a black cat living in Florida, it gets hot and I whine a lot and I end up spending the day laying around in the air conditioning.  And that’s how I ended up with diabetes.  The average horse needs to slow jog for about 15 minutes 3 times weekly to prevent founder and other serious fat horse problems.  Commit to that time with your horse and you will stop so many problems in their tracks.


Exercise more for those show horses.  Injuries happen at exhaustion.  When your horse gets tired, muscles don’t respond like they should, legs end up going weird directions, and BAM! an injury occurs.  Do your horse a favor and put in the time needed to have them truly fit for what you want to do.  A good general guideline is to be able to do twice as much as you need to do in the show ring.  Be sure you aren’t just drilling on “horse show moves.” Cross training is important! Riding horses on different types of terrain and footing helps them learn how to handle anything you crazy humans throw at them.  Jumping your dressage horse, or trail riding your western pleasure horse helps keep the brain engaged and builds up different muscles than their normal, everyday work.


Learn something new.  This is mostly for you humans.  There is always a ton of research out there about the equine athlete.  Oddly, there’s not much on the feline athlete.  Look for a new exercise for you and/or your horse, read the latest science research on horses, get a lesson or sign up for a clinic.  Step outside your comfort zone.  You will be a better human for it.


One last New Year’s Resolution: Get your horse a Wellness Plan.  With one simple call, e-mail, even text you can cross Better Health and Save Money off the list.  You won’t have to remember when your Coggins is due, wonder if you have all the right vaccines, and you have freed up time and energy to eat better, exercise more, and learn something new.


Tuesdays with Tony – Staying Fit for Your Horse

Tuesdays with Tony – Staying Fit for Your Horse

Whew, boy am I sore! Kevan Knudsen, personal trainer extraordinaire, had us doing squats, lunges, stretches, and all manner of exercises at our “Exercise for Equestrians” event on Saturday. Technically, I am not an equestrian, so I thought I should have been exempt. But the humans demanded my participation *eye roll.*

Kevan also taught us a great deal about nutrition– one of my least favorite subjects. Turns out lean meats, fruits, and vegetables should make up the majority of your diet if you are a human. Tuna is a lean meat, right? I’m totally in! Your macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) need to be in the right ratio for your body to function properly. Most Americans are eating foods they are intolerant to on a regular basis (dairy, white bread, and artificial sweeteners, for example). Simply eliminating these foods from your diet can result in significant weight loss and better health. As Kevan summed it up, “don’t eat processed crap!”

Of course your mental health is as important as your physical health, especially for riding horses. Horseback riding is one of the only sports requiring the participation of another sentient being. It’s not like running where you can take your frustration out on the track. You need to be in the right frame of mind before you set foot in the saddle. Kevan recommended working on positive self-affirmation, realistic goal-setting, anxiety management, and interpersonal communication. I already practice most of these on a daily basis, in between cat naps.

If you missed me at this enlightening event and would like more information on personal training from someone experienced in working with equestrians, contact Kevan Knudsen at (971) 221-5451, or Your horse will thank you for getting fit and healthy! As for me, I’m just fine with my current lifestyle of eating, sleeping, and occasionally walking out to the end of the driveway. Now to ice these sore quads…