Equine research grants: 2023-24

ranch horse with cattle

Photo: Christina Weese.

Two equine health research studies, which involve scientists at the WCVM and their collaborators, received financial support from the Townsend Equine Health Research Fund (TEHRF) and the Mark and Pat DuMont Equine Research Fund.

What are effective methods for treating temporomandibular joint disease?
Drs. James Carmalt and Nathalie Reisbig, WCVM

Temporomandibular joint disease (TMD), which causes jaw pain and dysfunction, is a potential cause of poor performance issues in horses participating in competitive sports. Since few researchers have studied this area, treatment is based on individual clinicians’ past experiences or “educated guesses” in the absence of evidence-based information.

WCVM scientists aim to analyze differences in basic cellular metabolism between the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) and hyaline cartilages. Their hypothesis is that the cartilage of equine fibrocartilage-lined synovial structures, such as the TMJ and navicular bursa, responds differently to inflammation and subsequent treatment in comparison to hyaline cartilage joints (such as the fetlock and stifle). The team is also exploring if current treatments for osteoarthritis are effective therapies for TMD. Their findings can assist with further research focused on treating TMD in horses and the relationship between TMD and other joint diseases.

How do iodine-based diets impact the thyroid health of mares and foals?
Dr. Claire Card, WCVM; Dr. Bernard Laarveld, USask College of Agriculture and Bioresources; and Dr. Nadia Cymbaluk (equine health consultant)

Soils and feeds in the Canadian Prairies are deficient in iodine, a nutrient that’s essential for normal thyroid function. When mares don’t have access to adequate iodine levels in their feed during pregnancy, the deficiency can affect the future health of their foals. Specifically, the foals can be born with congenital hypothyroidism dysmaturity syndrome (CHDS) — a devastating disease found in Western Canada that results in the death of newborn foals.

While previous WCVM studies have shown the presence of subclinical thyroid disease in western Canadian horses, the relationship between iodine and thyroid hormone concentrations in mares and foals has not been clarified. In this study, WCVM researchers are continuing their work to determine how low-iodine and iodine-based diets affect the thyroid health of mares and foals. Their findings will help to support nutritional recommendations for iodine supplementation of brood mares.


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