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Why are pectins such a problem in horse feed

Fresh grass seen at spring-time contain a high amount of pectins. As horses consume the spring grass, the pectin-decomposing microorganisms start to multiply, therefore lowering the pH value in the large intestine and creating a more acidic environment. The microorganisms residing in the large intestine, breaking down pectins, produce a significant amount of acid throughout this process.

This lowers the ph value to around 5, which is an environment that the bacteria continue to thrive. Whereas microorganisms decomposing cellulose are most viable at a neutral ph value of around 7. With large amount of pectins being consumed, the spreading of pectin-decomposing microorganisms is increasing and acid is starting to take over from the more favourable cellulose-decomposing microorganisms.

Possible causes of spring laminitis

It is vital that a balance is maintained, if the pH value drops too quickly. The risk of laminitis is increasing by potential endotoxin poisoning. Spring laminitis is more often than not caused by a rapid increase in pectin content which in turn is responsible for dropping the ph level in the large intestines into acidic levels due to too much fresh grass or because of the large sugar content, in case of the horse being unknowingly insulin resistant.

It is recommended that horses that are prone to laminitis in spring should be tested for insulin resistance (EMS) feeds containing pectin such as apples, carrots and sugar beet pulp (also unmolassed) should be avoided at all costs over the winter months.