The latest information regarding what has now been named "Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome" (MRLS) occurring in Kentucky's equine population.
Tom Priddy, a meteorologist at the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, put together data on the weather this spring that is thought to have caused the current equine problems associated with pasture.
Based on scientific and diagnostic results available to date, the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners has issued the following suggestions for veterinarians to discuss with their clients based on a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship. This is subject to change based on updates from scientific results.
As Ohio veterinarians try to understand and determine what might be affecting foals in the Ohio River Valley, the number of foals and fetuses available for testing by the diagnostic lab is no greater than normal. Sheila Grimes, DVM, PhD, Pathology Section Head for the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, recommends that horse owners submit aborted fetuses and deceased foals with the placenta for testing.
The good news is that the federal government doesn't have to be in Kentucky or any other state because of the current spring syndromes taking place in the horse populations. They would be required to investigate if there was any indication that an infectious or contagious disease process was at work.
As of noon May 15, the Kentucky Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center had received 26 additional aborted/stillborn equine fetuses/foals (18 late-term and eight early-term) for diagnostic testing/evaluation. The total received since April 28, 2001, is 468.
It might not be possible to gauge the extent of the fetal loss syndrome problem in Ohio since pleasure horse owners might not pay for the cost of testing on dead fetuses and foals presented to the diagnostic lab. However, anecdotal reports support evidence that veterinarians and breeders in Ohio are seeing an abnormal number of problems.
Industry organizations have taken a proactive stand in the wake of the fetal loss syndrome that has gripped Central Kentucky farms in recent weeks. Tim Smith, commissioner of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, has been in contact with federal officials and is planning to spend most of Wednesday and Thursday morning in the nation's capital, meeting with members of Congress and staff to discuss the possibility of federal assistance for breeders who are being financially crippled by the health crisis. But Smith had some bad news about existing federal programs.
By Ray Paulick -- Politicians should look beyond the false image of the breeding industry to the rank-and-file horse farmers.
Dr. Claire Latimer is a specialist in veterinary ophthalmology, the study of animal eyes. Since May 1, she has seen a surprising increase of eye problems in horses in Central Kentucky that fall into two distinct groups.
The Republic of Ireland has lifted its prohibition on British horses that travel there in a move that should help both the breeding and racing industries. It appears British horses, previously restricted because of the foot-and-mouth outbreak, will be able to compete in the Irish One Thousand (Ire-I) and Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) at the Curragh May 26-27.
In the industry-wide meeting at Keeneland on Thursday, May 10, zearalenone, a kind of mycotoxin, was put forth as a possible cause of the recent rash of late-term stillbirths, critical foals, and early fetal loss. But while experts seem to be in agreement it is a good possibility that zearalenone in particular is indicated, they aren't ruling out other possible causes or saying only that one mycotoxin is the sole instigator of illness. Whatever the cause, the effects are cumulative.
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.
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.
Kentucky's entire delegation of U.S. Senators and Congressmen has written a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman alerting her of the foal/fetal loss syndrome in Kentucky and asking for assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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.
As the breeding season winds to a close, you expect to see fewer foals being born. Therefore, there are fewer chances for the current syndrome to affect late-gestation mares. It also seems, however, that the loss of late-term gestations--and early fetal loss--could be slowing overall.
Hunter Valley Thoroughbred breeders are increasingly concerned regarding a continuing ban on Thoroughbred imports from Europe imposed by the Australian quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) as a result of the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Europe.
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