In a research study, two blood proteins, fibrinogen and serum amyloid (SAA), that signal inflammatory conditions (illness/injury) were evaluated with respect to their potential to
help veterinarians quickly assess the health status of a horse, especially those horses in training.
The study looked at Thoroughbred horses in race training, where a balance must exist between training to maximize performance with overtraining that can lead to injury and a compromised immune system. Oftentimes, clinical symptoms of a health issue may only become apparent when the increased stress has occurred, so finding a way to determine these underlying problems before there is a significant health issue has become a priority. Most commonly, changes in the white blood cell count (WBC) in a blood sample, as well as the types of white cells that are there, have been used to monitor a horse’s health. Unfortunately, the WBC count can go up and down when the horse is challenged and can show wide variation in healthy horses, making interpretation sometimes difficult. Fibrinogen and SAA, however, seem to show promise in consistently detecting horses with an underlying inflammatory condition, due to some level of illness or injury, as their values tend to rise and fall together.
The positive impact of this is that these two proteins can identify those horses that are having an inflammatory response. The negative aspect is that a test using these two proteins will not identify horses suffering from medical issues that do not cause an inflammatory response.
Fibrinogen and SAA have “excellent potential as biomarkers” and are likely to give more information about conditions that are relevant to horses in training than the WBC count. Currently, there is a stall-side blood analyzer (“Stable Lab”) on the market that uses this very technology to allow a veterinarian to identify a horse whose fibrinogen and SAA are elevated and to monitor the horse’s response to treatment. At the time of this article, the cost of the handheld analyzer and supplies is around $50-$1000 to get started, so this may not be a piece of equipment that every veterinarian will be able to purchase.
Scientific article: H. Anhold, et al. A Comparison of Elevated Blood Parameter Values in a
Population of Thoroughbred Racehorses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 34 (2014) 651-655.
Stable Lab blood analyzer: www.stablelab.com