Thursday, June 29, 2023

Study of horse movement in UK

 Researchers at London’s Royal Veterinary College are conducting a study to improve
understanding of equine infectious disease risks associated with the contact networks and risks created by competition and leisure horse movements within the United Kingdom.

Recent outbreaks of equine influenza, strangles and equine herpes virus have highlighted the impact these diseases can have on horse health, welfare, and the equine industry itself.


So they can better understand the disease risks in UK competition and leisure horses, the research team need to gather information on the movement of horses – to competitions, shows, rides or even just out hacking.


The RVC project is seeking to capture data to create an overall picture of horse movement throughout the country with the aim of ultimately improving biosecurity in the equine herd. 


The researchers hope that understanding these networks and clusters will allow them to develop strategies to target potential hotspots of disease risk, resulting in positive impacts on equine wellbeing by informing current and future UK horse industry disease surveillance and control programmes. 


To do this they have teamed up with the Equine Register, who run the Digital Stable smartphone app. Horse riders are asked to use the app to share details of their rides and journeys with their horse.


According to the researchers, whether it’s a hack, competing at a show or event or transporting their horse somewhere, by recording this information riders can be a part of this vital research. 


As an incentive to take part in this study, participants will be entered into a free prize draw offering a chance to win £500 for themselves and £500 for charity.


For more details, see:

Study of ertugliflozin in management of hyperinsulinaemia and laminitis

 A recent report suggests that a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes in people could be effective in reducing insulin levels in horses and ponies with equine metabolic syndrome. 

Hyperinsulinaemia, characterised by abnormally high insulin levels in the bloodstream, is a primary contributor to most cases of laminitis. The exact mechanism by which elevated insulin levels lead to laminitis is still not fully understood.


Managing insulin dysregulation can be challenging, with diet and exercise (unless laminitis is already present) being the primary strategies. Unfortunately, these methods may not always yield satisfactory results.


Currently, there are no approved medications specifically designed to address this issue. 


However, sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 inhibitors (SGLT2i), a class of drugs commonly employed in the treatment of type 2 diabetes in humans, show promise in reducing insulin concentrations in horses by promoting the excretion of glucose through urine.


Studies have demonstrated that these drugs can limit the increase in insulin levels after meals and prevent diet-induced laminitis. One such drug in this class is ertugliflozin, which some veterinarians have been using off-label to manage laminitis associated with hyperinsulinaemia.


A study conducted by Tania Sundra from Avon Ridge Equine Veterinary Services, in Western Australia, along with Erin Kelty and David Rendle, reviewed the clinical records of 51 horses that received ertugliflozin for the treatment of hyperinsulinaemia. The findings of this study are published in Equine Veterinary Education.


According to the authors, horse owners were informed about potential side effects such as loss of appetite, colic, increased drinking and urination, lethargy, or changes in behaviour, and were instructed to report any unusual signs or events immediately.


All horses had already been placed on a restricted diet. The diet and management for each horse remained consistent during the treatment period, allowing for a comparison of pre- and post-treatment results. Similarly, the timing of testing in relation to feeding was kept consistent for each horse.


After 30 days of treatment with ertugliflozin, the authors report a significant reduction in insulin levels, with the median dropping from >300 μu/ml to 43 μu/ml. This reduction was accompanied by a significant improvement in lameness, as indicated by Modified Obel lameness scores, which decreased from a median of 10/12 to 1/12.


During the treatment, there was an increase in serum triglyceride concentrations (from 0.6 mmol/L before treatment to 1.4 mmol/L after treatment). However, none of the horses developed clinical signs of hyperlipaemia.


Owners reported that 10 horses experienced increased drinking and urination while undergoing treatment with ertugliflozin, but no other adverse effects were noticed.


The authors suggest that ertugliflozin could potentially reduce insulin levels in horses and ponies affected by equine metabolic syndrome. Moreover, they propose that its use might speed up the recovery from laminitis that is linked to hyperinsulinaemia.



For more details, see:


Preliminary observations on the use of ertugliflozin in the management of hyperinsulinaemia and laminitis in 51 horses: A case series.

Tania Sundra, Erin Kelty, David Rendle

Equine Veterinary Education (2023) Vol 35, Pp 311-320  

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Looking for biomarkers of intestinal health in the equine gut

 Dr. Luis Arroyo, a researcher at the Ontario Veterinary College, is undertaking a investigation aimed at detecting early indications
of gastro-intestinal (GI) disease. This work hopes to identify biomarkers that could offer swift, cost-effective early diagnostics and treatment.

Together with research partner Dr. Marcio Costa from the University of Montreal, the researchers will be looking for biomarkers that indicate changes in the inhabitants of the equine gut that take place during the early onset of illness.


“A biomarker is a biological molecule that you can find in different places,” explains Arroyo.  “For example, you might find them in tissue, blood, urine, or different body fluids.  They can signal normal or abnormal processes or could reveal a marker of a disease.  For example, a biomarker can be used to see how well the body might respond to a treatment or to a disease condition.”


Before and during the onset of diseases, as well as after antibiotic treatment, changes in the intestinal microbiota, a process known as dysbiosis, become evident. In various species, bacterial biomarkers have been successfully employed to accurately predict intestinal dysbiosis. For example, Dr. Arroyo highlights the decreased presence of Lachnospiraceae as a common indicator of intestinal inflammation.


To identify potential markers of intestinal dysbiosis in horses, the researchers will study an extensive bio-bank of samples. They will analyse various factors such as the diversity and composition of the microbiota, as well as the presence of specific bacterial species or groups known to be associated with intestinal health. These biomarkers and indicators can help detect early signs of gastrointestinal issues, allowing for timely intervention and treatment.


The screening process will involve advanced techniques such as PCR testing, which provides a faster and more efficient means of identifying and analysing the equine microbiota compared to traditional methods like DNA sequencing. By establishing reliable screening protocols, the researchers aim to provide veterinarians with practical tools for assessing the intestinal health of horses, ultimately leading to improved management and care.


For more details, see:

Friday, June 16, 2023

Ivermectin resistance in small redworms

 In a recent study conducted in Brazil, it was discovered that there is widespread resistance to ivermectin among cyathostomins (small redworms) in most of the properties evaluated. This finding is concerning, as it has been increasingly recognised that important equine worms are developing resistance to commonly used anthelmintics.

The severity of this issue is underscored by the fact that resistance to all currently available classes of anthelmintics has been reported not only in cyathostomins but also in ascarids (large roundworms). Compounding the problem is the lack of new drugs on the horizon to combat this resistance.


Brazil is home to one of the largest horse populations globally, estimated to range from 5 to 6 million. In light of this, Giordani Mascoli de Favare and colleagues undertook a year-long research study in the western region of São Paulo state. The study aimed to assess the effectiveness of ivermectin as an anthelmintic in naturally infected horses on 12 breeding farms, involving a total of 123 horses.


To evaluate resistance in cyathostomins, the standard faecal egg count reduction (FECR) test was employed. If the FECR does not show a reduction of 95% or more after treatment with a macrocyclic lactone like ivermectin, it is indicative of resistance. Prior to the study, the horses had not received any anthelmintic treatment for at least 60 days. Each horse was orally administered the recommended dose of ivermectin paste based on its weight. Faecal samples were collected at the beginning of the treatment and 14 days later.


The results of the study revealed that in five of the properties, the FECR was below 90%, indicating significant cyathostomin resistance to ivermectin. Additionally, three properties showed a FECR between 90% and 95%, further indicating the presence of resistance. Only on four of the twelve properties did the faecal egg count reduction exceed 95%.


The authors of the study explain that in Brazil, the control of equine gastrointestinal parasites typically involves treating the entire herd without prior diagnosis and regularly rotating anthelmintic drugs. However, these findings highlight the urgent need for alternative strategies and interventions to effectively manage anthelmintic resistance in horses.

For more details, see:

Anthelmintic resistance of horse strongyle nematodes to ivermectin in São Paulo state, Brazil

Giordani Mascoli de Favare , Isabela de Almeida Cipriano, Tábata Alves do Carmo,  Mateus Oliveira Mena,   Gabriel Jabismar Guelpa, Alessandro Francisco Talamini do Amarante,  Ricardo Velludo Gomes de Soutello

Veterinary Parasitology: Regional Studies and Reports

Vet Parasitol Reg Stud Reports. (2023) Jun;41:100864.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Detecting onset of foaling

 A device attached to the base of the tail was found to be useful for detecting foaling in a study in Japan.

Although most mares give birth smoothly, complications such as improper positioning of the foal can quickly become serious. Having assistance readily available during this time can be the determining factor between a successful delivery of a healthy foal and a complete disaster.


Mares typically exhibit few noticeable signs indicating the imminent birth, prompting stud farms to assign someone to monitor expectant mares constantly. On the other hand, individual mare owners may endure numerous sleepless nights while anxiously awaiting the foaling process.


An alarm that reliably indicates the onset of foaling would be extremely valuable.


Researchers in Japan have been assessing the value of a device that detects movement and   changes in skin temperature.


Takahiro Aoki and fellow workers used a device consisting of a thermistor and a tri-axial accelerometer, which they attached to the base of the pregnant mares’s tails. A comprehensive report detailing their research has been published in the journal PLoS One.


During the study, seventeen pregnant mares on two private stud farms were closely monitored. The sensors measured and recorded the surface temperature of the ventral tail base, activity intensity, roll angle, and y-axis acceleration every three minutes.


The researchers clarify that the sensors were affixed to the pregnant mares approximately one week before the anticipated foaling date (defined as 335 days from the last mating) and were kept in place until at least one day after the mares gave birth.


The tail sensor collected data on skin temperature (ST) within a range of 20 to 45°C, with a resolution of 0.05°C. It also measured activity intensity within a range of 0 to 102.3, with a resolution of 0.2. Additionally, the device recorded roll angle, which represents the rotation of the x- and z-axes around the y-axis, within a range of -3 to +3 rad, with a resolution of 0.05 rad. Finally, y-axis acceleration was measured within a range of -1000 to +1000 mg, with a resolution of 4 mg.


The researchers discovered that three physiological or behavioural indicators exhibited significant changes shortly before a horse gives birth: (1) a decrease in skin temperature below 35.5°C, (2) lying down (LD), and (3) tail raising (TR).


They investigated the possibility of foaling occurring within one hour after meeting one or a combination of two or three of these criteria.


When considering each criterion individually, they observed a sensitivity of 100% for all three indicators, but the precision was 13.1% for skin temperature drop (LST), 8.1% for lying down (LD), and 2.8% for tail raising (TR).


Combining two indicators resulted in a sensitivity of 100% for all combinations. The accuracies were 100% for the combination of LST and LD, 56.7% for LD and TR, and 32.1% for TR and LST. When all three criteria were combined, both the sensitivity and precision were 100%.


After fulfilling two or more of the indicators, the average to complete labour was found to be between 20 and 30 minutes.


The researchers conclude that the tail-attached multimodal device examined in the study was useful for detecting foaling.  “…the time of birth of the foal can be detected with high sensitivity and precision by combining LST, LD, and TR.”


They suggest that the detector may also be useful in detecting when a mare is in season as tail raising is more often seen in mares during the oestrus period.


For more details, see:


Detection of foaling using a tail-attached device with a thermistor and tri-axial accelerometer in pregnant mares

Takahiro Aoki, Makoto Shibata, Guilherme Violin, Shogo Higaki, Koji Yoshioka 

PLoS ONE (2023) 18(6): e0286807.