Focus on Gut Health in Horses: Current Research and Approaches

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Equids".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 February 2024) | Viewed by 12716

Special Issue Editors

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Equine Sciences, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 104, 3584 CM Utrecht, The Netherlands
Interests: equine internal medicine; equine dermatology; equine gastrointestinal problems
Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 104, 3584 CM Utrecht, The Netherlands
Interests: veterinary medicine; internal medicine of companion animals; cartilage and pituitary diseases; comparative hepatology; veterinary regenerative medicine
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Problems related to the equine gastrointestinal tract, such as EGUS, colic, enteritis, and diarrhea, are a common reason for veterinary consultation and may be associated with significant morbidity and mortality. To better understand these problems we need to increase/expand our knowledge of the (patho)physiology of the GI tract, including the interaction with the gut microbiome, infectious agents, and nutrition, with the ultimate goal of improving our ability to diagnose and manage these problems/diseases. Both the normal/healthy situation and disease need to be studied. This increase in understanding can be achieved through studying naturally occurring disease in horses, determining reference ranges or the effect of changes/interventions in healthy animals/horses, but also through in vitro studies in which different aspects of GI (patho)physiology can be modelled.

Dr. Robin Van den Boom
Dr. Louis C. Penning
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • equine/horse
  • nutrition
  • microbiome
  • gut
  • gastrointestinal tract
  • EGUS
  • colic
  • organoids
  • models
  • gastric health

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

15 pages, 980 KiB  
Article
Risk Factors for Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome Incidence in Adult Icelandic Riding Horses
Animals 2023, 13(22), 3512; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13223512 - 14 Nov 2023
Viewed by 2359
Abstract
A high prevalence of both squamous (ESGD) and glandular (EGGD) ulcers was previously found in, mainly young, Icelandic horses coming into training for the first time. This study evaluated risk factors for gastric ulcers in Icelandic riding horses at various ages and stages [...] Read more.
A high prevalence of both squamous (ESGD) and glandular (EGGD) ulcers was previously found in, mainly young, Icelandic horses coming into training for the first time. This study evaluated risk factors for gastric ulcers in Icelandic riding horses at various ages and stages of training. The horses (n = 211) were gastroscoped from 21 equine establishments across Iceland. A variety of morphometric, clinical, behavioural and management factors were evaluated as potential risk factors for gastroscopically significant (grade ≥ 2/4: found in 27% of horses) or gastroscopically severe (grade 3 or 4/4: found in ~10% of horses) ESGD or gastroscopically significant EGGD (grade ≥ 1/2: found in 46.4%). Body condition score (BCS), cresty neck score (CNS), stable/turnout behaviour, exercise intensity/frequency and age were not significantly associated with ESGD or EGGD ulcer score. However, having come off the pasture into training for 4 weeks or less was a significant risk factor for gastroscopically significant and severe ESGD compared to 5 weeks or more. For both EGGD and ESGD, “region” was important. Gastroscopically significant EGGD and gastroscopically severe ESGD were more prevalent in those showing clinical signs often associated with ulcers. Geldings were more likely to have gastroscopically significant ESGD than both mares and stallions and more EGGD than stallions. Being stabled, but spending >2 h/day out in the paddock, compared with <2 h paddock time or full-time turnout, was protective for gastroscopically significant ESGD as was being fed complementary feed (all fed <1 g non-structural carbohydrate (NSC)/kg/BW/meal). Being at a training establishment for >4 weeks was protective for gastroscopically significant and gastroscopically severe ESGD but not EGGD. This study confirms the relatively low prevalence of ESGD in Icelandic horses being kept in training establishments and fed low NSC diets but highlights the high prevalence of EGGD. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Focus on Gut Health in Horses: Current Research and Approaches)
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15 pages, 2838 KiB  
Article
Histological Evaluation of Resected Tissue as a Predictor of Survival in Horses with Strangulating Small Intestinal Disease
Animals 2023, 13(17), 2715; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13172715 - 26 Aug 2023
Viewed by 694
Abstract
Strangulating small intestinal disease (SSID) in horses carries a poor prognosis for survival, especially following resection of ischaemic tissue. The margins of a resection are principally based on visual appraisal of the intestine during surgery. We hypothesized that histological evaluation of resected tissue [...] Read more.
Strangulating small intestinal disease (SSID) in horses carries a poor prognosis for survival, especially following resection of ischaemic tissue. The margins of a resection are principally based on visual appraisal of the intestine during surgery. We hypothesized that histological evaluation of resected tissue may identify occult changes indicative of prognosis. Small intestinal samples from 18 horses undergoing resection for SSID and 9 horses euthanised for reasons unrelated to gastrointestinal pathology were utilised. Histological appearance was used to generate a ‘total damage score’ (TDS) for the control tissue, grossly normal tissue at oral and aboral extremities (sections OR1 and AB1) of the resected intestine, and oral and aboral extremities of visually abnormal tissue (sections OR2 and AB2) from SSID horses. The relationship between TDS and long-term post-operative survival was investigated. TDS was not different between control tissues and OR1 and AB1 sections. Five surgical cases were alive at follow-up, the longest follow-up time being 2561 days. Based on the median scores for SSID cases versus controls, cut-off values were generated to evaluate post-operative survival versus TDS. Only OR2 TDS was significantly associated with survival, with a higher (worse) score indicating longer survival. More severe tissue insult may expedite rapid progression to surgery, improving post-operative outcomes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Focus on Gut Health in Horses: Current Research and Approaches)
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21 pages, 603 KiB  
Article
Protein Evaluation of Feedstuffs for Horses
Animals 2023, 13(16), 2624; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13162624 - 14 Aug 2023
Viewed by 754
Abstract
The German Society of Nutrition Physiology has proposed a new protein evaluation system for horse feeds to estimate pre-cecally digestible crude protein (pcdCP) and amino acids (pcdAA) from chemical properties. A total of 71 feeds for horses were chemically tested and evaluated according [...] Read more.
The German Society of Nutrition Physiology has proposed a new protein evaluation system for horse feeds to estimate pre-cecally digestible crude protein (pcdCP) and amino acids (pcdAA) from chemical properties. A total of 71 feeds for horses were chemically tested and evaluated according to the new protein evaluation system. A feeding trial with eight horses tested whether differences in estimated pcdAA and neutral detergent soluble CP (NDSCP) in the diet were reflected by post-prandial (ppr) kinetics of plasma lysine (Lys) by feeding a complementary feed (control = CTRL) with 1.02 g Lys/100 kg body weight (BW) as well as three diets with 3.02 g Lys/100 kg BW, as follows: (i) CTRL with synthetic AA (CTRL + synAA); (ii) CTRL with soybean meal (CTRL + SBM); and (iii) lucerne pellets (LUC). In comparison to CTRL, the areas of curves (AUCs) of ppr plasma Lys differed: CTRL < CTRL + SBM (p < 0.01) < CTRL + synAA (p < 0.05). For 71 feeds, the estimated pcdCP was correlated with the CP content (p < 0.001), NDSCP (p < 0.001), and ash-free neutral detergent fiber (p < 0.001). A mean neutral detergent insoluble CP content of at least 3–5% can be assumed in horse feed. It is speculated that the predicted availability of Lys from LUC seems to be underestimated by the new protein evaluating system. The influence of chewing and microbiota in vivo needs to be considered in horses. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Focus on Gut Health in Horses: Current Research and Approaches)
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11 pages, 1727 KiB  
Article
Effects of Bit Chewing on Gastric Emptying, Small Intestinal Transit, and Orocecal Transit Times in Clinically Normal Horses
Animals 2023, 13(15), 2518; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13152518 - 04 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1016
Abstract
Ileus is a common life-threatening problem in horses, and currently available treatments may be ineffective. The purpose of this study was to determine whether bit chewing, a form of sham feeding, decreases the gastric emptying time (GET), small intestinal transit time (SITT), and [...] Read more.
Ileus is a common life-threatening problem in horses, and currently available treatments may be ineffective. The purpose of this study was to determine whether bit chewing, a form of sham feeding, decreases the gastric emptying time (GET), small intestinal transit time (SITT), and total orocecal transit time (OCTT) in clinically normal horses in a prospective crossover study. Nine healthy horses were acclimated and fed a standardized diet. Following 24 h of fasting, self-contained video endoscopy capsules and acetaminophen were administered into the stomach via a nasogastric tube. Each horse underwent experimental (bit chewing for 20 min every 6 h) or control (no bit chewing) conditions, with a 3-week minimum washout period between conditions. The horses were enrolled in either part of the study until all video capsules were retrieved and/or 30 days lapsed. The video capsules were recovered from manure, and GET, SITT, and OCTT were determined from a video analysis. Bit chewing significantly decreased OCTT (p = 0.015) compared to the control conditions. Bit chewing decreased GET and SITT, but the differences were not significant. The mean (median) times determined via the video capsule analysis for the bit-chewing conditions were as follows: GET, 2.34 h (2.86 h); SITT, 3.22 h (3.65 h); and OCTT, 5.13 h (6.15 h), and for the control conditions, they were as follows: GET, 3.93 h (5 h); SITT, 3.79 h (4.4 h); and OCTT, 8.02 h (9.92 h). Bit chewing decreased OCTT in healthy horses. Because this segment of the gastrointestinal tract is frequently affected by ileus, bit chewing may be a safe and inexpensive intervention for that condition in horses. Further investigation in clinical patients with ileus is warranted. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Focus on Gut Health in Horses: Current Research and Approaches)
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15 pages, 1387 KiB  
Article
The Effect of Dietary Synbiotics in Actively Racing Standardbred Horses Receiving Trimethoprim/Sulfadiazine
Animals 2023, 13(14), 2344; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13142344 - 18 Jul 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 766
Abstract
Synbiotics are often provided to horses receiving antibiotics to protect against microbiome disturbances, despite a lack of evidence for efficacy. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of a synbiotic product in horses receiving antibiotics. Sixteen actively racing Standardbred horses [...] Read more.
Synbiotics are often provided to horses receiving antibiotics to protect against microbiome disturbances, despite a lack of evidence for efficacy. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of a synbiotic product in horses receiving antibiotics. Sixteen actively racing Standardbred horses were randomly allocated (four-way crossover) to one of four groups: antibiotics (10 days; AB), synbiotics (28 days; PROBIOPlusTM; PBP), PBP + AB, or Control. The fecal microbiome was investigated using 16S rRNA sequencing, and fecal dry matter (DM; %), pH, and scores (FS; 0–9) were measured. Data were analyzed with two-way ANOVA. Results found microbiota differences in community membership between PBP + AB and all other treatments during and after antibiotic treatment. During antibiotic treatment, AB and PBP + AB were significantly different from Control. After antibiotic treatment, PBP + AB was significantly different from all other treatments. The few differences found in relative abundance of phyla or predominant genera were mostly in fiber degrading bacteria. The Fibrobacter population was significantly higher in AB and PBP + AB horses than Control. Unclassified Ruminococcaceae was significantly higher in Control than AB and PBP. After antibiotic treatment, PBP + AB horses were significantly higher than PBP horses. In conclusion, these data provide support for the ability of PROBIOPlus™ to maintain healthy gastrointestinal microbiome during antibiotic treatment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Focus on Gut Health in Horses: Current Research and Approaches)
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12 pages, 655 KiB  
Article
Horse Grimace Scale Does Not Detect Pain in Horses with Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome
Animals 2023, 13(10), 1623; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13101623 - 12 May 2023
Viewed by 2993
Abstract
Equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) is a highly prevalent and presumptively painful condition, although the amount of pain horses might experience is currently unknown. The aims of this study were to determine if the Horse Grimace Scale (HGS) could identify pain behaviours in [...] Read more.
Equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) is a highly prevalent and presumptively painful condition, although the amount of pain horses might experience is currently unknown. The aims of this study were to determine if the Horse Grimace Scale (HGS) could identify pain behaviours in horses with and without EGUS and if severity would be positively associated with the HGS score. Horse grimace scale scores were assessed blindly using facial photographs by seven observers and involved evaluation of 6 facial action units as 0 (not present), 1 (moderately present) and 2 (obviously present). Lameness examination, serum amyloid A (SAA) measurement and gastroscopy evaluation were performed on all horses. Horses (n = 61) were divided into two and three groups based on the presence (yes, no) and severity (none, mild, moderate-severe) of EGUS, respectively. Presence of lameness and elevated SAA (≥50 µg/mL) were used as exclusion criteria. Inter-observer reliability was analyzed by intra-class correlation coefficients (ICC). HGS scores between groups were compared using Welch’s and Brown Forsythe tests (p < 0.05). Overall, HGS ICC was “excellent” (0.75). No significant differences (p = 0.566) were observed in HGS scores between horses with and without gastric lesions (mean, 95% CI; 3.36, 2.76–3.95 and 3, 1.79–4.20, respectively). HGS was not influenced by the presence or severity of EGUS in this current study. Further studies investigating the use of different pain scales in horses with EGUS are needed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Focus on Gut Health in Horses: Current Research and Approaches)
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15 pages, 922 KiB  
Article
Short-Term Survival and Postoperative Complications Rates in Horses Undergoing Colic Surgery: A Multicentre Study
Animals 2023, 13(6), 1107; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13061107 - 20 Mar 2023
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2202
Abstract
The occurrence of colic could be influenced by the characteristics of a population, geographical area, and feeding management. The aim of this study was to report the short-term postoperative complications and survival rates and to identify factors that might affect the outcome of [...] Read more.
The occurrence of colic could be influenced by the characteristics of a population, geographical area, and feeding management. The aim of this study was to report the short-term postoperative complications and survival rates and to identify factors that might affect the outcome of horses that underwent colic surgery in three Italian surgical referral centres. Data of horses subjected to colic surgery in three referral centres (2018–2021) were analysed. Comparisons of the outcomes were performed using a Mann–Whitney or a Chi square test. Areas under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve and multivariable logistic regression analysis were used for parameters that were significant in the previous univariate analysis. The goodness-of-fit of the model was assessed using the Akike information criterion (AIC). Significance was defined as p < 0.05, and odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated as percentages. A total of 451 horses were included. The survival rate was 68.5% of all of the horses that underwent colic surgery and 80% of the horses surviving anaesthesia. Age, BCS, PCV and TPP before and after surgery, amount of reflux, type of disease, type of lesion, duration of surgery, surgeon’s experience, and amount of intra- and postoperative fluids administered influenced the probability of short-term survival. The multivariate analysis revealed that PCV at arrival, TPP after surgery, and BCS had the highest predictive power. This is the first multicentre study in Italy. The results of this study may help surgeons to inform owners regarding the prognosis of colic surgery. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Focus on Gut Health in Horses: Current Research and Approaches)
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16 pages, 3610 KiB  
Article
Dexmedetomidine Has Differential Effects on the Contractility of Equine Jejunal Smooth Muscle Layers In Vitro
Animals 2023, 13(6), 1021; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13061021 - 10 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1289
Abstract
α2 agonists are frequently used in horses with colic, even though they have been shown to inhibit gastrointestinal motility. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of dexmedetomidine on small intestinal in vitro contractility during different phases of ischaemia. Experimental [...] Read more.
α2 agonists are frequently used in horses with colic, even though they have been shown to inhibit gastrointestinal motility. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of dexmedetomidine on small intestinal in vitro contractility during different phases of ischaemia. Experimental segmental jejunal ischaemia was induced in 12 horses under general anaesthesia, and intestinal samples were taken pre-ischaemia and following ischaemia and reperfusion. Spontaneous and electrically evoked contractile activity of the circular and longitudinal smooth muscles were determined in each sample with and without the addition of dexmedetomidine. During a second experiment, tetrodotoxin was added to determine if the effect was neurogenic. We found that the circular smooth muscle (CSM) contractility was not affected by ischaemia, whereas the longitudinal smooth muscle (LSM) showed an increase in both spontaneous and induced contractile activity. The addition of dexmedetomidine caused a decrease in the spontaneous contractile activity of CSM, but an increase in that of LSM, which was not mediated by the enteric nervous system. During ischaemia, dexmedetomidine also mildly increased the electrically induced contractile activity in LSM. These results may indicate a stimulatory effect of dexmedetomidine on small intestinal contractility. However, the influence of dexmedetomidine administration on intestinal motility in vivo needs to be further investigated. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Focus on Gut Health in Horses: Current Research and Approaches)
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