Survey Results Establish Equine Research Priorities

Veterinarians and horse owners alike consider colic the most important equine health care problem in need of more answers.

Veterinarians and horse owners alike consider colic (gastrointestinal diseases) the most important equine health care problem in need of more answers, according to the results of research surveys conducted in partnership by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Foundation and the American Horse Council (AHC) Foundation.In 2018, AAEP and AHC asked members to complete similar surveys to identify the most pressing disease problems they encounter and to prioritize the importance of specific diseases. Following colic, veterinarians listed lameness, laminitis, osteoarthritis, endometritis, dental issues, lacerations, metabolic conditions, infertility, and pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) as the 10 most common equine medical problems treated in their practices. 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 their most pressing equine health care issues. Owners also prioritized research on pain recognition; information on genetic diseases; and research on nonmedical problems, including horse abuse/neglect, wild horse and burro management, alternative therapies, and the benefits of riding.

Owner survey results corroborated studies by the USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System 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% of owner-problems reported in 2005 and 2015, respectively.

Organizers hope these survey results will help the horse 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 scientists from universities, foundations, and corporations involved in equine research to develop recommendations to increase medical research.

In response to the 2006 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.

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