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UF Equine Performance Laboratory

Horse on the treadmill

Drug studies include:

  • Common medications that are cited as having performance-altering potential, but for which the elimination time is unknown.
  • Medications for which the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering wishes to write rules for use in racing horses.
  • Drugs for which the Racing Laboratory is improving detection techniques.
  • Any medication or compound which may have regulatory importance, but about which scientific information is lacking.

Funding for these studies has come from:

  • The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium
  • The American Quarterhorse Foundation
  • University of Florida Development funds
  • Private contributors to UF for the support of race horse research
  • The Pari-Mutuel Wagering Competitive grants fund
  • NIH

Equine Reproduction Laboratory

brown colt

Mares with Placentitis

Work in our laboratory has focused on effective treatments for mares experiencing placentitis. Most recently, we have treated mares with different antibiotics to determine if the drugs will combat bacterial infections of the placenta in mares. Cephalosporins are an antibiotic class that is highly effective against many types of bacteria in horses, including those that cause placentitis. We are determining if both a daily administered cephalosporin antibiotic (ceftiofur sodium, Naxcel) and a long-acting cephalosporin antibiotic (ceftiofur crystalline free acid, Excede) cross the placenta in mares and reduce placental infection. Our goal is to verify that these drugs are effective for treating mares with placentitis as they are commonly used in practice.

Fertility problems in breeding stallions

Fertility problems in breeding stallions cause significant financial losses in the equine industry. Currently, available treatments of testicular dysfunctions in stallions on semen quality have low efficacy. There are numerous new developments in this area in human medicine, but few preliminary studies conducted on normal stallions did not show any significant effects of these treatments on semen parameters. In order to increase our chances for success in future studies on medical treatment of this condition, our laboratory has recently established  a model of testicular degeneration in stallions, using a new candidate for male contraceptive, RTI-4587-073(l).

A single administration of this compound to the miniature horse stallions severely affected testicular function and structure, which was consistent with testicular degeneration. Currently, we are planning to use this model to conduct a study on the effectiveness of a combined treatment with pentoxifylline and Vitamin E in improving testicular function in stallions with testicular degeneration. We have already shown that a long-term treatment with pentoxifylline improves testicular perfusion in stallions. In addition, a combined treatment with pentoxifylline and antioxidants has beneficial effects in both men and women with fertility problems. Therefore, we expect that this treatment will have positive effects on testicular function in stallions with medically induced testicular degeneration.

The value of the proposed research is particularly high for the Thoroughbred industry, since only natural breeding is allowed in this breed, and a breeding stallion is expected to deposit good quality semen into the mare’s reproductive tract. Therefore, therapies for testicular dysfunctions in these stallions have to be administered to the animal itself, and not to semen, which was collected from him. The proposal of this project was recently submitted to the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation for funding.

Neonatal Intensive Care Research

neonatal foal; vets caring for foal

The use of antiulcer medication in the neonatal intensive care unit (ICU) is common due to the concern for development of catastrophic gastric ulcer disease. In man, however, the use of acid-suppressive medication has been shown in some studies to be a substantial risk factor for the development of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD), bacteraemia and neonatal sepsis. The purpose of the study reported herein is to evaluate the influence of antiulcer medications on the development of diarrhea in the neonatal foal. We hypothesize that the use of antiulcer medication does not alter the incidence of diarrhea in foals treated in an ICU.

Island Whirl Equine Colic Research Laboratory

chris sanchez with horse

Gastic ulcer disease is reported to be a significant cause of morbidity in foals. But the prevalence of ulcers in this population has not recently been evaluated. Our objective is to determine the prevalence of gastric and duodenal ulceration in nonsurviving foals, and the association of ulceration with body system of primary diagnosis. Secondary objectives were to evaluate a potential association between age and ulcer prevalence and to evaluate the use of antacid medication in the neonatal hospital population during the study years.

Dr. David Freeman has an interest in improving longterm survival after small intestinal surgery in horses, because horses with colic from small intestinal diseases typically have high complication rates and low survival rates. Scientific publications from UF have demonstrated methods that can achieve higher survival rates, lower complication rates, and better longterm survival rates for this type of colic surgery than reported previously. In fact, recent published data from UF has shown that the rate of common postoperative complications, such as postoperative ileus, can be decreased from the 40% or more reported by others to less than 10%. This improvement reduces the cost of colic surgery for owners and improves longterm survival rates in horses. Dr. Freeman has shown that longterm survival after surgery for small intestinal colic can be 1.3 to 125 times longer than reported previously by other renowned colic centers in the US and Europe. The next step is to determine what factors play a dominant role in survival after small intestinal surgery. The type of surgery required, the age of the horse, and the actual disease affecting the small intestine all appear to play important roles.

Intravenous fluid therapy is a lifesaving treatment in horses with diarrhea, colic, shock and dehydration, and provides the necessary water and electrolytes to replace those lost in these diseases. It is also used in less critical situations, as in horses in the recovery phase or with a mild disease, that can only receive water and electrolytes by the intravenous route under the prevailing conditions. The minimum dose of fluid that is given intravenously to horses is called the maintenance requirement, and volumes of fluids used for correcting fluid losses or providing daily needs are based on this. However, the maintenance requirement was established on fed horses, and early research findings by Dr. David Freeman and colleagues have shown that fed horses need 5 times more water than a horse that is not fed. Most horses with gastrointestinal tract and other diseases are either unwilling to eat or are denied food to allow the intestines to recover, and therefore have considerably lower needs for water than those values established in fed horses. The goal of this research is to guide intravenous fluid therapy to a safer, more effective, and less costly rate of administration in many horses that require this treatment. A volume reduction in delivery of a very expensive treatment, such as fluid therapy, could reduce the growing list of complications caused by excessive intravenous fluids, and make fluid therapy safer and more affordable so that we can save more horses’ lives.

FARMS Research

FARMS Service Research Mission statement: To foster an environment of academic excellence and rigorous scientific training; this provides a supportive, diverse and cooperative community for graduate students, house-officers and faculty.

black and white cows in field

Focus groups/areas of research

  • Population health, disease, prevention & epidemiology
  • Production, reproduction & animal well-being
  • Neonatal health & disease
  • Bioinformatics & applied proteomics
  • Translational research

Research themes

  • Production, reproduction, and epidemiology
  • Population health, bioinformatics, and applied proteomics
  • Livestock health, welfare, prevention, and disease