Research with animals involving vaccines, orthopedics, ulcer medications and much more benefit horses. Let me tell you about my horse Louie.

Louie is now a 17-year-old overo paint gelding that was bought as a 6-month-old stud colt to breed my paint mare to and use as a stud for other farms. He is beautiful. I knew at first sight his marking would produce amazing color in his foals.

He was bred to my overo paint mare after he matured. Her color and markings combined with his was a guaranteed beauty! I woke up one morning to check on the mare who was showing signs of labor coming soon.

Red Eyes and Colic

Upon entry of the stall, my heart sunk. I saw a solid white colt, red eyes and showing signs of colic. If you breed horses, you know the feeling. I knew my two overo horses gave me a lethal white overo (LWO) syndrome colt. Affected foals are all white and born with an underdeveloped intestinal tract, which leads to problems defecating and eventually severe colic.

Without research, we would have never known what caused this colt to present colic symptoms or that my stallion was a carrier of the gene. A mutation in the endothelin receptor B (EDNRB) gene causes LWO. A DNA test is available that will detect the mutation, or “O” allele, which in homozygotes causes LWO.

It was decided to have the stallion gelded to prevent any further issues with the mutation being bred out. Gelding a horse includes the use of anesthetics and analgesics we commonly use in research to prevent any pain during and after the procedure. Biomedical research with animals was necessary to develop these medications.

Mud Fever

Louie has also encountered a few issues of what’s called “mud fever,” which is a bacterial (sometimes bacterial and fungal) infection on the horse’s skin. This is caused by wet muddy areas in the spring season. The condition is more common on the hind legs and tends to affect the back of the pastern, causing an inflamed and scabby area that may or may not be itchy or painful. A common treatment for this issue, if minor, is washing the area with the common laboratory surgical scrub chlorhexidine and keeping the area dry and clean.

Louie has enjoyed an amazing life complete with green pastures, trail rides and camping trips that have filled his life up with much joy. He maintains a happy and healthy life with the assistance of a routine parasite control program, vaccines and equine health and wellness management practices. These health management programs for horses would not exist today if it wasn’t for animal research to help benefit Louie’s health!

Ashley works for the University of Michigan Animal Care & Use Office. Look out for an upcoming FBR Real Pet Stories article about Ashley’s dog Rip.  

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