Healthy Horses Needed for Saskatchewan Research Study

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June 14, 2013 -- A healthy airway is essential to horses, both for their well-being and performance. Early detection and treatment of airway disease may prevent chronic problems; however, as some treatments can have undesired side effects, unnecessary treatment should be avoided.

To diagnose and treat airway disease, we rely on tests such as tracheal wash and bronchoalveolar lavage, which help identify type and severity of the problem. Currently recommended reference ranges for these tests are mostly based on clinical experience rather than scientific data. Furthermore, we do not know if factors such as age of the horse, geographical location or season should be considered when establishing a reference range.

It is essential that we base treatment and study of airway disease on scientifically established reference ranges to ensure that the correct conclusions are drawn from the results. Furthermore, we need to investigate if differences exist between different age groups of horses. This is important because specific airway problems exist in different age groups, and we need to know “normal” for each age group to reliably detect and treat “abnormal.”

We are interested in studying respiratory diseases such as heaves in horses. Establishing reliable reference ranges for our horse population will be an essential foundation for our future equine health research and a significant contribution to diagnosing and treating equine respiratory disease. More detailed information on respiratory disease in horses and our research interests can be found below.

In order to move this program forward, we are looking to recruit client-owned horses for the period of May 2013-August 2013. Results from these horses will be used to establish normal reference ranges for our local horse population.

In order to be eligible for the study, horses need to fulfill the following criteria:

  • Be at least one year old.
  • Have no clinical signs of respiratory disease.
  • Have no history of respiratory disease in the last six months.
  • Have no chronic respiratory disease such as heaves.
  • Have no history of poor performance attributable to respiratory disease.

All study procedures can be performed on farm and would include the following (free of charge):

  • Complete physical examination (including rebreathing examination).
  • Complete blood count (blood sample).
  • Airway endoscopy and tracheal wash (under sedation).
  • Bronchoalveolar lavage (under sedation).

If you are interested in enrolling your horse in our study, you can contact us for more detailed information about the procedures involved. Email Dr. Julia Montgomery at julia.montgomery@usask.ca or call her at 306-966-7025; or Dr. Katharina Lohmann at k.lohmann@usask.ca or call her at 306-966-7157.