Friday, May 31, 2013

Healthy horses needed for research study in Saskatchewan

Researchers at the Western College of  Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in Saskatoon are looking to enrol between 40 and 50 healthy horses for a respiratory study this summer.

The study, led by Dr Julia Montgomery and Dr Katharina Lohmann, aims to determine reliable reference ranges for two common tests used to investigate respiratory disease in horses.

In the WCVM newsletter, Christina Weese writes that that questions about the two tests initially arose when a graduate student was studying lung inflammation markers in normal horses.

“We started looking at what the expected ranges for two common tests – tracheal wash and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) – were supposed to be,” explains Dr. Montgomery, an assistant professor in the WCVM’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences.

“In the course of the study, we came across several horses that looked clinically healthy, but their tracheal wash and BAL levels were - according to the current definition - not normal.”

To be eligible for the study, horses should have no history of chronic airway disease, no history of respiratory disease within the last six months and no clinical symptoms at the time of the study. Also, to ensure collected samples remain viable, horses must be within two to three hours’ drive from the WCVM.

An initial examination will identify whether the animal is suitable for the study. The clinicians will perform a clinical examination, including listening to the heart and lungs and checking the temperature. They will also carry out a rebreathing test. This involves placing a bag over the horse's nose, making him breathe deeply, which may make any abnormalities in the lungs easier to detect.

If any signs of abnormality are discovered, the horse will not be suitable for the study and no further tests will be carried out.

If the respiratory system appears normal then further tests to sample fluids from the trachea (“tracheal wash”) and lungs (“brocho-alveolar lavage”) will be performed under sedation.

After samples are collected, team members will examine the blood work for any evidence of inflammation. Dr. Hilary Burgess, a veterinary clinical pathologist at the WCVM, is collaborating with Montgomery and Lohmann to do a cytological analysis of the tracheal wash and BAL samples. The samples will also be sent to the bacteriology lab at Prairie Diagnostic Services (Saskatchewan’s provincial veterinary laboratory) to determine what types of bacteria may be present.

Lohmann and Montgomery say their results will provide invaluable baseline information for equine populations around the Saskatoon area. The study will also help them to identify the next steps for future investigations of equine airway diseases such as RAO.

All study procedures can be carried out at the owners premises, and are free of charge.

The study runs from May to August 2013. More details can be found at:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Measuring response to flexion tests

For many years, opinions on the value of flexion tests in assessing equine lameness have been divided. Now, new research has shown that a system based on a wireless, inertial sensor can be used to measure the horse’s response to a flexion test.

Horses were fitted with sensors on the head, pelvis and right forelimb. The sensors measured vertical pelvic movement asymmetry for both right and left hind limb strides and the average difference in maximum and minimum pelvic height between right and left hind limb strides.

The response to a hind limb flexion test was assessed by an experienced observer and compared with measurements taken with the horse trotting before and after flexion.

John Marshall, lecturer in equine surgery at the University of Glasgow, who led the study, concluded: “A positive response to flexion resulted in significant changes to objective measurements of pelvic symmetry, supporting the use of inertial sensor systems to objectively assess response to flexion tests.