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Keywords:

  • Adrenocorticotropin hormone;
  • Glucose;
  • Hyperadrenocorticism;
  • Insulin

Background: Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) is a risk factor for pasture-associated laminitis, which follows a seasonal pattern.

Hypothesis: Hormonal responses to season differ between PPID and unaffected horses.

Animals: Seventeen horses aged 8–30 years (14 horses ≥ 20 years of age).

Methods: Longitudinal observational study. Blood was collected monthly from August 2007 until July 2008 after pasture grazing and again after overnight stall confinement. Blood hormone and metabolite concentrations were measured and pasture grass samples were analyzed to determine carbohydrate content. Analysis of variance analysis for repeated measures was performed.

Results: Mean ACTH concentrations varied significantly over time (P < .001), with higher concentrations detected in August, September, and October compared with November–April. Pasture × time effects were detected for glucose and insulin concentrations, with peaks observed in September. Horses were retrospectively allocated to PPID (n = 8) and control (n = 9) groups on the basis of plasma ACTH concentrations. Changes in insulin concentrations over time differed in the PPID group when compared with the control group. Insulin concentrations were positively correlated with grass carbohydrate composition.

Conclusions and Clinical Importance: PPID did not affect the timing or duration of the seasonal increase in ACTH concentrations, but higher values were detected in affected horses. Insulin concentrations differed between groups, but hyperinsulinemia was rarely detected. Glucose and insulin concentrations peaked in September when horses were grazing on pasture, which could be relevant to the seasonal pattern of laminitis.