Winter 2023 Horse Health
Nutrition for Pregnant Mares
Winter 2023 Horse Health
Nutrition for Pregnant Mares
Joint inflammation and osteoarthritis (OA) are common issues in competition horses. These conditions often lead to decreased performance and lameness.
Veterinarians can treat OA via joint injections, which involve placing drugs directly into the joint capsule. Some drugs commonly used include corticosteroids, polysulfated glycosaminoglycans, and hyaluronic acid. Biologic therapies like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cells can also be used.
Vets determine which drugs to use and how often to administer them based on their clinical experience; this is often guided by anecdotal evidence rather than scientific findings. This lack of direct comparisons between treatment options means there are no guidelines for how often a joint should be injected – or for which treatment is best.
A study spearheaded by Dr. Sarah Freeman, of the University of Nottingham, found that large intestinal impactions, those of the cecum or large or small colon, are easier to resolve than blockages of the small intestine, though they can be difficult to diagnose, reports EQUUS magazine.
Large intestine impactions are often less painful and not as complex as small-intestine impactions, as there is more room for intestine distention. The mild, subtle pain a horse experiences can be difficult to discern, however, and might delay the procurance of a veterinarian.
Freeman and graduate student Kyra Jennings reviewed the records of 120 horses with large intestine impactions seen by vets in the field. They found that most cases (42.1 percent) occurred in the winter or after a management change (59 percent).
Owners of foals needing an operation for obstruction of the small intestine should be optimistic about the outcome, a new study shows. Knowledge of colic surgery survival rates is important to horse owners making surgical decisions.
Dr. Sara Erwin reviewed the records of surgical colic cases from five academic referral hospitals in the United States to directly compare foal and adult horse survival rates following colic lesion surgery. In the past, lower survival rates have been reported in foals than adults when the affected horse has severe colic lesions which obstruct small intestine blood flow.
The scientists assessed 41 cases of foals six months and younger and 105 cases of adults between two and 20 years old. They discovered that 24 of 25 foals (96 percent) and 66 of 75 adults (88 percent) who recovered from surgery for a strangulating obstruction survived to be discharged from the hospital.
Sampling of soil, pasture, and hoof capsules occurred in two periods. The first happened in summer and fall when all foals, between one and six months of age, were still nursing their dams; the second occurred after weaning when foals were nine to 12 months old. Forty-one foals were used in the preweaning period, 28 in the postweaning period.
All foals used in the study were Criollo, a South American breed revered for its tractability, soundness, and stamina under saddle. Mature height tends to be between 14 and 15 hands, and most are considered easy keepers. Foals were born and raised on five farms in Brazil. Mares and foals grazed native pastures consisting primarily of bahiagrass, kaimi clover, blanket grass, dallisgrass, and bermudagrass, though hundreds of other pasture species were likely part of the grazing landscape. They received no concentrate or mineral supplementation.
WHAT: Katharyn Mitchell, DVM, PhD, BVSc, ACVIM (LAIM), assistant professor of large animal internal medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, will present on what it means when your veterinarian hears a heart murmur.
WHEN: Tuesday, May 17, 6-7 p.m. EDT
WHERE: Via Zoom; registration required: https://bit.ly/ESS-May2022
MEDIA: The event is free and open to the public. Media members are asked to RSVP to Amy S. Li, firstname.lastname@example.org.
ITHACA, N.Y. – Dr. Katharyn Mitchell is an assistant professor in the section of large animal internal medicine at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She graduated from Massey University in 2003 and University of Melbourne (2004-2005). Mitchell spent 18 months in private practice in Australia before her residency at Cornell (2007-2010) in large animal internal medicine. She then returned to private practice in Australia for three years before moving to Switzerland for a Ph.D. position at the University of Zurich in 2013. She successfully completed her Ph.D. in equine cardiovascular medicine in 2018 and worked at both the University of Zurich and Bern as a senior clinician in equine medicine/cardiology for 2018-2020. She then returned to Cornell in September 2021 in a faculty position. Mitchell enjoys all aspects of large animal medicine, but her special interests involve cardiology and emergency/critical care, especially the role of the cardiovascular system in systemic disease.
In a recent faculty Q&A with the College of Veterinary Medicine, Mitchell says: “I’m very excited for the future of equine cardiology. We are really pushing the envelope for what we know and understand about cardiovascular diseases that affect the horse and there are some very innovative therapeutic options becoming available as we translate what we know from human medicine across to equine medicine.”
The Cornell Equine Seminar Series is presented by the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Equine Hospital, the New York State 4-H Horse Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Held monthly, equine experts present on important equine health and management topics. The event is free and open to the public. Media members are asked to register with Amy S. Li, email@example.com.
For additional information about the college, see the College of Veterinary Medicine news website.
Conformation Affects Motion
Importance of Monitoring Pregnancy in Mares
by Heather Smith Thomas
Horse owners usually dread hearing the diagnosis of “Laminitis.” The disease plagues horses of many backgrounds, ages and disciplines. Using genetics, UF/IFAS and University of Pennsylvania scientists have made a breakthrough in the disease thanks to funding from The Foundation for the Horse.
A horse’s hoof has a tough job. It must support a heavy animal which can move faster than 40 mph. Laminitis occurs when inflammation and damage of the tissue takes place between the hoof and coffin bone. It causes lameness, a diminished quality of life and often results in euthanasia.
“Laminitis is a tough problem for the horse and its owner,” said Samantha Brooks, UF/IFAS associate professor of equine physiology. “We have very few tools in our arsenal to manage the disease itself. We treat symptoms, pain and mechanical instability but do not have anything to target the cause just yet.”
Laminitis studies have previously been hindered by the scarcity of genetic information specific to hoof tissues. Scientists tapped into the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center Laminitis Discovery Database, an archive of data and sample sets from naturally occurring laminitis cases collected since 2008. Using that database, researchers examined 36 archived tissues of 20 Thoroughbred horses treated for laminitis.
There are three types of laminitis, and all impair the structure and function of the horse’s foot. This research provided a snapshot of the active pathways and functions of the hoof, with a focus on supporting limb laminitis – the laminitis to which famous racehorse Barbaro succumbed.
“We understand the situations that trigger an episode of laminitis, but we do not have a good understanding of what is happening in the hoof,” said Brooks. “This study took a very comprehensive view of the processes early in the development of laminitis.”
Using gene expression analysis, researchers catalogued the changes in gene transcription across the 20 horses. Some had healthy feet, some were early in the disease process and others were more severe. Researchers identified trends in the disease process.
“By tapping into my lab’s database and incorporating Dr. Brooks’ unparalleled expertise in equine genetics and transcriptome analysis, we have identified new and promising pathways in cell stress and inflammatory response that significantly enhance our understanding of supporting limb laminitis and its disease processes,” said Hannah Galantino-Homer, VMD, PhD, DACT, senior investigator in Laminitis Research at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center.
The research resulted in three key findings.
The first related to keratin, an important structural protein that helps maintain the structural integrity of materials like hair, nails and horse hooves. This study was one of the first to examine the changes in the keratin family through the laminitis disease process. Some of the keratin-related genes and regulation of the cell’s manufacturing process started to diminish as the disease began. This could be compared to when a car gets a flat tire; it may still be running but it loses appropriate function and slows down.
Another type of cell machinery often studied in laminitis are a class of enzymes called metalloproteinases; enzymes that help maintain the cytoskeleton. These enzymes must maintain a careful balance. Hooves must be able to grow and not break down under the weight of the horse, which requires a balance of remodeling and building tissues within the hoof. When the metalloproteinases become too active, the hoof begins to lose structural strength. One previous theory for treating this process was to stop these enzymes from becoming too active. But treatment targeted these enzymes might also stop hoof growth, which would likely lead to further issues.
When keratin degrades, inflammation in the hoof leads to laminitis. Scientists found a collection of genes responsible for triggering that inflammation which could pave the way for future medications to treat the inflammation. The genes led researchers to believe that some human inflammatory medications for autoimmune disorders may help horses with laminitis.
Changes in gene expression in diseased tissue are often reflected in changes in the proteins that can be detected in the blood as the disease progresses. For example, specific proteins, or biomarkers, that increase in the blood in humans following traumatic brain injury had increased expression in the samples from the horses with laminitis in this study. Medical doctors have used these compounds to understand the severity of these injuries in humans without using imaging or more invasive testing. Brooks hopes this could be used as a tool to monitor the progression of laminitis in the horse.
“We don’t always recognize that a horse has severe laminitis until things have gotten quite bad,” said Brooks. “Early monitoring tools and ways to combat the disease were exciting findings, but we need further research before these new tools will be ready for use in the field.”
Brooks hopes that this research can lead to a blood test to detect these new laminitis-related biomarkers, and medications that are economical and effective for horses suffering from the disease.
“Ultimately, these new findings point us towards a more targeted approach for future exploration that we hope will help uncover novel solutions for preventing and treating this debilitating disease,” said Galantino-Homer.
“This is a big step in improving our understanding of laminitis,” said Brooks. “Something that could be completely untreatable ten years ago; in another ten years we may be able to intervene and make a significant difference in the disease early on.”
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.
ifas.ufl.edu | @UF_IFAS
Ranked among the top ten veterinary schools worldwide, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) is a global leader in veterinary education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the first veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.
Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, handling nearly 35,300 patient visits a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals. The hospital handles nearly 5,300 patient visits a year, while the Field Service treats more than 38,000 patients at local farms. In addition, New Bolton Center’s campus includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.
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