Friday, July 28, 2023

Need for vitamin D supplementation

 Stabled, non-grazing Thoroughbred racehorses should receive vitamin D supplementation to
maintain an adequate vitamin D status, according to recent research.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for horses, as it is for many other animals and humans. It plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being by regulating various physiological processes. The primary function of vitamin D is to help the body absorb and utilize calcium and phosphorus, which are vital for strong bones, teeth, and proper muscle function.


Unlike some animals that can synthesize vitamin D in response to UV radiation on their skin, horses have little or no ability to produce vitamin D this way. Consequently, they rely heavily on dietary sources to obtain an adequate supply of the vitamin. Horses primarily obtain vitamin D from their diet, including fresh forage like pasture grasses and certain types of hay, which naturally contain vitamin D. Additionally, commercial horse feeds and supplements may be fortified with vitamin D to ensure the animals receive enough.


What effect does limited grazing have on vitamin D status in horses?


In a study conducted by Miranda Dosi and colleagues, the vitamin D status of racehorses in training from both Hong Kong (HK) and the United Kingdom was assessed. A full report is published in the journal Animals. The main objective was to investigate whether the management practices and athletic activity of these horses made them more susceptible to having low vitamin D status, and to determine if appropriate dietary vitamin D supplementation could help mitigate this risk.


The study encompassed 101 Thoroughbred horses in training, 79 of which were from Hong Kong (HK) and 22 from the United Kingdom (UK). The HK horses did not have access to grazing and received minimal sunlight exposure, usually less than 30 minutes daily, during training and in-hand walking. In contrast, the UK horses had the opportunity to graze for at least an hour each day.


The research team assessed the serum concentrations of three active forms of vitamin D, namely 25-hydroxyvitamin D2 (25OHD2), 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (25OHD3), and total 25-hydroxyvitamin D (total 25OHD). 


Forty-one of the HK horses were sampled twice to investigate the impact of their duration in HK on their vitamin D status. By taking samples at two different time points, the researchers could assess how the length of time the horses spent in HK influenced their vitamin D levels.


According to the research findings, the HK horses had notably lower serum concentrations of total 25OHD and 25OHD2 compared to the horses from the UK. Additionally, 15 out of 79 HK horse sera showed undetectable levels of 25OHD2. The researchers also found that the serum concentrations of 25OHD2 decreased with the length of time the horses had spent in Hong Kong.


Furthermore, the research team observed an inverse relationship between 25OHD2 and 25OHD3 in the study subjects. This finding suggests that oral D3 supplementation might have a negative impact on the serum concentrations of 25OHD2. In other words, increasing the intake of vitamin D3 through oral supplements could potentially lead to a reduction in the levels of 25OHD2 in the blood. They suggest that this highlights the need for further investigation and consideration when administering vitamin D3 supplements to the horses.


For more details, see:


Thoroughbred Racehorses in Hong Kong Require Vitamin D Supplementation to Mitigate the Risk of Low Vitamin D Status

Miranda C.M. Dosi, Chris M. Riggs, Jessica May, Adele Lee, Eugenio Cillan-Garcia, Joe Pagan, and Bruce C. McGorum. 

Animals (2023) 13, no. 13: 2145.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Online Seminars from Horses Inside Out

Horses Inside Out have announced a series of online seminars to be held later this year. With
three expert speakers, these seminars are aimed at equine professionals and promise to enhance your knowledge in equine health, welfare, genetics, and performance.


Understanding Orthopaedic Problems with Dr Jessica Kidd : Saturday, 7 October 2023 

Dr Jessica Kidd will share her extensive knowledge of orthopaedic issues in horses, including caudal neck pain, neuropathic pain, and Wobbler's Syndrome. She will also address regenerative medicine, dispelling myths about joint injections and stem cell therapy. The seminar will cover common problem areas in horses such as the back, kissing spines, supraspinous ligament desmopathy, facet joint arthritis, and the sacroiliac region.


Nature Versus Nurture - Genetic Insights with Dr Andrew Hemmings : Saturday, 4 November 2023

Discover the fascinating world of equine genetics with Dr Andrew Hemmings. The seminar will explore evolutionary perspectives on anatomy, management, and behaviour in horses. You will learn about the inheritance of simple traits, such as coat colour, and delve into more complex traits like racing performance and abnormal behaviours, all while examining the interaction between genes and the environment.


Equine Comfort and Performance with Dr Chris Pearce & Gillian Higgins : Saturday, 2 December 2023. 

This one-day seminar will focus on the integral role of dentistry, bridle fit, and understanding anatomy in equine comfort and performance. Dr Chris Pearce and Gillian Higgins will discuss the complex anatomical and biomechanical connections of the horse's head and how it can impact the rest of the body and performance. Dental disease, bit, and bridle fit can affect performance, and recognizing signs of discomfort is crucial.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Help needed for study of effects of Cushing’s disease

A new study to explore the effects of Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), commonly
known as Equine Cushing’s disease, in adult and older horses and ponies in the U
K has been launched by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), in partnership with CVS Group plc.

The primary objective of the study is to gain deeper insights into how the disease affects the quality of life of these animals. Ultimately, the findings aim to improve monitoring and decision-making, concerning the treatment of PPID in horses and ponies, benefiting their well-being around the world.


PPID is a common hormonal disorder that typically affects older equines. It is estimated to impact around 25% of horses and ponies aged 15 years and older. The disease manifests with various clinical signs such as laminitis, weight loss, and lethargy, that can significantly affect the animals' quality of life (QoL).


However, in the absence of validated equine QoL assessment tools, it is a challenge to make objective evaluations and informed decisions regarding the treatment and, in some cases, euthanasia for horses suffering from PPID. 


In a bid to enhance the support provided to animals, veterinarians, and owners, the RVC study aims to create a validated equine quality of life tool. This tool will serve as an objective assessment measure to understand the impact of PPID on the individual horse's quality of life. By having such a tool, veterinarians will be better equipped to make well-informed decisions concerning treatment and, if necessary, euthanasia options for horses and ponies diagnosed with PPID.


Heading this research is Aline Bouquet, a PhD Candidate and Research Assistant, with the support of Professor Nicola Menzies-Gow, Professor in Equine Medicine, and Professor Christine Nicol, Professor of Animal Welfare.


To achieve their goals, the RVC team is reaching out to horse and pony owners, requesting their participation in an online survey. The data collected from this survey will play a crucial role in the initial development of the quality-of-life tool, providing much-needed insights into the real-world experiences of animals affected by PPID. By participating in the survey, horse owners can actively contribute to improving the well-being and care of their beloved animals and those around the world facing the same condition.


Following the development of the validated equine quality of life tool, the RVC's research team plans to conduct a comprehensive study involving more than 100 horses recently diagnosed with PPID. This study will span over a two-year period, during which the impact of the disease and its treatment on the animals' quality of life will be closely observed.


Owners of the participating horses will be asked to complete a standardized online questionnaire every 3 months. This questionnaire will include the assessment of the animal's quality of life using the developed HRQoL (Health-Related Quality of Life) tool. Moreover, owners will be required to record details relating to the clinical signs associated with PPID and any other veterinary-related problems their horses may encounter during the study.


Owners of horses and ponies over ten years of age, both with and without PPID, are encouraged to participate in the study. The completion of the survey will take no more than 15 minutes, providing valuable data for evaluating the animal's quality of life, the presence and impact of PPID-related clinical signs, and any other associated veterinary issues.


By involving a substantial number of horses and closely monitoring them over a significant period, this study aims to shed light on how PPID affects equine quality of life and improve decision-making regarding treatment options and overall care for these animals.


Aline Bouquet, PhD Candidate and Research Assistant in the Assessment of Quality of Life in Equines with PPID, said: “Results from this project will better our understanding in how this disease and its treatment impact the quality of life of individual horses and ponies, which can hopefully then help vets and owners to assess and monitor the impact, guide management decision-making and thus improve the welfare of affected horses and ponies.”


Owners who wish to participate can sign up for the study at:


More information about the study can be found at:

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Belief in animals’ capacity for emotion linked to better health and welfare


Study participant and her animal.
Credit: University of Portsmouth/Dr Emily Haddy 
According to recent research, equids whose owners believe in their capacity to experience
emotions or share an emotional bond with them tend to be in significantly better health. 

The study, conducted by the University of Portsmouth and The Donkey Sanctuary, an international animal welfare charity, has found that working equids, such as donkeys, horses, and mules, whose owners believe in their capacity to feel emotions, experience significantly better health and welfare outcomes compared to those whose owners do not share such beliefs. 


This study is the first to establish a direct link between the well-being of working equids and the attitudes and beliefs of their owners, encompassing diverse countries and contexts worldwide.


The researchers visited equid-owning communities in Egypt, Mexico, Pakistan, Senegal, Spain, and Portugal, conducting thorough welfare assessments. This involved a comprehensive questionnaire for owners, probing their beliefs, values, and attitudes towards their animals, along with a detailed assessment of the equids' welfare.


The findings, published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, revealed that animals whose owners believed in their emotional capacity or had an emotional bond with them exhibited significantly better health and higher body condition scores compared to those whose owners did not hold such beliefs or primarily focused on their profitability or utility. This research highlights the crucial role that human perceptions and attitudes play in shaping the well-being of working equids across diverse global settings.


Nearly 400 participants from six different countries were assessed using a welfare assessment protocol and a questionnaire to explore their attitudes as owners. The study revealed that equids belonging to owners with an affective perspective (emotional bond) and those who believed their animals could feel emotions showed significantly better general health status and body condition. Additionally, equids owned by individuals who believed in their animals' capacity to feel pain were significantly less likely to experience lameness.


Lead author, Dr Emily Haddy, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Portsmouth’s ​Centre for Comparative and Evolutionary Psychology​, said: “We know people’s feelings toward their animals can impact their welfare, but we wanted to know if this differs across cultures. Our research involved equid-owning communities in six countries, whose animals worked in a diverse range of contexts including agriculture, tourism and construction. 


“​This​​ ​is the first study to link owner attitudes to the welfare of their working equids across multiple countries and contexts. Our findings highlight the importance of the relationship between owners and their animals, and its significant impact on animal health and welfare.” 


Co-author and Executive Director of Equine Operations at The Donkey Sanctuary, ​​​Dr ​Faith Burden, said: “We have long understood that donkeys and mules are sensitive and sentient beings, who fare best when they are treated​ as individuals and​ with the kindness and respect they deserve. This study provides further peer-reviewed, scientific evidence​ to support our work across the world​.  


“What’s really exciting is these findings could inform and increase the efficacy of future welfare initiatives. For example, promoting emotional connection and awareness of animal sentience among owners of working equids could potentially influence attitudes and lead to improvements in the welfare of working equids around the world.” 


Co-author, ​Dr Leanne Proops​, Associate Professor in Animal Behaviour at the​ University of Portsmouth’s Department of Psychology​, ​added​​​: “This is a fascinating study that highlights the link between attitudes to animal sentience and welfare. However, it’s important to avoid assumptions about the owners of animals who had poorer health and welfare indicators. 


​​“​It’s possible these owners simply don’t have the resources to look after their animals as well, and because they don’t like to think of them suffering, they adjust their beliefs to think that their animals don’t feel pain. This is a well-documented psychological technique that people use to minimise psychological distress when their behaviour and beliefs don’t align. 


“This is a very important study that paves the way for further research to establish causality, and a greater understanding of compassion and animal welfare.” 


For more details, see:

Belief in animal sentience and affective owner attitudes are linked to positive working equid welfare across six countries, 

Emily Haddy, Faith Burden, Zoe Raw, João B. Rodrigues, Jaime Humberto Zappi Bello, Julia Brown, Juliane Kaminski & Leanne Proops 

Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, (2023)

Monday, July 17, 2023

New research projects receive funding

 Morris Animal Foundation has provided funding for seven new research projects focused on
equine health. These studies aim to address various equine health issues, including contagious upper respiratory disease
and sepsis in foals. 

The research initiatives receiving support are as follows:


  • Impact of cyproheptadine on blood variables and clinical signs of Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID) in Horses. (Dr. Nicholas Frank, Mississippi State University) 
  • Development of an effective intramuscular vaccine against strangles, based on the "S" protein of Streptococcus equi subspecies equi (SEE). (Dr. Noah Cohen, Texas A&M University.)
  • A novel diagnostic test for Equine Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID).( Dr. Dianne McFarlane, University of Florida )
  • Increasing understanding of foal sepsis and potential new treatment options (Dr. Katarzyna Dembek, North Carolina State University)
  • Examination of a faecal-based test to aid in the diagnosis of gastric ulcers in horses (Dr. Canaan M. Whitfield-Cargile, University of Georgia)
  • A study of remote behavioural and physiologic monitoring to assess changes in equine discomfort behaviours and their association with epidural morphine administration. (Dr. Hope Douglas, University of Pennsylvania)
  • Investigation into drugs targeting the non-structural protein 4 of African Horse Sickness (Dr. Constantinos Kurt Wibmer, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa )


Dr. Kathy Tietje, Chief Program Officer at Morris Animal Foundation, expressed excitement about supporting these projects, which aim to advance equine health and welfare through innovative research. The studies are scheduled to commence in the current year, contributing valuable insights to improve equid health and well-being.

For more about Morris Animal Foundation, see:

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Hair analysis for long-term detection of bisphosphonates

(c) Miltudog
Hair analysis has shown promise as a method for detecting bisphosphonate use, even up to six months after its administration. 


Bisphosphonates, commonly used in human medicine to treat bone disorders, have been approved for use in adult horses. However, there is a growing interest in off-label use of bisphosphonates in young racehorses to manage and prevent certain musculoskeletal conditions.

The safety and effectiveness of bisphosphonates specifically in young racehorses have not been extensively studied or established. These drugs work by inhibiting bone resorption, the natural process of breaking down old bone tissue to make way for new bone formation. In young animals, maintaining the delicate balance between bone formation and resorption is crucial for proper bone growth and remodelling.


Modifying this balance through bisphosphonate use may have unforeseen consequences on the development and integrity of the skeletal system. It is important to carefully consider the potential risks and benefits before using bisphosphonates in young racehorses.


Due to the concerns surrounding bisphosphonate use in horseracing, strict regulations are in place. However, enforcing these regulations requires an effective method of detecting unauthorized use.


Hair analysis has emerged as a reliable approach for detecting drug administration in horses, as it can detect drugs for an extended period after their administration. Recognizing this potential, a research team consisting of scientists from the University of California, Davis, and the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, MH Gluck Equine Research Center, conducted a study to develop an assay and evaluate the viability of hair as a matrix for long-term detection of clodronate, a bisphosphonate, in horses. This research initiative was initiated in response to a specific request for bisphosphonate-related research by the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation in 2019.


“Over the past few years, bisphosphonate use has become a concern with regard to the welfare of Thoroughbred racehorses,” said Jamie Haydon, president of Grayson. “We are very thankful for the generous support by Vinnie and Teresa Viola’s St. Elias Stables and their ability to recognize the importance of this research in promoting equine safety and welfare.”

“Bisphosphonates are labelled for horses 4 years and older to manage navicular symptoms,” said Dr. Johnny Smith, A. Gary Lavin Research Chair of Grayson. “Unfortunately, people were using them in young horses, which is detrimental because bisphosphonates inhibit bone resorption, can stay in a horse’s system for years, and can have long-term effects on bone.”

In this study, the researchers administered a single intramuscular dose of clodronate (1.8 mg/kg) to seven horses. They collected hair samples before the administration and at various time points up to 6 months afterward.


The presence of the drug was initially detected on day 7 in four out of the seven horses. In the remaining three horses, clodronate was detected on days 14, 28, and 35, respectively.

The drug was still detectable in four out of the seven horses even 6 months after administration.


Previously published studies, including one conducted by the same group and funded under the same special call, demonstrated that in some cases bisphosphonates can be detected in blood and urine for extended periods of time, but detection using these matrices can be unpredictable and less consistent.

“Our study from 2020 showed that clodronate and tiludronate reside in the bone for extended periods,” said the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Heather K. Knych, who is with the K.L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Lab’s Pharmacology section and the Department of Molecular Biosciences, at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis. “This can lead to lasting pharmacologic effects and increase the risks of injury to racehorses. Being able to detect bisphosphonates long term in hair benefits the athletes and increases the integrity of the sport.”


For more details, see:


Long-term monitoring of clodronate in equine hair using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. 

Heather K. Knych, D.S. McKemie, S. Yim, S.D. Stanley, R.M. Arthur. 

Journal of Chromatography B, Volume 1226, 2023, 123789,