Blood Disorder in Horses

By PetMD Editorial on Oct. 2, 2008


Hyperlipemia is a blood disorder that occurs in overweight horses, as well as some donkeys. Horses with this condition have an abnormally high amount of fat in their blood. And although it only affects a small percentage of the world's equine population, Hyperlipemia is a very serious disorder that has a high rate of mortality among those affected. For this reason, it is important to know the symptoms of this condition, so that you may seek immediate veterinary care for your horse if it is suspected of having Hyperlipemia.


  • Lethargy
  • Slowness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Liver failure
  • Severe weight loss, which occurs in a short period of time
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Nervousness (i.e., head pressing, circling, wandering, unaware of familiar surroundings)


Horses that are extremely overweight are those most at risk for hyperlipemia, especially those that undergo a quick change in diet or is starved. As a coping mechanism, the horse’s body uses its fat reserves to feed itself. The resulting increase in blood's fat levels cause the liver to work excessively and begin the process of liver failure.

In addition, other types of stress may make the horse more prone to the condition. Horses that have a high resistance to insulin, for some reason or another, are also at risk for hyperlipemia.


Hyperlipemia is a very rare condition, but it is not difficult to diagnose. Upon seeing a veterinarian, he or she may order a medical history on the horse and take a blood sample. A positive diagnosis of hyperlipemia will show excessive levels of fat in the blood's plasma.


Treatment for hyperlipemia must be administered as soon as possible to ensure the survival of the horse. Your veterinarian will determine the most effective method of replacing the substantial loss of energy associated with hyperlipemia, as well as reduce the amount of fat found in the blood’s plasma.


Once treatment for hyperlipemia has been administered, some lifestyle changes must be made in order to prevent this calamitous disorder from happening again. Steps should be made to ensure that the weight issue is addressed, such as changes in feeding habits and exercise habits to initiate weight loss. Since hyperlipemia is an issue attributed to overweight horses, a decrease in weight can make a big difference. In addition, creating a stress-free environment for the animal or drastically reducing its dietary habits can also minimize the chances of hyperlipemia in your horse.

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