Horse Health

Health news, veterinary advice, and educational tools to keep your horse healthy provided by The Horse

Explanation: Ergotism or Ergot Poisoning

At the industry-wide meeting on Thursday, May 10, Dr. Steve Jackson, an equine nutrition consultant and owner of Bluegrass Equine Nutrition, and Dr. Jimmy Henning, an extension forage specialist at the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, both mentioned that ergot or alkaloid types of toxins were being sought in the testing of pastures. In discussing the situation further with Jackson on May 11, he said that Merck's Veterinary Manual had a good explanation of ergotism in other livestock.

Kentucky Veterinarian Seeing Increase in Laminitis Cases

Dr. Rhonda Rathgeber, a veterinarian with Hagyard-Davidson-McGee veterinary firm in Lexington, Ky., specializes in performance horse problems. She said in the past 10 days, she has seen "a lot of riding horses lame with an associated colitis (inflammation of the large or small colon). I've talked to one other vet who has seen the same thing," she said. It is unknown whether this increase in laminitis is associated with the other problems currently running through the horse industry and thought to be caused by mycotoxins.

Dr. Byars--Pericarditis Becoming More of a Problem

While the numbers are nowhere near those associated with early fetal loss and late gestation pregnancy loss, there is a pattern appearing with horses developing pericarditis (fluid in the sac around the heart), said Dr. Doug Byars, a specialist in internal medicine at Hagyard-Davidson-McGee's medicine unit in Lexington, Ky. At the industry meeting at Keeneland on Thursday, May 10, Byars reported that there had been 20 cases of pericarditis at Haygard's and Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in the past week.

Kentucky's Fields of Dreams Now Nightmares

The old-timers say Kentucky is horse country because of its soil. What's now growing on that soil could be the cause of a rash of late-term losses in foals, early embryonic death, pericarditis (fluid surrounding the heart), reduced growth rates in young horses, and other problems that might not yet have been recognized.

Researchers Unite to Search for Cause of Crisis

Over and over the refrain has been heard for the past two weeks--the horse industry is lucky to have the equine expertise concentrated in Central Kentucky, especially during this time of all-out war against an unknown killer. Dr. Roger Murphy, president of the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association and the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners, opened the informational meeting the evening of May 10 with the statement: "I'm proud to be a part of an industry that can unify in the face of adversity."

Evidence Presented at Keeneland Suggests All Horses May Be at Risk

The foal loss syndromes facing Kentucky's pregnant mares might be just the start of a host of problems that could affect horses of all ages, breeds, sexes, and uses in Kentucky and other states. Whether you have a gelding that is on turn-out, a yearling, suckling, stallion, or non-pregnant mare, there could be problems brewing. This information and much more was brought to light at an open meeting at the Keeneland sale pavilion in Lexington, Ky., on the evening of May 10.

Preliminary Test Results Suggest Possible Causes, Preventative Measures

After testing numerous pasture samples for mycotoxins, endophytes, and other possible causes to the problems in Kentucky, tests have shown higher than expected levels of a mycotoxin called zearalenone, according to Dr. Steve Jackson, a consultant for Bluegrass Equine Nutrition. Jackson and other presenters stressed that zearalenone has not been pinpointed as the definitive cause to the problems.

Two Ohio Counties Experiencing Similar Syndromes

Now two counties in Ohio are seeing syndromes similar to those being presented in Kentucky, according to an update Thursday by Dr. Grant Frazer, associate professor at Ohio State University. Frazer said there is no way to make a confirmation that this is the same problem that Kentucky veterinarians and researchers are dealing with, since no definitive description of the problem has been narrowed down.

Florida Only State Requiring Special Permit for Kentucky Shippers

The Kentucky state veterinarian's office has fielded calls from all over the country regarding late term abortions and early foal loss in Kentucky mares, but Florida remains the only state to take action. The Sunshine State is requiring a special permit for horses shipping in from Kentucky. Dr. Don Notter, Kentucky state veterinarian, is recommending that anyone shipping a mare anywhere should contact the state veterinarian for their destination. He said restrictions and special permits could become required almost overnight.

Keeneland Info Session Goes to Video

The information session on late term abortions and early fetal loss conducted at the Keeneland sales pavilion Thursday will be available online at Keeneland's web site, www.keeneland.com, for the next 48 hours. In addition, Keeneland announced at the meeting that it will have a videotape of the session available early next week.

Foal Losses: View From the Field

Actually, the view from the field in Central Kentucky is rather lonely. There are acres and acres of fresh-mown--or being furiously mowed--pastures that are beginning to resemble putting greens. The recommendation is to cut the grass to hopefully reduce the amount of mycotoxins being ingested by mares--if in fact that is the cause of the current syndromes affecting pregnant mares. Managers and owners desperate for something to do that might help are taking all suggestions seriously. Veterinarians are pulling out all the stops treating at-risk mares with everything that seems logical. Researchers and scientists are busily taking samples and running tests to try and find answers.

Florida Officials Tracking Requests for Horse Shipments; Van Companies Busy

Officials with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Division of Animal Industry, reported early Thursday afternoon that in 2 1/2 days they have received applications for 71 permits for horse shipments from Kentucky to Florida. In the wake of the recent foal/fetal loss outbreak in Kentucky, the state of Florida enacted temporary regulations requiring all horses from the Bluegrass State be tracked through the issuance of a permit from the state's Commissioner of Agriculture.

Diagnostic Lab Releases Numbers

As of noon today (May 9), the University of Kentucky's Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center stated that a total of 371 aborted/stillborn fetuses had been submitted for diagnostic testing/evaluation since April 28, 2001. The total includes 25 submitted by noon on May 9, and 28 submitted May 8.

Foal Loss Meeting to be Broadcast Via Internet

The Keeneland Association announced Wednesday that Thursday's inforamtional meeting concerning later term abortions and early fetal deaths will be offered on its Website. The meeting, organized by the Kentucky Farm Managers' Club and the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners, begins at 5 p.m. (ET) in Keeneland's sales pavilion.

Cases of Foal Loss Syndrome Reported in Ohio

A veterinarian in Morgan County, Ohio, suspects that five cases of red bag delivery within the past week--plus 10 pregnant mares that are now empty--could be the same syndrome that horse owners and veterinarians in Kentucky are dealing with, according to Grant Frazer, BVSc, MS, Associate Professor at The Ohio State University.

Feed Additive Might Help Protect Mares During Foal Loss Syndrome

Veterinary and diagnostic professionals in Kentucky are working feverishly to identify the cause of the recent abortion and early fetal loss syndromes. One of the most probable causes is mycotoxins in pastures. If that is the case, then a mycotoxin binder used for other animals--and now being produced locally as a feed additive for horses--could offer the first preventative treatment for the current situation.

Could Foal Loss Syndrome Be Slowing?

The highest number of foals/fetal samples taken to the Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center in Lexington, Ky., during the current problem with late-term abortions and early embryonic loss occurred on Derby Day, May 5, according to the Center's Director, Lenn Harrison, VMD, Dipl. ACVP. On that day, 73 foals/fetuses were brought in for examination. Word from at least two veterinarians is that while early pregnancy mares might still be at risk for losing their pregnancies, the loss of these late-term foals is slowing.

Florida Issues Permit Process Guidelines on Horses Travelling From Kentucky

In the wake of the outbreak of late-term fetal/foal deaths and near-term abortions in mares in Central Kentucky, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has issued guidelines for the equine industry on horses from Kentucky entering Florida. The guidelines require a permit to be obtained prior to shipment by veterinarians who issue Official Certificates of Veterinary Inspection. It also recommends to Florida farms that mares from Kentucky be kept isolated from other horses and their health be closely monitored. There has been no ban issued on shipment of horses from Kentucky to Florida.

Equine Researchers Outline Steps Being Taken on Fetal/Foal Loss Syndrome

Thoroughbred industry leaders, veterinarians, researchers, and farm managers met with the media at the Gluck Equine Research Center in Lexington, Ky., for a press briefing on the current fetal/foal loss syndromes occurring in the state. While there are no answers as to why so many mares are aborting in near-term or having stillborns in late term, there are defined paths being taken that everyone involved hopes will lead to the cause.

Estimate: Foal Losses Could Have $150 Million Impact on Kentucky Economy

With Kentucky's share of the Thoroughbred foal crop in the United States at an all-time high of nearly 30%, the repercussions of the excessive foal loss that many Central Kentucky farms are experiencing may be felt for years to come. Based on figures compiled by The Blood-Horse, the economic impact of the problem could easily exceed $150 million, if foal losses amount to 20% of the anticipated 2002 crop. A 1997 national economic impact study conducted by Barents estimated the Kentucky breeding sector to be a $900 million industry annually.

FAQs: An Interview With Dr. Doug Byars on Excessive Foal Loss

Dr. Doug Byars, a veterinary reproductive specialist at Hagyard-Davidson-Mcgee near Lexington, offers the latest information and advice to horse owners and farm managers concerning the excessive loss of late-term and near term foals. He was interviewed by Kimberly S. Graetz, editor of The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care (www.thehorse.com) and a contributing editor to The Blood-Horse.

2001 Breeding Season Crisis: Many Mares Losing Foals; Links to Related Stories

Two "syndromes" of unknown origin that began in late April are causing Central Kentucky farms to lose an excessive number of foals and fetuses. The first syndrome results in what broodmare owners know as "red bag," or premature placenta separation. The placenta comes out before the foal, often causing the foal to suffocate if the birth is unattended. The second syndrome was discovered a short time later, when veterinarians began to perform 60-day ultrasound fetal checks and found many mares either were not pregnant or in the process of ending their pregnancies. Some farms have experienced losses from 25-75% of next year's foal crop. There is no evidence the problems are slowing down.

Foal Loss Outbreak of 1980 Eventually Discounted as 'Artifact Epidemic'

An outbreak of early-term fetal loss in 1980 was eventually discounted by researchers as an "artifact epidemic" caused by earlier than usual examinations. Still, that outbreak now is viewed by many as similar in nature to the current syndrome that many Central Kentucky farms are experiencing. According to experts such as Dr. David Powell of the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, the current problem is much more widespread than in 1980.

Epidemiologist Q&A on Excessive Foal Losses

Dr. David Powell, an epidemiologist at the University of Kentucky's Veterinary Science Department in the Gluck Equine Research Center, was interviewed Monday by The Blood-Horse about the unusually high number of early fetal loss and late-term abortions among broodmares at Central Kentucky farms.

University of Kentucky Diagnostic Lab Seeking Answers About Foal Loss

The director and staff of the University of Kentucky's Livestock Disease Diagnostic Laboratory have been working long hours conducting necropsies and running tests in an attempt to find answers to the questions raised during the ongoing losses of fetuses and foals in the state. While there hasn't been time yet to compile official numbers of incoming horses for testing, more than 60 have come on some days. The normal number of incoming abortions per day at this time of year is five to six, with a little higher number per day of dead foals.

Kentucky Farm Managers, Vets To Meet About Foal Loss

The Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club and the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners will hold a joint meeting Thursday (May 10) in the Keeneland sales pavilion near Lexington to discuss recent problems with early fetal loss and late term abortions in Central Kentucky. The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. (EDT).

Excessive Foal Loss Great Concern to Central Kentucky Farms

Two "syndromes" that began near the end of the third week of April are causing Central Kentucky farms to lose an excessive number of foals and fetuses due to an as yet unknown cause. The first syndrome results in what mare owners know as "red bag," or premature placenta separation where the placenta comes out before the foal, often causing the foal to suffocate if the birth is unattended. The second syndrome was discovered around May 1 when veterinarians began routine 60-day fetal checks and discovered that many mares either were empty (not pregnant), or were in the process of losing their pregnancies. Some farms have experienced losses ranging from 25-75% of next year's foal crop. And there is no evidence that this problem is slowing down.

Sales Prepping Yearlings

As spring moves into summer, the primary focus of activity on many breeding farms is preparation of yearlings for sale. There isn't much scientific research on exercising horses at that young age, yet many farms are using forced exercise to make these youngsters look like little athletes rather than the gangly teenagers they are. While it is good that ...

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