Commentary: The Importance of Identifying the Cause of Equine Abortions

It’s critical that owners and breeding farms send aborted foals to a veterinary diagnostic laboratory, even if the cause of abortion appears obvious. Here’s why.

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identifying the cause of equine abortions
When breeders fail to submit abortions to veterinary diagnostic laboratories, it becomes more difficult to spot trends and, in turn, becomes more difficult to identify and respond to emerging threats. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Late-term abortion is one of the most devastating issues horse breeders face. Every pregnancy represents a labor of love with a substantial amount of time, energy, and money put into achieving the perfect foal. Every pregnancy loss raises questions concerning our ability to have prevented that loss and whether we could have done more.

Recently, Dr. Alan Loynachan (DVM, PhD) addressed the underlying causes of the 898 equine abortions examined by the University of Kentucky (UK) Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory over the 2016 and 2017 breeding seasons. This retrospective look is important to help us identify areas where we can improve management techniques and where we should focus our future research efforts to best benefit horse owners and breeders. As such, it’s critical that breeding farms send their aborted foals to a veterinary diagnostic laboratory, even if the cause of abortion appears obvious.

Approximately 50% of the abortions evaluated were deemed noninfectious. Of these, most are not likely to be management related with the exception of twin pregnancies; however, twins did not comprise a large percentage of the abortions submitted. This is likely due to better management techniques, namely identification and reduction of twin pregnancies early in gestation, but also likely reflects the failure of owners to submit abortions with an obvious cause to the diagnostic laboratory. While this is understandable, it also makes it difficult to accurately measure the frequency of these losses

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