Colic was listed as the most important equine health concern in a survey of veterinarians and horse owners. Several other diseases were listed as pressing concerns on the list, which officials hope will be used to establish equine research priorities.
In 2018, the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Foundation and American Horse Council (AHC) Foundation asked members of each organization to identify the most pressing equine disease problems they encounter. Survey participants were also asked to prioritize the importance of specific diseases.
Following colic, veterinarians listed lameness, laminitis, osteoarthritis, endometritis, dental, lacerations, metabolic, infertility and Equine Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID) as the 10 most common equine medical problems treated in their practice.
These results resembled those of the AAEP’s 2009 membership survey, which identified laminitis, colic, arthritis, tendon injuries and navicular disease as the diseases in most need of research.
When asked to rank technical areas in need of research, veterinarians listed horse-side tests, regenerative medicine, podiatry, exercise physiology, vaccines and imaging as the top six.
Among horse owners, infectious diseases and musculoskeletal diseases followed colic/gastrointestinal/liver issues as the most pressing equine health care issues. Owners also prioritized research on pain recognition; information on genetic diseases; and research on non-medical problems, including horse abuse/neglect, wild horse and burro management, alternative therapies and the benefits of riding.
Owner survey results corroborated studies by the National Animal Health Monitoring System at the United States Department of Agriculture on horse operations in the United States in 2005 and 2015. Injury (trauma/wounds), lameness and colic were the most common problems occurring at horse operations, totaling 51.6% and 53.4% or problems reported in 2005 and 2015, respectively.
Results of these surveys are intended to help the equine industry direct financial support of equine research projects, the need for which remains high. One possible consideration is reconvening a Research Summit, which in 2006 assembled research scientists from universities, foundations and corporations involved in equine research to develop recommendations to increase medical research.
In response to the summit’s top recommendation of increasing funding by creating a uniform message for owner education about the cost and benefits of research, the AAEP Foundation with assistance from the Equine Research Coordination Group created position papers aimed at increasing public awareness of the need for equine research. Other summit recommendations included increasing collaboration among researchers and funding for graduate student stipends to train future researchers.
Official say that regardless of how the industry addresses the funding issue, only through a cooperative effort and increased resources will research significantly improve horse health.
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