Researchers Examine HERDA Horses’ Eyes

Researchers have identified some important differences between the eyes of horses with and without HERDA.

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What do a horse’s skin and eyes have in common? If the horse is a Quarter Horse, both organs could be affected by a serious genetic condition called HERDA, or hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia. Brazilian researchers recently took a closer look at the impact of HERDA, which up to 3.5% of Quarter Horses might carry the genes for, on affected horses’ eyes.

“HERDA is a recessive condition, which means that for the foal to have HERDA it must have two copies of the abnormal gene—one from the mare and one from the stallion,” said Alexandre Borges, DVM, MSc, PhD, from the Department of Clinical Science, UNESP, Univ Estadual Paulista, Rubião Junior, São Paulo, Brazil.

The genetic anomaly disrupts the production of collagen, which helps maintain connective tissues’ structure and strength. Classic clinical signs include hyperextensible skin, susceptibility to bruising and scarring, and frequent ulcers and/or cuts, especially around the area where a saddle might sit.

“The eyes of horses also contain substantial amounts of collagen, which means that ocular abnormalities that could potentially affect a horse’s vision might develop in affected horses,” Borges said

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Written by:

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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