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In the equine practice, attempts have been made to examine the fetus in the second and third trimester of pregnancy but all of the available methods have limitations. Until now, transabdominal ultrasonography has been regarded as the most informative examination. This method allows us to measure fetal heart rate, fetal activity as well as the quality and quantity of the fetal fluids. A modified biophysical profile for horses was used by several researchers in the USA from the 1990s as a gold standard. However, it is not sensitive enough and, in the authors’ experience, professionals can face difficulties during its application (e.g. for measuring aortic diameter and fetal breathing movements). In cows, this method was first used for this purpose by a Canadian research group in 2007. They reported that transabdominal ultrasound was promising but showed low sensitivity in this species. The present studies show that birth weight cannot be predicted from fetal aortic diameter measurement in cows as suggested by other researchers. Transabdominal ultrasound needs special equipment (2–3.5 MHz convex transducer) and basic ultrasonographic knowledge; however, we suggest that in most cases it can be performed with the dam placed in a stock and without shaving the examination area. The method provides useful information within 30–40 minutes, enabling the examiner to determine whether or not the fetus is alive and to recognise placentitis or twins. This technique also allows measuring the combined thickness of the uteroplacental unit, and the authors’ ongoing study showed higher normal values in Lipizzaner mares compared to values in other breeds. In conclusion, with the help of advanced techniques, simple and low-cost methods should be developed for the evaluation of the pregnant dam and its fetus to assess fetal viability in the veterinary practice.

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Monitoring fetal heart rate (FHR) and fetal heart rate variability (FHRV) helps to understand and evaluate normal and pathological conditions in the foal. The aim of this study was to establish normal heart rate reference values for the ongoing equine pregnancy and to perform a heart rate variability (HRV) time-domain analysis in Lipizzaner mares. Seventeen middle- and late-term (days 121–333) pregnant Lipizzaner mares were examined using fetomaternal electrocardiography (ECG). The mean FHR (P = 0.004) and the standard deviation of FHR (P = 0.012) significantly decreased during the pregnancy. FHR ± SD values decreased from 115 ± 35 to 79 ± 9 bpm between months 5 and 11. Our data showed that HRV in the foal decreased as the pregnancy progressed, which is in contrast with the findings of earlier equine studies. The standard deviation of normal-normal intervals (SDNN) was higher (70 ± 25 to 166 ± 108 msec) than described previously. The root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD) decreased from 105 ± 69 to 77 ± 37 msec between the 5th and 11th month of gestation. Using telemetric ECG equipment, we could detect equine fetal heartbeat on day 121 for the first time. In addition, the large differences observed in the HR values of four mare-fetus pairs in four consecutive months support the assumption that there might be ‘high-HR’ and ‘low-HR’ fetuses in horses. It can be concluded that the analysis of FHR and FHRV is a promising tool for the assessment of fetal well-being but the applicability of these parameters in the clinical setting and in studs requires further investigation.

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The aims of this study were to detect physiological changes in blood biochemical parameters throughout gestation, to compare the findings in nonpregnant and pregnant Lipizzaner mares in early-mid and late pregnancy, and to provide reference values for clinical chemistry parameters in this horse breed. A total of 136 venous blood samples were collected from 20 pregnant and 10 nonpregnant (control) asymptomatic Lipizzaner broodmares for biochemical analyses. Twelve parameters (albumin, total protein, urea, triglycerides, glucose, creatinine, alkaline phosphatase, aspartate transaminase, glutamate dehydrogenase, gammaglutamyltransferase, creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase) were measured. For the statistical analyses, correlation, analysis of variance and Kruskal–Wallis H-test were used to evaluate the possible associations between parameters. Serum triglyceride levels proved to be significantly different in pregnant mares compared to the control group. Total protein and urea levels significantly decreased, while glucose, triglyceride and glutamate dehydrogenase values increased from approx. the fifth month of gestation until parturition. Four biochemical parameters (albumin, aspartate transaminase, total protein and urea) were lower and three other variables (glucose, alkaline phosphatase and creatinine) were significantly higher in late-term pregnant mares than in mares in early or mid-gestation. It is concluded that reference values not only reflect the species, breed and sex but also the reproductive status of animals.

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Transabdominal ultrasonography has been shown to be a useful and reliable method for assessing fetal well-being in horses and cattle. To test the applicability of fetal aortic diameter measurement in cattle, 44 late-term pregnant cows and heifers were examined 21 to 0 days prior to calving. Mean fetal aortic diameter was 2.07 ± 0.14 cm and mean fetal heart rate (FHR) was 109 ± 17 bpm. Three dead calves were dissected and their aortic diameter was measured in a water bath. The mean birth weight (n = 44) was 39.9 ± 5.8 kg. There was a significant negative correlation between FHR and fetal aortic diameter. However, although some studies have shown that fetal aortic diameter strongly correlates with birth weight in near-term horses and cattle, in this study there was no correlation between fetal aortic diameter and birth weight in Holstein-Friesian cows and heifers irrespective of whether the fetus was born alive or dead.

Open access
Acta Veterinaria Hungarica
Authors: Boglárka Vincze, Márta Varga, Orsolya Kutasi, Petra Zenke, Ottó Szenci, Ferenc Baska, Alan Bartels, Sándor Spisák, Sándor Cseh, and Norbert Solymosi

Abstract

Equine grass sickness (also known as dysautonomia) is a life-threatening polyneuropathic disease affecting horses with approx. 80% mortality. Since its first description over a century ago, several factors, such as the phenotype, intestinal microbiome, environment, management and climate, have been supposed to be associated with the increased risk of dysautonomia. In this retrospective study, we examined the possible involvement of genetic factors. Medical and pedigree datasets regarding 1,233 horses with 49 affected animals born during a 23-year period were used in the analysis. Among the descendants of some stallions, the proportion of animals diagnosed with dysautonomia was unexpectedly high. Among males, the odds of dysautonomia were found to be higher, albeit not significantly, than among females. Significant familial clustering (genealogical index of familiality, P = 0.001) was observed among the affected animals. Further subgroups were identified with significant (P < 0.001) aggregation among close relatives using kinship-based methods. Our analysis, along with the slightly higher disease frequency in males, suggests that dysautonomia may have a genetic causal factor with an X-linked recessive inheritance pattern. This is the first study providing ancestry data and suggesting a heritable component in the likely multifactorial aetiology of the disease.

Open access
Acta Veterinaria Hungarica
Authors: Csaba Attila Kósa, Krisztina Nagy, Ottó Szenci, Boglárka Baska-Vincze, Emese Andrásofszky, Róbert Szép, Ágnes Keresztesi, Mircea Mircean, Marian Taulescu, and Orsolya Kutasi

Abstract

A severe form of recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis occurs enzootically in a well-defined region of Transylvania, Harghita county. At the highest lying two settlements (more than 800 m above sea level), the prevalence of equine rhabdomyolysis is between 17 and 23%, while in the neighbouring villages in the valley it is less than 2%. The objective of our study was to clarify the role of selenium and vitamin E in the high prevalence of rhabdomyolysis in that region. Soil and hay samples were collected from each area to evaluate mineral content. Ten horses from the non-affected and 20 horses from the affected area were tested for serum selenium, vitamin E, glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px), muscle enzymes, lactate and electrolytes. Hay samples collected from the affected area had lower selenium content. Horses in the affected regions had significantly lower serum selenium (P = 0.006) and GSH-Px levels than animals living in the non-affected regions. A good correlation between erythrocyte GSH-Px and serum selenium concentration could be demonstrated (r = 0.777, P < 0.001). Serum vitamin E levels were low independently of the origin of the horse. Based on our results, selenium deficiency possibly has a role in the Transylvanian enzootic equine recurrent rhabdomyolysis syndrome.

Open access
Acta Veterinaria Hungarica
Authors: Csaba Attila Kósa, Krisztina Nagy, Ottó Szenci, Boglárka Baska-Vincze, Emese Andrásofszky, Róbert Szép, Ágnes Keresztesi, Mircea Mircean, Marian Taulescu, and Orsolya Kutasi

Abstract

A severe form of recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis occurs enzootically in a well-defined region of Transylvania, Harghita county. At the highest lying two settlements (more than 800 m above sea level), the prevalence of equine rhabdomyolysis is between 17 and 23%, while in the neighbouring villages in the valley it is less than 2%. The objective of our study was to clarify the role of selenium and vitamin E in the high prevalence of rhabdomyolysis in that region. Soil and hay samples were collected from each area to evaluate mineral content. Ten horses from the non-affected and 20 horses from the affected area were tested for serum selenium, vitamin E, glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px), muscle enzymes, lactate and electrolytes. Hay samples collected from the affected area had lower selenium content. Horses in the affected regions had significantly lower serum selenium (P = 0.006) and GSH-Px levels than animals living in the non-affected regions. A good correlation between erythrocyte GSH-Px and serum selenium concentration could be demonstrated (r = 0.777, P < 0.001). Serum vitamin E levels were low independently of the origin of the horse. Based on our results, selenium deficiency possibly has a role in the Transylvanian enzootic equine recurrent rhabdomyolysis syndrome.

Open access