Monday, November 27, 2023

Research highlights limitations of non-contact infrared thermometers

According to a recent study conducted by the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX, non-contact infrared thermometers may not serve as a viable alternative to rectal thermometry for detecting fever in horses.

 Body temperature is a crucial vital sign used for assessing health and is important for monitoring horse health and implementing biosecurity measures within groups of horses. While rectal temperature remains the gold standard for accuracy, its use can be met with resistance from horses, posing potential danger for the operator.


Non-contact infrared thermometers have been considered as an alternative, providing quick and convenient temperature readings without direct contact. However, these thermometers offer a rapid assessment of surface temperature, and their readings may not closely reflect the core body temperature compared to rectal thermometers. Environmental conditions and the presence of a thick hair coat can further influence their accuracy.


The research, conducted by Leslie Easterwood and Noah D. Cohen from the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at Texas A&M University, involved a comparison of rectal temperatures with recordings obtained using a non-contact infrared thermometer in 142 Quarter Horse horses and 34 Quarter Horse foals. Measurements from the non-contact infrared thermometer were collected from the forehead or neck, while rectal temperatures were recorded separately for each horse and foal.


The study revealed that the readings obtained by the non-contact infrared thermometer demonstrated good reliability in terms of measurement repeatability. However, these readings did not align well with rectal temperatures. Notably, there was a substantial negative bias, with adult horses displaying non-contact infrared thermometer readings nearly 2°F lower than rectal temperatures. This difference was more pronounced in foals, where the average difference exceeded 3°F.


In conclusion, the researchers assert that the substantial and inconsistent bias observed with the non-contact infrared thermometer indicates that these devices may not be a suitable substitute for rectal thermometry when aiming to obtain valid estimates of core body temperature in horses.



For more details see:

Agreement of Temperatures Measured Using a Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer With a Rectal Digital Thermometer in Horses,

Leslie Easterwood, Noah D. Cohen

Journal of Equine Veterinary Science,(2023) Vol 123,104243,

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Effect of different hay feeders on behaviour

 Horses, being continuous grazers, have a natural inclination to feed steadily. Feral and wild horses may spend about 16 hours per day grazing. 

Allowing domesticated horses free access to roughage aligns with their natural feeding behaviour, representing a potentially optimal approach for horse health and welfare.

However, there are instances where restricting their food intake becomes necessary for management or health reasons. Nevertheless, such restrictions may impact their welfare and behaviour.


Implementing tools like hay-nets/bags and slow-feeders may prove helpful in decreasing food waste, extending the time horses spend consuming roughage, and potentially reducing undesirable behaviours.


The introduction of automatic hay boxes, providing scheduled feeding times throughout the day, contributes to minimising food waste. Despite this advantage, timed feeding through these devices may lead to abnormal behaviours in horses due to limited access to roughage.


A recent study evaluated the impact of three different hay feeders and the availability of roughage on horse behaviours in dry feed lots. The goal was to identify improved feeding techniques that could optimize feeding management, diminish abnormal behaviours, and improve the overall welfare conditions of horses in equine establishments.


Fifteen healthy thoroughbred cross horses from the Polo Club at Colorado State University participated in the research, employing a 3x3 Latin square design. The study comprised three groups, each consisting of five horses, with each group undergoing 15 days of one of the three treatments: free choice hay, slow feeder, or box feeder. At the conclusion of each treatment period, the horses underwent weighing, and blood samples were collected to monitor cortisol levels. Behaviour was  monitored throughout the final day of each treatment session.


The research, funded by Morris Animal Foundation, is published in Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.


Lead author, Jéssica Carvalho Seabra, said “Taking care of horses means more than just giving them a place to stay, food and water. It means giving them an environment where they can do things that are part of their natural behaviour like grazing.”


The researchers found that horses using automatic boxes and slow feeders consumed less and exhibited slower weight gain, indicating effective regulation of food intake. 


Horses with the freedom to choose when to eat had the highest hay utilization and weight gain rates, suggesting that this approach might not be optimal for overweight horses.

Horses with access to free choice feeding or a slow feeder spent more than half their day doing natural activities such as foraging. 


In contrast, horses using box feeders spent only about a quarter of their day eating, leading to increased time spent standing, sniffing the ground, and consuming their own faeces.

Furthermore, horses using the box feeder displayed more signs of aggression. During the study, the researchers noticed that horses became more aggressive as the feeders' size decreased and access to the food became more difficult. To address this issue, researchers recommend ensuring adequate space for each horse to eat without feeling crowded, especially when providing a limited amount of food.


"Selecting the right feeding technique can extend the time horses engage in natural behaviours, reducing the incidence of chronic stress and potentially curbing the emergence of abnormal and stereotypic behaviours in the long run," Carvalho Seabra said.


For more details, see:


Jéssica Carvalho Seabra, Tanja Hess, Marcos Martinez do Vale, Katherinne Maria Spercoski, Ryan Brooks, João Ricardo Dittrich,

Effects of Different Hay Feeders, Availability of Roughage on Abnormal Behaviors and Cortisol Circadian Rhythm in Horses Kept in Dry Lots,

Journal of Equine Veterinary Science (2023) Vol 130, 104911,

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Prevalence of laminitis in Norwegian ponies

New research highlights the problem of laminitis in the Norwegian Nordlandshest/Lyngshest pony breed.
Ponies, in general, are prone to laminitis and field observations suggest Norwegian breeds are no exception

 A recent study by Sigrid Lykkjen, Ingrid Hunter Holmøy from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and Linda Koldal Stenbakk from the Forus Hesteklinikk, sheds light on the prevalence and risk factors associated with laminitis within this pony breed. A full report of the study is published in Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica


The Nordland or Lyngshest, native to Norway, is typically small to medium-sized, standing at 12 to 14 hands (48 to 56 inches or 122 to 142 cm) at the withers. With a compact and muscular build, these ponies are well-suited for tasks in challenging mountainous terrains, commonly employed in riding, driving, and therapeutic riding programs.


The study aimed to assess the prevalence and risk factors for laminitis in the Norwegian Nordlandshest/Lyngshest pony breed. To address the question, the research team used questionnaires distributed among members of the Norwegian Nordlandshest/Lyngshest breed association..


Analysis revealed age, sex, and regional adiposity as notable risk factors for laminitis. Moreover, the level of exercise and outdoor housing was significantly correlated with a reduced prevalence of laminitis.


For horses over nine years old, the lifetime prevalence of laminitis approached 20%. However, the overall lifetime prevalence across the entire population was comparatively lower. The researchers attributed this lower prevalence to the study's inclusion of a substantial number of young animals (24% aged five years or less), suggesting their contribution to the overall lower incidence of laminitis.


In conclusion, the researchers emphasize that laminitis poses a considerable welfare challenge within the Nordlandshest/Lyngshest pony breed.


“The identified risk factors, namely age, sex, and regional adiposity, underscore the importance of heightened diagnosis and monitoring of EMS/insulin dysregulation in the breed. Additionally, the findings highlight the necessity for enhanced owner education and awareness of strategies aimed at reducing the risk of laminitis.”


For more details, see:


Prevalence and risk factors for laminitis within the Norwegian pony breed Nordlandshest/Lyngshest

Sigrid Lykkjen, Linda Koldal Stenbakk & Ingrid Hunter Holmøy 

Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica (2023) vol 65, Article number: 22 

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Revealing the silent reservoir: Horses and the potential threat of Leishmaniosis

 Leishmaniasis, a zoonotic disease capable of transmission from animals to humans, has long
been acknowledged as a significant public health concern. The World Health Organisation reports that over one billion people reside in areas endemic to leishmaniasis, placing them at risk of infection. The disease manifests in three distinct syndromes in humans: cutaneous, mucocutaneous, and visceral. Annually, there are approximately 30,000 new cases of visceral leishmaniasis and over one million new cases of the cutaneous form. Remarkably, leishmaniasis ranks as the second leading parasitic cause of death worldwide, following malaria.

The causative agent of leishmaniasis is an intracellular protozoan parasite known as Leishmania spp., transmitted through sandflies. Traditionally, dogs have been identified as the primary reservoir, but recent research suggests the involvement of other species in the transmission cycle. 


Infected horses may exhibit signs of cutaneous leishmaniasis, manifesting as nodules on various body parts such as the head, ear, scrotum, legs, and neck. These lesions, which can be singular or multiple, often present with ulceration. However, some horses may carry the infection without displaying any visible signs, potentially serving as silent reservoir hosts


As our understanding of the dynamics of leishmaniasis transmission expands, it becomes increasingly important to consider a variety of animal species, including horses, in efforts to mitigate the impact of this disease on both animal and human populations.


Researchers from the Veterinary Faculty at Universidad Cardenal Herrera-CEU Valencia, Spain, conducted a study aimed at elucidating the potential role horses may play in the transmission of leishmaniosis, a parasitic disease. Lola Martínez-Sáez and her colleagues undertook an analysis of the prevalence and factors associated with L. infantum infection in seemingly healthy horses. A full report of the work is published in the online journal Animals.


The team gathered epidemiological data and serum samples from 167 apparently healthy horses in the Valencia region of eastern Spain. They used an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to assess the presence of L. infantum during two distinct periods: December 2022 to January 2023 and May 2023 to June 2023.


The results revealed that 27.5% of apparently healthy horses tested positive for anti-leishmania antibodies, and infection was confirmed through real-time PCR. Interestingly, horses with a calm temperament and those residing outdoors exhibited a higher prevalence of infection.


Additionally, the study unveiled a seasonal variation in equine Leishmania spp. infections, with a notable spike during the spring months, aligning with higher average temperatures. This observation underscores the significant influence of climate on the prevalence of leishmaniosis, raising concerns about the potential impact of climate change on the disease's future trajectory.


From a One Health perspective, the researchers emphasize the need for a holistic approach to combat leishmaniosis. Given the close contact between horses and humans, horses may act as silent reservoirs, facilitating parasite transmission. As a result, the study advocates for the incorporation of preventive measures for horses, such as regular use of repellents, to control the spread of leishmaniosis across species.


For more details, see:


Prevalence and Factors Related to Leishmania infantum Infection in Healthy Horses (Equus caballus) from Eastern Spain. 

Martínez-Sáez L, Dulac Q, Montaner-Angoiti E, Marín-García PJ, Llobat L. 

Animals. 2023; 13(18):2889.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Discussing colic

The latest edition of the Fresh Scoop podcast from Morris Animal Foundation covers colic in
horses. Join
 Drs. Kelly Diehl and Sharanne Raidal as they discuss the subject, including types of colic, clinical signs, diagnostics, treatments and ongoing research. 


For more details, go to:


Or, you can download the podcast from all the usual places

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Link between feral horses and peatland carbon emissions studied

(c) Constantin Stanciu
Feral horse populations in the Australian Alps pose a threat to Sphagnum peatlands, according to recent

Peatlands serve as highly efficient natural carbon capture and storage ecosystems, surpassing the capabilities of rainforests. Despite covering just 3% of the Earth's land surface, they house approximately 30% of the world's soil carbon—twice the amount stored in all the planet's forests combined.


In the Australian Alps, peatlands are characterised by carbon-rich peat soil within mossy wetlands formed from partially decomposed plants in swampy conditions. These ecosystems excel in capturing carbon in live moss layers and storing it in soils for long periods, sometimes spanning thousands of years.


However, when peatlands, particularly those rich in Sphagnum moss like those in the Australian Alps, are degraded, they can switch from carbon sinks to carbon sources. The disturbance may release more carbon into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases than they capture.


The precise connection between this degradation and the carbon cycling of peatlands remains unclear. A study conducted by researchers from RMIT University in Australia sought to address this knowledge gap. A full report of the work is published in the Journal of Environmental Management.


Sarah Treby, and Samantha P. Grover conducted a multi-site comparison of CO2 and methane fluxes from Australian peatlands. The investigation focused on 12 alpine and subalpine Sphagnum moss-dominated bogs in Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales. Over a seven-day period in March 2022, the researchers sampled seven sites with feral horses present and five without.


Using a portable greenhouse gas analyser and transparent chambers to measure peatland carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, they revealed a correlation between the presence of feral horses and increased carbon loss.


Their findings showed significantly higher emissions at sites degraded by feral horses compared to horse-free sites.


Sites with horses exhibited carbon emissions to the atmosphere, while sites without horses showed carbon removal from the atmosphere. Notably, net carbon emission was 91% higher in bare soil areas than in Sphagnum-covered areas.


Sites with feral horses also displayed higher soil bulk density, temperature, electrical conductivity (EC), and water pH, EC, and turbidity compared to sites without horses. 


The findings suggested that excluding feral horses from peatland areas could mitigate carbon loss to the atmosphere and improve overall site condition, peat soil quality, and water quality.



For more details, see: 

Carbon emissions from Australian Sphagnum peatlands increase with feral horse (Equus caballus) presence

Sarah Treby, Samantha P. Grover

Journal of Environmental Management (2023) Vol 347, 119034