Renal Disease in Horses: Common Necropsy Findings

The equine kidney has a vital role in overall health, but a variety of disease processes can impair renal function.
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renal disease in horses
The equine kidney has a vital role in overall health, but a variety of disease processes can impair renal function. | Photo: Erica Larson/The Horse

Renal function is an important component of overall health in any species. The kidneys perform several important functions, including removing waste, maintaining electrolyte balance and blood pressure, supplying calcium for bone health, and producing factors for red blood cell stimulation, to name a few. In addition, the kidneys receive substantial blood flow—approximately 25% of the cardiac output. Therefore, changes in blood flow, either increased or decreased, can have a significant impact on renal health.

Equine necropsy cases—including fetuses, foals, and adults—submitted to the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (UKVDL) over an eight-year period (2010-2018) were queried for diagnoses related to renal pathology.

Of the 10,541 submissions, 3.6% (386) had some type of renal pathology. Of those diagnoses, renal lesions were determined to be primary in 38% of cases (148), secondary to another process in 55% of cases (211), or incidental in 7% of cases (27)

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