The name Hyperlipaemia is derived from the increased amounts of fats know as lipids found in the blood of effected animals, of which Shetland Ponies & Donkeys are at a much higher risk. Figures quoted suggest that in excess of 60% of animals affected will die.
Hyperlipaemia was first recognised in Holland in 1969.
Hyperlipaemia occurs when the pony enters a negative energy balance, by either not getting enough nutrition from what it is eating, cuts back, or stops eating totally. The Pony still needing a certain amount of energy begins to draw on its fat deposits, fatty acids enter the bloodstream which are converted by the liver to glucose for the body to use. The response becomes exaggerated in overweight ponies, illness, stress, pregnancy and a suckling foal seem to be contributory factors. It is thought that this is the point where the real trouble occurs, Hormones should regulate how much fat is being taken from the fat deposits, but fat continues to be taken and the blood fills with excess fat this causes the kidney’s & liver to struggle and then fail, the other organs in the body will then eventually fail and death will occur.
The early signs of Hyperlipaemia are very similar to other diseases so are so often overlooked in that crucial period. Signs include loss of appetite, lethargy, diarrhoea, lack of co-ordination, drinking little, and a high temperature & heart rate. The Disease can be usually diagnosed by the taking of a blood sample.