Restricting starch and sugar intake is one of the top priorities for reducing the risk of laminitis but does this really mean that all feeds all feed for laminitics must have a combined starch and sugar content of less than 10% as commonly suggested? Not necessarily…
Don’t get too hung up on percentages
Percentages are a useful starting point when it comes to comparing one feed against another, but they only tell part of the story. Think of it like money – if someone offered to give you 10% of their salary would you prefer them to be earning £20,000/year or £50,000/ year? Ultimately, the amount of starch and sugar your horse will consume from any feed depends on how much of it they eat. For example:
- 2kg of feed with a combined starch and sugar content of 9% contains 180g of starch and sugar
- 1kg of feed with a combined starch and sugar content of 18% also contains 180g of starch and sugar
Where did the ‘10% rule’ come from?
Recommendations to restrict non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) or ‘starch and sugar’ intake in laminitics to less than 10% of the total diet stem from research into forage and polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM: a form of tying up). However, in practice, many laminitics are managed successfully on diets that include feeds (and forage) containing more than 10% NSC.
How much starch & sugar can I feed my laminitic?
Laminitics do need to be managed carefully on a diet low in starch and sugar but when it comes to choosing ‘bucket feed’ (as opposed to forage), consider the feeding rate and the amount of starch and sugar the horse will actually consume, rather than basing your choice on percentages alone. Restricting NSC intake to less than 0.5g per kilogram bodyweight per meal (<250g per meal for a 500kg horse) should be a suitable guide for most horses provided they are not severely insulin dysregulated.
Balancers – low feeding rate, low starch & sugar intake
Balancers can sometimes cause concern but are a great example of why it’s important to consider the feeding rate. If fed at 500g per day to 500kg horse, a balancer with a combined starch and sugar content of 20% would provide just:
- 0.2g of starch and sugar per kilogram bodyweight per meal if fed in one meal
- 0.1g starch and sugar per kilogram bodyweight per meal if fed in two meals
Tips for calculating starch and sugar intake on a grams per kilogram bodyweight per meal basis
Firstly, remember that 1% is equal to 10g per kilogram - 1kg of feed with a combined starch and sugar content of 10% contains 100g of starch and sugar. Once you’ve calculated how many grams of starch and sugar is each meal, simply divide that figure by your horse’s bodyweight (in kilograms). If fed in one meal to a 500kg horse, 100g of starch and sugar is equal to 0.2g per kilogram bodyweight per meal.
For more advice on feeding your laminitic horse or pony contact the SPILLERS Care-Line