Does Vitamin D Play A Role In Equine Diarrhea?

Low vitamin D levels in humans can indicate serious illness, but no research has been done to see if the same is true in horses. Soon, Dr. Luis Arroyo of the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) will be investigating if the biomarkers that link low vitamin D to inflammation and systemic disease in humans may be the same in horses.

Equine enterocolitis, which encompasses colitis and diarrhea, is a major cause of equine deaths across the globe, but oftentimes the cause of the disease is unknown. Colitis causes inflammation of the intestine, which can potentially cause diarrhea. If the diarrhea is severe enough, it can result in significant nutrient loss. This loss makes the affected horse very ill, causing metabolic, electrolyte and fluid imbalances, as well as the loss of hormonal control and organ failure.

Vitamin D reduces inflammation, controls the immune system and helps regulate calcium and phosphorus. To date, there has been no research on how vitamin D levels change between a healthy and unhealthy horse.

Dr. Arroyo hopes that his research on the blood levels of vitamin D in horses will help vets understand what is going on in colitis cases and allow them to manage it better, which will hopefully result in a faster recovery. He says his research may even allow for colitis prevention.

Blood samples will be taken each day for at least four days from horses that enter the OVC. Though the focus is on horses suffering from colitis, blood will be pulled from healthy horses as well as from horses suffering from other conditions, too. Samples from 40 horses will be analyzed for between six and eight metabolites each.

Arroyo hopes that the information gleaned from the study will help determine if intervention is possible in the early stages of colitis.

Read more at Equine Guelph.

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