Kentucky Colt with Type-1 Diabetes Might Be First

A colt born with type-1 diabetes might be the first documented equine case of the illness, according to his veterinarian, Nathan Slovis, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky.

The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse, aptly named Justin Credible (his owners say the name was picked out before he was born), was born on Oct. 19.

Justin Credible arrived two weeks early, before his mother was "bagged up" with milk, according to his owner, David Hufana, of Carlisle, Ky. "We were worried about him not getting colostrum, so we called the vet out," Hufana said.

Diabetic colt

Justin Credible, a Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse, was born with type-1 diabetes.

When the colt failed to thrive despite receiving adequate milk from his mother, the treating veterinarian performed blood tests, which revealed his glucose levels were not normal.

Hufana and his wife, Monica, took Justin Credible to Hagyard to find out what was wrong with him. The colt spent four days at the clinic, and during that time he began to have seizures. The diagnosis: type-1 diabetes.

Now that the colt is back at home, the Hufanas must monitor his glucose levels closely to ensure he does not become hyperglycemic or have a seizure. This requires blood tests every four hours to check sugar levels and insulin injections every eight hours.

Monica has quit her job as a horse trainer to keep up with the treatment schedule, and David admits that while they are committed to treating their colt, they will only do it if it's manageable for them and the horse.

While David is optimistic, Slovis said the colt will most likely die a premature death due to complications secondary to hyperglycemia, such as kidney failure, circulatory problems, and eye problems.

According to Slovis, it is much more difficult to control type-1 diabetes in a horse than a human because horses by nature are required to eat almost continuously. "He will have to be on a strict diet and will not be able to graze," Slovis said.

Another complication is that a horse is unable to self-regulate his insulin levels. "In a human diabetic, if they start to feel dizzy they know that their blood sugar is low," said Slovis. "The foal can't tell you this, and you won't know until he's passed out."

Slovis said it is likely there have been previous cases of type-1 diabetes in horses that are undocumented.

Philip Johnson, BVSC, MRCVS, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, of the University of Missouri-Columbia, who studies metabolic disorders in the horse, believes he saw a foal with type-1 diabetes a few years ago. "The owners were unwilling to afford or allow the testing that would have been needed to bring the case to a level sufficient for publication," he said.

"Probably, if you talk with (other veterinarians), there will be some other cases, but it is certainly not very common," he added.

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Liz Brown

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