The Importance of Equine Health
With the Grand National around the corner, Randox Reagents have investigated the importance of equine health, focusing on racehorses.
Maintaining good health in racehorses is vital as proper management can reduce the incidence of many disease conditions. Racehorses are bred, raised, and trained to perform as athletes. Therefore, it is vital that the performance health of racehorses is continually assessed to ensure that they are physically fit, happy and healthy.
Racehorse’s have a busy life. They are broken in from 18 months of age, usually using traditional methods such as long reining, followed by accepting a rider and training alongside other horses. At 2 years of age, the real training begins which focuses on fitness and speed rather than ‘schooling’ the horse in the conventional way. This training is undertaken alongside another horse to teach the trainee horse how to race but at the same time, it is taught to settle and listen to the jockey.
In peak season, the horse’s weekly exercise regime consists of: two days of fast gallop work with steady trotting or cantering the rest of the week, with a rest day on Sunday’s (depending on races scheduled for the horse).
The most important bodily systems for top athletic performance in racehorses include:
Skeletal system (including bone, tendons and ligaments) problems such as torn or stretched ligaments or tendons or a broken bone will be very painful, inducing lameness and prohibiting performance
Muscles enable the horse to perform. Fatigued or damaged muscles will result in poor performance as the horse cannot generate enough energy and strength to maintain its high performance
Respiratory system (nasal passages, throat and lungs) problems prohibits the normal flow of oxygen through the body, which prohibits the energy required for exercise
Cardiovascular system (heart, blood vessels, volume of blood and red blood cells) problems prohibits the movement of oxygen from the lungs to the muscles, again prohibiting the generation of energy required for exercise.
Central nervous system (CNS) problems can result in the loss of coordination and the fine control that accompanies minor problems to the CNS can significantly prohibit exercise performance
Due to the intense training that racehorses undergo, it is vitally important that their health is continually assessed to diagnose and treat injuries and the jockey allows the horse time to recover from the injury. The most common sites of injury include: forelegs, back and pelvis such as bowed tendon (tendonitis), strained suspensory ligaments, splints, osselets, sesamoid fractures, condylar fractures, knee fractures, bone chips, bucked skins and pin firing. It is vitally important that racehorses are allowed time to rest and heal after an injury. Training or racing a horse whilst injured can be detrimental.
Randox Equine Panel
Randox offer 10 scientifically proven assays for equine health which are made from the same high-quality material as our human assays, providing accurate and precise results. These assays have extensive measuring ranges for the accurate detection of disease or inflammation which are suitable for use with serum, plasma and whole blood. Instrument specific applications (ISA’s) are available for an extensive range of biochemistry analysers suitable for use with manual, semi-automated and fully automated analysers.
The Randox range of assays, suitable for equine use, cover a range of biomarkers:
Adiponectin is used to assess equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) which is characterised by obesity, regional adiposity, insulin resistance, and susceptibility to laminitis. Laminitis is one of the most common causes of lameness in horses. It is a painful and potentially crippling condition, which in severe cases usually results in the horse being humanely euthanised.
Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST) levels directly correlate with the severity of muscle inflammation or damage, or liver damage. The highest levels of AST will be seen around 24hours after muscle injury and persist for 2-3 weeks.
CK-NAC is a sensitive marker for the detection of musculoskeletal diseases; and is useful to assess the extent of severe muscle trauma, crush injuries, and burns and the likelihood of developing rhabdomyolysis.
We wouldn’t be the experts in Equine Health we are without our team of highly knowledgeable and experienced veterinary scientists.
Dr. Sarah Gildea, Senior R&D Scientist at Randox Teoranta in Dungloe, Co. Donegal, Ireland, has a BSc Equine Health, a PhD in Equine Influenza Virus, and spent many years working in the Virology Unit of The Irish Equine Centre prior to joining our team.
‘Randox Diagnostics: Leading the Field in Equine Health’
by Dr. Sarah Gildea BSc PhD, Senior R&D Scientist at Randox
“With over 30 years’ experience, Randox is a leading specialist in the development of veterinary diagnostic solutions. Our extensive product portfolio includes diagnostic reagents, quality controls, external quality assessment (RIQAS) and the Rx series of clinical chemistry analysers which are specifically designed to monitor the general health and well-being of a diverse range of animal species.
“Long established in the equine market, our clinical chemistry analysers provide the largest and most comprehensive test menu available and are used extensively to monitor the health and nutritional status of horses all around the world. In addition, our clinical chemistry tests can also be used for therapeutic drug monitoring, assessing reproductive fitness and as an indirect method in the diagnosis of certain equine diseases/conditions.
“Equine infectious anaemia (EIA) otherwise known as “swamp fever” is a viral disease affecting horses which can cause intermittent fever, anaemia, emaciation and eventual death. Although the disease is not always fatal, infected horses can become disease carriers thus posing a significant risk to other equines. Hence, rapid diagnosis is of fundamental importance. In a study carried out in Romania where the virus is endemic, a novel link between oxidative stress (measuring Total Antioxidant Status, Superoxide Dismutase and Glutathione Peroxidase) and EIA viral infection was established (Bolfă PF et al., 2012). The assessment of oxidative-antioxidative status in blood has also been investigated for a variety of other equine diseases and a correlation between oxidant-antioxidant imbalance and exercised induced pulmonary haemorrhage (Mills and Higgins, 1997), equine motor neuron disease (Delguste et al., 2007), recurrent airway obstruction (Deaton et al., 2006), joint disease (Dimock et al., 2000), endometritis and colic (Krumrych et al., 2013) has been identified. Such findings highlight the broader use of clinical chemistry tests in studying the pathogenesis and pathomechanisms of equine diseases.
“The increased participation of equine athletes in different sports and disciplines has resulted in a rise in the incidence of joint problems, with osteoarthritis now a common finding among performance horses. Similar to all athletes, the equine appendicular skeleton is under extreme pressure when participating in any intense physical training or equestrian events. Although some horses may remain clinically unremarkable, such physical exertion can result in various inflammatory disorders with subsequent increased risk of injury. Analysis of total protein in joint synovial fluid using the Randox Rx series of clinical chemistry analysers plays an important role in the study of equine orthopaedics worldwide and in the identification of appropriate therapeutic tools to enhance healing. The measurement of other well established biomarkers e.g. Total Antioxidant Status, Superoxide Dismutase, Serum Amyloid A and Creatine Kinase in monitoring response to exercise, transport, trauma and stress have all been previously reported using Randox technology and the results well documented in the scientific literature.
“In addition, using our clinical chemistry analysers, the measurement of seminal plasma antioxidant activity has been demonstrated as a useful indicator of semen quality and subsequent reproductive capability in performance stallions. In a study carried out by Härtlová et al., (2013) stallions experiencing induced sport workload stress were found to have higher levels of aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) compared to those without workload stress. A correlation between an increased level of these intracellular enzymes in seminal plasma and defects in the spermatozoa membrane has previously been established (Katila, 2001).
“Randox is also actively involved in the development of tests for the detection of performance enhancing substances in horses. Such testing protects the safety and welfare of these animals and ensures that competitions are won primarily on merit. This testing is performed not only using our innovative Biochip Array Technology but also our Rx series of clinically chemistry analysers. During prolonged strenuous exercise, racehorses can experience acidemia. In an effort to enhance racing performance “bicarbonate loading” by trainers was first identified in the early 1990s and since then some racing authorities have identified a limit of total carbon dioxide (TC02) concentration which is permissible in horses prior to competition. A comparative study carried out in Australia which examined the capability of four clinical chemistry analysers (Beckman Synchron EL-ISE®, Beckman Synchron CX®5, Beckman UniCel DxC®600, Randox DaytonaTM) to measure TC02 in equine plasma reported that the Randox Daytona offered a high degree of accuracy and precision when compared to the gold standard. Of important logistical consideration however, this study identified the Randox Daytona as the only instrument sufficiently “portable” to allow TC02 testing to be carried out not only in a laboratory but also “onsite” at a racetrack in a laboratory vehicle (Jarrett et al., 2010).
“So as you can see – for all your equine needs from general health screening, monitoring response to exercise or injury, identifying suitable therapeutics and their appropriate threshold, studying the pathogenesis and pathomechanisms of certain equine diseases and assessing reproductive fitness – the Randox Rx series offers it all.”
For more information about our work in the area of Equine Health, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Bolfă, PF., et al. (2012) Oxidant-antioxidant imbalance in horses infected with equine infectious anaemia virus . Vet J 2012, 192: 449-454
Deaton, CM., et al (2006) Comparison of the antioxidant status in tracheal and bronchoalveolar epithelial lining fluids in recurrent airway obstruction. Equine Vet J 2006, 38: 417-422
Delguste, C et al., (2007) Change in blood antioxidant status of horses moved from a stable following diagnosis of equine motor neuron disease . Can Vet J 2007, 48: 1165-1167
Dimock, AN., et al (2000) Evidence supporting an increased presence of reactive oxygen species in the diseased equine joint. Equine Vet J 2000, 32: 439-443
Härtlová, H., et al. (2013) Semen quality, lipid peroxidation, and seminal plasma antioxidant status in horses with different intensities of physical exercise. Acta Vet Brno 2013, 82: 031–035
Jarrett, M (2010): Alternative instrumentation for the analysis of total carbon dioxide (TC02) in equine plasma. Anal Bioanal Chem 2010, 397: 717-722
Katila, T (2001): In vitro evaluation of frozen-thawed stallion semen: A review. Acta Vet Scand 2001, 42: 199-217
Krumrych, W., et al. (2013) Oxidant/antioxidant status assessment of blood in selected equine diseases. Bull Vet Inst Pulawy 2013, 57: 225-230
Mills PC and Higgins AJ (1997) Oxidant injury, nitric oxide and pulmonary vascular function: implications for the exercising horse. Vet J 1997, 153: 125-148
Did you know that one of the reasons we entered into partnership with the Jockey Club is because we are experts in the field of Equine Health?
Well now you do!
Not only do we have a history of being involved in equestrian events, (we host the Randox Point-to-Point event for our local community every year, and International Polo Tournaments in both Scotland and Bushmills, on the Causeway Coast of Northern Ireland), but we also have over 34 years’ experience in the diagnostics industry, during which we have developed innovative and accurate diagnostic products for Equine Health.
That may sound complicated but vets, trainers and owners have been working with us for years so that we can help them better understand their horses’ health and wellbeing.
To recognise the importance of what we do, you must know that more than 70% of all medical decisions are based on an analysis of your blood.
Using our innovative blood-science technology we can obtain a comprehensive profile of not only your body’s current health, but also your future health. This is the same for horses!
In the development of our own dedicated Equine Health Programme, we’ve learnt a thing or two. We know that endurance racehorses require extra attention as a result of intense physical exercise, and therefore monitoring what’s going on in their blood is vitally important.
To give an example, monitoring the Total Antioxidant Status of your horse is a sure-fire way to detect whether he or she has suffered muscle cell injury or trauma.
A reduction in the overall antioxidant status of your horse inhibits its body’s defence and monitoring the TAS is therefore an efficient way to identify risk of injury, determine the levels of training required and establish appropriate recovery times to maintain their wellbeing.
If your horse is often transported between locations it’s also important to monitor his or her TAS. The Total Antioxidant Status of a horse may increase after long-haul road transportation, indicating that your horse is stressed.
So, as you can see, you can tell a lot about the health of your horse by looking at what’s going on in their blood. We’re the experts in this area so we can share our knowledge with you, explain the importance of particular biomarkers in observing the health of your horse, and advise you what areas of your horse’s health you should be monitoring if you have particular concerns.
Let’s say for example your horse is undergoing intense training.
We would recommend that you monitor their levels of Superoxide Dismutase. This enzyme can let you know whether they are suffering from any muscle pain, stiffness, joint weakness, loss of muscle strength, stamina and flexibility, amongst other issues. It is important to know whether their current training is regime is benefitting them, or encumbering them.
If injury is suspected, we then advise that you monitor your horse’s levels of Creatine Kinase.
Any damage to your horse’s heart, skeletal muscle or brain tissue will result in a spike of Creatine Kinase in the blood. By monitoring CK, you can determine any muscle trauma, bruising, wasting, abscesses, inflammation, infection and recurring muscle damage.
Laminitis, a painful inflammatory condition of the tissue, is often one of the most concerning conditions for any horse, as historically there has been minimal opportunity to detect the risk or early stages of the disease. Randox Adiponectin, a protein hormone, is now being used in conjunction with other current biomarkers to successfully detect the risk of this disease and allow earlier management of the condition in the aim to remove the risk completely or reduce its life-altering impact.
The importance in monitoring these biomarkers is of course that it enables early treatment, which greatly improves your horse’s prognosis and chances of recovery.
Swift treatment upon diagnosis of trauma ensures that your horse is kept healthy and happy, and our customers agree! We work with a number of key Veterinary Hospitals around the world, including Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, the Official Equine Hospital of the Breeders’ Cup in Lexington, Kentucky, (known as ‘The Horse Capital of the World!), and The Irish Equine Centre in Kildare, Ireland.
Jean Hearn, Biochemistry Lab Manager at The Irish Equine Centre, commented;
“As a long time customer of Randox Laboratories, over thirty years, I feel I am in a good position to offer an opinion on the company. Initially we dealt with Randox for Chemistry Reagents and ELISA kits, as they offered a very good range for us working in the veterinary field. However when they launched their Randox Daytona, we found it to be an essential additional analyser in our laboratory, due to the fact that it was capable of running tests that prior to that we were running with very labour intensive methods. eg various minerals and it also broadened the range of tests we could offer to our customers ,eg. acute phase proteins.
“Support has always been good from Randox and the staff always very pleasant and helpful.”
Of course what your horse eats plays a huge role in their health too.
High quality horse feed is paramount for race horses in particular whose speed, agility and most importantly, health, is dependent on them receiving all the nutrients they require.
Our Randox Food Diagnostics ensures the safety of horse feed by screening the food for harmful mycotoxins which can grow on a variety of different crops including cereals, grains and fruits, and can cause a number of health issues for horses, including problems with fertility, sports performance and malnutrition.
And our work in the racing industry doesn’t stop there.
Our Randox Toxicology division creates custom testing panels for the screening of drugs of abuse, on our patented Randox Biochip Array Technology, which has revolutionised the diagnostics industry by allowing multiple tests to be run simultaneously on a single, undivided patient sample.
Screening for drug abuse amongst jockeys in this way (we currently work with Jockey Clubs around the world including Sha Tin racecourse in Hong Kong) protects the safety of the horses and ensures races are won on the jockeys’ and the animals’ natural abilities.
Hopefully you now have a flavour for the work that we do in the racing and veterinary industries to ensure the health and wellbeing of horses. We hope that through our sponsorship of the Randox Health Grand National we can share our knowledge and expertise in the field of Equine Health, Horse Feed Screening and Jockey Toxicology with the racing fraternity.
Just as we promote a message of preventive health to racing fans, the same applies to the horses we love.
For further information on how we work to keep horses healthy, please contact our Randox PR Team.
T: 028 9445 1016