Daily Vet Life: Equine Testing

Veterinarians need to first do a physical exam, then use testing and equine chemistry panels to help with disease diagnoses.
vet taking blood sample from horse for testing
Dr. Nathan Slovis discussed the importance and use of blood tests and chemistry panels. Amy Dragoo Photograpahy

Equine veterinarians should conduct a physical exam first. Following the exam, they can use blood testing and chemistry panels to acquire more information. This will help with disease differentials, said Nathan Slovis, DVM, DACVIM, CHT. Slovis is the Director of the McGee Center and a Member of the Practice of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Kentucky.

Slovis spoke about equine testing at the 2021 AAEP Convention in his presentation “Interpretation of the Chemistry Panel.”

Equine veterinarians should interpret each test of a chemistry panel. With that information, they can determine which organ system is involved.

Among the equine tests he discusses in depth are creatinine and serum amyloid A testing.


Creatinine is created in muscles and excreted in the kidneys. Slovis talks about the value of this test as a marker for kidney function. He said veterinarians can use this test to look at dehydration or an insult to the kidney. “Foals are sometimes born with elevated kidney values,” Slovis advised.

Serum Amyloid A (SAA)

Slovis said serum amyloid A (SAA) can rise quickly compared to other equine chemistry panel markers. That means veterinarians should check for an infectious disease process if SAA is elevated, Slovis said. “So look at the animal closely,” Slovis advised.

Veterinarians like to use SAA to monitor treatment, said Slovis.

Other Equine Tests

Slovis said several universities are offering equine testing beyond biochemistry. He mentions that the University of California, Davis, offers several genetic tests using PCR and DNA technologies.

Serum biochemistry tests just give information for one moment in time. Slovis said, “You should remember that “blood can change over time.”

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