Study confirms cresty necks can predict laminitis

Last Updated on February 23, 2022 by Allison Price

A cresty neck can indicate a higher risk of metabolic syndrome in horses.

Australian research confirms what many horse owners and veterinarians have suspected for years: Cresty necks are a sign of an increased risk of metabolic syndrome and associated laminitis.

This connection made perfect sense. The fat tissue is not only a store of energy, but it also plays an important part in the synthesis/release hormones that regulate metabolism and insulin function. A horse with an abnormal insulin function is at high risk for developing endocrinopathic (hormone linked) laminitis.A pony with a fat deposits around the nuchal ligament, a “cresty” neck. Researchers gave this pony a rating of 3 on the Cresty Neck Scale.

Study confirms cresty necks can predict laminitis

Researchers at Queensland University of Technology studied 26 ponies to determine if there is a correlation between neck crestiness (NCS) and metabolic dysfunction. They also assigned each pony a body condition score, (BCS), and a cresty neck score. The CNS, based on an earlier study, is intended to give an objective measurement of neck fat accumulation. A CNS score of 0 indicates that there is no visible crest or palpable crest, while a score of 5 means that the crest is so large it droops in one direction.

These assessments resulted in the ponies being divided into three categories: those with a cresty or more severe neck condition (a CNS greater than 3 or higher) and moderate body condition. Oral glucose tests were also used by the researchers to assess each pony’s ability regulate blood insulin.

The researchers compared the results of the oral glucose tests among the groups and found that crestiness was a primary indicator of dysregulation. Even though they were not overweight, ponies with cresty neck scores greater than 3 were five-fold more likely to be suffering from insulin dysfunction. The data also showed that an obese horse with a cresty neck was less likely than one with an obese neck.

These findings not only confirm what horse owners and veterinarians have suspected for years, but they also support human obesity research that links certain patterns of regional fat accumulation with adverse health consequences.