Monday, September 27, 2010

Virtual equine treadmill tour

Have you ever wondered what goes on in an equine exercise physiology laboratory? Well, now you can see behind the scenes thanks to the Rutgers Equine Science Center, which has launched a virtual tour of the Equine Exercise Physiology Laboratory.

A photographic storyboard takes visitors through the laboratory, showing the processes involved in completing a graded exercise test and a simulated race test, the two types of equine exercise tests conducted at the treadmill lab.

The virtual tour is presented in three sections: Preparing for an Exercise Test; Performing an Exercise Test; and Exercise Test Data Analysis. Each section contains pictures and descriptions of the various stages of the test.

The equine exercise physiology laboratory is an extremely popular research site on the G.H. Cook Campus of Rutgers University primarily because of the treadmill. By creating the online virtual tour of the lab, visitors to the Equine Science Center website get an inside look at how and why equine scientists use a treadmill, and a complete overview of the entire process.

"We had to turn people away at the laboratory door on Rutgers Day earlier this year; people were standing in line for a half hour to witness our research mare on the treadmill,” said Karyn Malinowski, director of the Equine Science Center. “The treadmill always draws a big crowd as people are eager and excited to see such a majestic and powerful animal galloping full-speed. It is an exhilarating sight.”

According to Malinowski, the virtual tour of the treadmill laboratory, as well as a video demonstration of a horse exercising, offers equine enthusiasts an opportunity to learn about the science and research of the Equine Science Center as well as the thrilling experience of witnessing a horse on a treadmill. Best of all, the tour is available at anytime from the comfort of one’s home.

"At the Equine Science Center, we firmly believe in broadening our horizons as we bring better horse care through research and education,” added Malinowski. “The virtual tour of the exercise physiology laboratory provides another modality to enable us to reach the equine community.”

The virtual tour is accessible through the Rutgers Equine Science Center’s website on the Equine Exercise Physiology Laboratory page.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Horses that won't lose weight may need stricter diet

Some obese horses and ponies may need to have their diets restricted more severely than previously thought in order to help them lose weight according to new research.

The studies were conducted  at the University of Liverpool. They showed that although some obese animals will lose weight, in an appropriate way,  on a diet restricted to 1.25% of body weight (on a dry matter basis), others may need their diet restricted to as little as 1% of body weight in order to shift those surplus pounds. Such animals have been described as being ‘weight loss resistant’ in a  report  presented at the WALTHAM International Symposium in September.

The work has been published as an abstract in the proceedings of the 5th European Workshop on Equine Nutrition and will be written up and published as a full paper in due course. It was funded by the government-initiated Knowledge Transfer Partnership and the WALTHAM Equine Studies Group.

The study, which was conducted over 16 weeks, involved 12 overweight/obese horses and ponies of mixed ages and breeds, with body condition scores of between 7 and 9 (1 being emaciated and 9 being obese). They were individually housed on wood-shavings and provided with a balanced fibre-based diet at 1.25% of body weight. They were allowed daily access to a bare paddock but no structured exercise was given. Eight of the horses achieved a slow, gradual but consistent loss of body weight over the study period, but weight loss was much slower in the remaining four.

These four horses, deemed to be weight loss resistant, were monitored for a further four weeks during which their diet was reduced to 1% of body weight daily. This significantly increased their rate of weekly weight loss, to a level comparable to the weight loss seen in the other eight horses in the original study. It is thought that genetics may account for such individual differences in sensitivity to weight loss. In all cases the horses remained healthy and no stereotypic behaviours were seen.

Dr Caroline Argo explained: “It is important to understand that the appetite of obese ponies will drop to around 2% of body weight (dry matter) yet their body weight will be maintained or they may even continue to gain in weight. If weight loss is to be stimulated, food intake must be limited quite severely.”

Clare Barfoot BSc (Hons) RNutr, the research and development manager for SPILLERS® and a member of the research team added: “Controlled but balanced nutrition, under careful veterinary guidance, is essential to promote weight loss in overweight or obese horses and ponies, especially when exercise is not an option but we have had little evidence-based advice on how far the diet can be restricted safely to help shed weight in stubborn cases until now.”

“In practice where exercise can be used to increase energy expenditure, such severe restriction may not be required; in this situation access to grazing must be reduced, exercise increased and a low calorie high fibre forage fed in a monitored way alongside an appropriately formulated forage balancer.”

The Horse Nutrition Handbook

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pour-on deworming

Topical applications are easy to administer and may reduce the risk of injury to the operator. Pour-on anthelmintics have become popular for treating cattle and have been shown to be effective. However, experts disagree on the value of pour-on preparations for deworming horses.

A study, supervised by Professor Adolfo Paz-Silva at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and published in the Equine Veterinary Journal, examined the use of a pour-on anthelmintic in naturally infected Pura Raza Galega horses.

Over a 21-week period, the researchers compared the fecal worm egg production in untreated animals and in horses treated with ivermectin pour-on (at double the cattle dose rate.)

The feces were clear of strongyle eggs between 3 and 9 weeks after treatment. Strongyle eggs reappeared in the feces 10 weeks after treatment. Topically administered ivermectin suppressed fecal egg production of Parascaris equorum and Oxyuris equi for the whole of the study period.

The researchers concluded that the pour-on ivermectin preparation was highly successful against gastrointestinal nematodes. They suggest that it appears to provide a useful treatment option for large groups of horses at pasture.

However, a report by Dr Cengiz Gökbulut and others published in Veterinary Parasitology paints less favorable picture.

The study looked at the absorption of ivermectin after oral, topical or intravenous administration and how the mode of administration influenced the efficacy of the treatment.

One group of horses was treated with equine oral ivermectin paste (at 0.2mg/kg); a second with bovine pour-on (at the recommended cattle dose rate of 0.5mg/kg) and a third group was treated with an injectable cattle preparation (given intravenously at 0.2mg/kg).

Compared with the oral paste, the pour-on preparation resulted in lower but more persistent plasma concentrations. It was also less effective at reducing the fecal strongyle worm egg count.

The authors of the report warn that the poor plasma availability after topical application could result in sub-therapeutic levels of ivermectin, which could encourage the development of ivermectin-resistant parasites.

Read more about research into pour-on ivermectin in horses.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lavender Foal Syndrome test now available.

The Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University is now offering a genetic test for Lavender Foal Syndrome (LFS).

LFS is a fatal disease of newborn Arabian foals, particularly those of Egyptian Arabian breeding.

Signs shown by affected foals include seizures, nystagmus (involuntary movement of the eyeballs), limb rigidity, paddling movements, and opisthotonus (hyperextension of the head, neck, and spine).

The condition gets its name from the abnormal coat color with which most affected foals are born, variably described as silver sheen, lavender, pale chestnut or pale, dull pinkish grey.

Scientists at Cornell University and the Maxwell H Gluck Equine Research Center have found that Lavender Foal Syndrome is the result of a mutation in a gene called myosin Va (MYO5A). All affected foals tested in the study were homozygous for this mutation (i.e. both copies of the gene were defective).

Lead researcher was Samantha A. Brooks, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science at Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  “Our results suggest that the population frequency of carriers of this deletion is 10.3% in the Egyptian Arabian,” she reports.

“From a practical standpoint, this discovery and the development of a diagnostic test for the LFS allele provides a valuable new tool for breeders seeking to avoid the disease in their foal crop.”

Testing of breeding animals is recommended to identify carrier horses. The breeding program can then be arranged to avoid mating two carriers, and so prevent the birth of an affected foal.

The test can be run on hair roots pulled from the mane or tail, or whole blood samples.

Normally, the AHDC only accepts samples from accredited veterinarians. However, for this test, Arabian owners are encouraged to submit their own pre-paid samples directly to the laboratory.

The Lavender Foal Syndrome test is not restricted to horses within the USA. Shipment of EDTA whole blood samples from abroad requires a USDA permit. However, according to the laboratory no permit is required for sending hair samples.

(Permits may not be available for the import of blood specimens from some countries. Please contact the laboratory (Lisa Bowen-Laue; 607-253-3938) for the appropriate permit if you wish to submit EDTA whole blood for LFS testing from outside the USA.)

Each sample must be sent with a completed LFS assay submission form. Payment, ($47 for each horse tested) must accompany the samples unless they are submitted by a licensed veterinarian.

Information on the new test, including full instructions on how to submit samples, can be found on the LFS page of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine website.