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Our Research Evolves to Keep Horses Healthy

Did you know there are an estimated 9 million horses living in the United States and that 2 million people here own horses?

Horses have captured the imaginations of humans for thousands of years, and since their domestication about 6,000 years ago, horses have become intimately associated with people. 

Despite their close relationships with us, horses have diseases that are unique to their species. This poses challenges for equine research scientists. Funding for equine health studies is scarce because the results aren’t often directly applicable to other species, including humans.

Morris Animal Foundation has been providing funding for equine research since 1959, allowing equine scientists to address the health problems of these unique animals. Historically, areas of study have included nutrition, genetics and orthopedic problems. Recent research includes several projects focused on infectious diseases, including foal pneumonia, a devastating disease of newborn foals. Morris Animal Foundation has invested more than $1 million to find a solution to this problem. 

We also have remained very active in the area of equine genetics, and our Equine Consortium for Genetics Research helped scientists develop a diagnostic test for lavender foal syndrome, a genetic disease in which the newborn foal cannot stand. Current studies are investigating breed predispositions to a number of other diseases, including equine metabolic syndrome and laminitis. 

Laminitis, a painful condition of the hoof, affects nearly 20 percent of horses in their lifetimes. Oftentimes, no effective treatment is available to stop the pain. Since 1971, Morris Animal Foundation has been funding studies to examine the causes of and develop treatments for this debilitating equine disease. 

The study of equine health has advanced along with the evolution of the horse’s relationship with people. Instead of pulling carriages and plows, horses may work as therapy animals. Instead of drawing chariots, they are cherished companion animals.

Regardless of how horses’ roles in our lives change, Morris Animal Foundation will continue to provide a means for devoted equine scientists to enhance the health and quality of life for these magnificent animals. Please consider helping horses this holiday season.

By Kelly J. Diehl, DVM, MS, DACVIM


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December 19, 2014