To Know Is To Care

There’s an old saying that horse owners don’t care what a veterinarian knows until they know that the veterinarian cares.

There’s an old saying that horse owners don’t care what a veterinarian knows until they know that the veterinarian cares. iStock

Do you know what is important to your clients? Healthy horses? That next foal? Successful competitions? Some veterinarians think “what they know” is the most important asset they bring to the table for their clients, and in many ways that is true. But if your clients don’t think you genuinely care for their horses in the way you act and treat those animals (and them), you will never get the chance to show “what you know.” Those clients are less likely to follow your recommendations or even to stay with you as clients.

There’s an old saying that horse owners don’t care what a veterinarian knows until they know that the veterinarian cares.

Once your clients trust you because you have communicated to them that they and their horses matter to you, you can bring your education and experience to the table to meet their horses’ health needs.

Part of your role as the most trusted advisor to horse owners is to stay up to date on the latest research findings important to you and your clients. Another part is to support future discoveries and to share your interest in equine research with horse owners.

This information is brought to you by Morris Animal Foundation.

The list of what is important to you and your clients is long and might differ from vet to vet and owner to owner. However, a sampling could include: behavior, colic, metabolic syndrome, insect-bite allergies, PPID (Cushing’s disease), lameness, OCD in joints and the microbiome of the gut. Other possibilities are: cancer, cardiac issues, better use and understanding of stem cell treatments, equine obesity, equine asthma, deadly viruses and pain management.

What is interesting about the above list is that all of these topics have been supported through research grants by Morris Animal Foundation. As part of its mission, Morris Animal Foundation funds research to improve the lives of horses and those who care for them.

You can use information from Morris Animal Foundation to ensure you are up to date on the latest research, and in turn educate your clients about ongoing research tied to their interests.

Current Research

Morris Animal Foundation has been funding equine research since 1950. The nonprofit has invested more than $20 million into more than 500 equine studies at 70+ research institutions around the world.

In 2020, Morris funded research on:

  • equine asthma at Texas A&M;
  • bone development at the University of Illinois;
  • equine cancer at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil;
  • colic at The Ohio State University;
  • endocrine disease at the University of Minnesota;
  • antimicrobial infections and platelet lysite at the University of Georgia;
  • stem cells and biofilms at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University;
  • EMS at the University of California, Davis; and
  • lameness at the University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom.

Veterinarians also might be interested in following these current studies funded by Morris Animal Foundation and sharing them with clients:

Understanding How Diet Composition Influences Insulin Response in Horses with Equine Metabolic Syndrome, University of Kentucky. Researchers are studying how diet composition affects insulin levels in horses with equine metabolic syndrome as a step toward improving dietary recommendations to control this condition.

Studying Hormonal Disorder and Novel Treatment Strategy, University of Georgia. Researchers are investigating how the immune system impacts the development of the pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction and determine if antioxidant treatments might slow or prevent this hormonal disorder in horses and ponies.

Looking for Genetic Risk Factors for Osteochondrosis, University of Illinois. Researchers are looking for genetic variants associated with the orthopedic disease osteochondrosis as a first step to developing a risk assessment model for horses.

Improving Immunotherapy for Insect-Bite Allergies, University of Bern, Switzerland. Researchers are working to improve immunotherapy (allergy shots) as a treatment and preventive for insect-bite hypersensitivity in horses.

Studying Hormonal Disorder and Novel Treatment Strategy, University of Illinois. Researchers are looking for genetic variants associated with the orthopedic disease osteochondrosis as a first step to developing a risk assessment model for horses.

Developing Health and Well-being Guidelines for Air-Transported Horses, University of Bologna, Italy. Researchers are investigating how horses are managed when transported by air to optimize their welfare, identifying factors that increase or decrease the risk of health and behavioral problems.

Understanding Changes in Gut Microbiome and Health, University of Calgary, Canada. Researchers are studying gut microbiome variation as it relates to the health and wellness of a well-studied group of feral horses living on Sable Island, Canada.

Evaluating a Novel Treatment for Eye Cancer, Colorado State University. Researchers are investigating the efficacy of a novel treatment for ocular surface squamous neoplasia, a type of eye cancer in horses.

Working Toward a Genetic Test for Heart Arrhythmias, University of Minnesota. Researchers are investigating if genetic variants can help identify horses at high risk of developing potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmias.

Improving the Quality and Efficacy of Stem Cell Therapies, Cornell University. Researchers are studying variations in widely used stem cell types to help improve regenerative therapies for horses.

Studying the Effect of Obesity on Reproductive Health, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile. Researchers are determining if being overweight or obese decreases fertility in stallions.

Creating Drug Discovery Tools for Deadly Equine Viruses, National Institute for Communicable Diseases, South Africa. Researchers are establishing a drug discovery process to treat deadly equine viruses, including African horse sickness.

Providing Safer Anesthesia for Endangered Horses, Toronto Zoo, Canada. Researchers are investigating the development of a safer anesthetic technique for

endangered Przewalski’s horses, the last surviving species of wild horse.

Improving Pain Management for Donkeys, Ross University, St. Kitts. Researchers are establishing appropriate administration and dosing of morphine to improve pain relief and management for donkeys.

Equid Behavior

Research on horse behavior is something you didn’t hear much about in the past. However, in recent years, the equine ethogram and other behavior studies are showing how observing and measuring behavior can assist veterinarians and horse owners with pain management, lameness and other issues.

Current research funded by Morris Animal Foundation in the areas of equine behavior includes “Validating a Pain Assessment Tool for Osteoarthritis (OA).” In this study at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, researchers are validating an owner questionnaire designed to help them recognize and monitor the signs of chronic osteoarthritis pain in horses. The goal is to improve care for horses suffering from the condition.

Veterinarians know the pain caused by OA often goes unrecognized by horse owners, which means the condition often goes untreated by veterinarians. Researchers at Utrecht will validate a 15-question survey given to horse owners that will help them learn behavioral signs of pain in their horses. If validated, this tool could help owners (and thus their veterinarians) monitor treatment effectiveness and pain progression over time.

More veterinarians have mules in their patient rosters these days as an aging trail riding community seeks a more reliable and comfortable equid companion. But there is little information on detecting pain in mules, especially following common surgical procedures such as castration. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, will use a Smart Halter to monitor heart rate, respiration and other physical signs in combination with facial expressions (a grimace scale) to help improve pain management and veterinary care.

Take-Home Message

Veterinarians dedicate themselves to learning more about horse health and care every day they practice. When horse owners entrust animals to the care of a veterinarian, they develop not only a business relationship with that person, but a relationship of trust for the animals they own and often treat as part of the family.

Horse owners are hungry to know what is “new” and what is being developed that might be able to help their horses. Veterinarians can better share their knowledge on topics of interest to their clients if they are keeping up to date. Sometimes it can be a comfort just to know that a problem is being researched.

To learn more about Morris Animal Foundation or to become involved in supporting equine research, visit Morris Animal Foundation.

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