Equine polysaccharide storage myopathy or PSSM is a muscle disease in horses. It is most commonly associated with heavy horse breeds like Draft Horses, Warmbloods, and the American Quarter Horse. Two forms have now been identified: Type 1, which is caused by a genetic mutation. As well as Type 2, the cause of which has yet to be determined. PSSM is related to “tying up”, but “tying up” can have many causes. PSSM while incurable can be managed with appropriate diet and exercise
The muscles of a horse with PSSM are unable to properly store glucose (sugar). Therefore it is unavailable when needed for energy. In normal tissue insulin drives glucose from the blood into muscle and liver cells to be stored as glycogen and later used as energy. Polysaccharide storage myopathy is a glycogen storage disorder and is characterized by the abnormal accumulation of the normal form of sugar stored in muscle (glycogen) as well as an abnormal form of sugar (polysaccharide) in muscle tissue. Muscle glycogen concentrations in affected horses are up to four times greater than in normal horses.
- Muscle stiffness
- Reluctant to move
- Muscle contractions
- Tucked up abdomen
- Poor attitude
- Chronic back pain
Episodes usually begin after very light exercise such as 10-20 minutes of walking and trotting. Horses with PSSM can exhibit symptoms without exercise. Though the clinical signs of the disease are difficult to miss, blood or hair samples can be used to test for PSSM, MH, and other genetic diseases of horses. Muscle biopsies might be needed to definitively diagnose a problem
Feeds that are high in starch, such as sweet feed, maize, wheat, oats, barley, and molasses, appear to facilitate the development of Type 1 and Type 2 PSSM. That is why these ingredients should be avoided for horses that have PSSM. Extra calories can be provided in the form of fat (oil) for performance horses that are prone to PSSM. An important part of the management of PSSM horses is daily exercise. This enhances glucose utilization and improves energy metabolism in skeletal muscle.
As a result, for many horses affected by PSSM1, strict control of diet and exercise can reduce, or even prevent the onset of symptoms related to PSSM1. Eliminating many high sugary foods in their diet and consistent exercise are two simple ways to help prevent the disease from developing.
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