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Case-control study of early-term abortions (early fetal losses) associated with mare reproductive loss syndrome in central Kentucky

Noah D. CohenDepartment of Large Animal Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-4475.

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 VMD, MPH, PhD, DACVIM
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James G. Donahue3640 Sequoia Trail, Verona, WI 53593.

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 DVM, MPH, PhD
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Vincent J. CareyChanning Laboratory, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115.

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 PhD
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Janyce L. SeahornLivestock Disease Diagnostic Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40511-1280.

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 DVM, MS, DACVA, DACVIM, DACVECC
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Donna PiercyLivestock Disease Diagnostic Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40511-1280.

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Judith K. DonahoeLivestock Disease Diagnostic Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40511-1280.

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Deborah M. WilliamsLivestock Disease Diagnostic Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40511-1280.

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Stuart E. Brown IIHagyard-Davidson-McGee Associates, 4250 Iron Works Pike, Lexington, KY 40511-8491.

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Thomas W. RiddleRood & Riddle Equine Hospital, PO Box 12070, Lexington, KY 40580-2070.

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Abstract

Objective—To identify factors associated with abortions during early gestation classified as mare reproductive loss syndrome (MRLS).

Design—Case-control study.

Animals—324 broodmares from 43 farms in central Kentucky, including 121 mares from 25 farms that had early-term abortions (ETAs) associated with MRLS (case horses), 120 mares from the same farms but that did not abort, and 83 mares from 18 farms that were not severely impacted by MRLS.

Procedure—Farm managers were interviewed to obtain data on various management practices and environmental exposures for the mares. Data for case and control horses were compared to identify risk factors for mares having MRLS-associated ETAs.

Results—Several factors increased the risk of MRLS-associated ETAs, including feeding hay in pasture, greater than usual amounts of white clover in pastures, more eastern tent caterpillars in pastures, abortion during a previous pregnancy, and sighting deer or elk on the premises.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Analysis indicates that certain characteristics of pastures predisposed mares to MRLS-associated ETAs. Methods for limiting exposure to pasture (keeping mares in stalls longer) during environmental conditions similar to those of 2001 (ie, sudden freezing in mid-April following warmer-than-usual springtime temperatures and larger-than-usual numbers of eastern tent caterpillars in and around pastures) should reduce the risk of mares having MRLS-associated ETAs. It was not possible to determine whether exposure to white clover or caterpillars were causal factors for MRLS or were merely indicators of unusual environmental conditions that resulted in exposure of mares to a toxic or infectious agent. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;222:210–217)

Abstract

Objective—To identify factors associated with abortions during early gestation classified as mare reproductive loss syndrome (MRLS).

Design—Case-control study.

Animals—324 broodmares from 43 farms in central Kentucky, including 121 mares from 25 farms that had early-term abortions (ETAs) associated with MRLS (case horses), 120 mares from the same farms but that did not abort, and 83 mares from 18 farms that were not severely impacted by MRLS.

Procedure—Farm managers were interviewed to obtain data on various management practices and environmental exposures for the mares. Data for case and control horses were compared to identify risk factors for mares having MRLS-associated ETAs.

Results—Several factors increased the risk of MRLS-associated ETAs, including feeding hay in pasture, greater than usual amounts of white clover in pastures, more eastern tent caterpillars in pastures, abortion during a previous pregnancy, and sighting deer or elk on the premises.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Analysis indicates that certain characteristics of pastures predisposed mares to MRLS-associated ETAs. Methods for limiting exposure to pasture (keeping mares in stalls longer) during environmental conditions similar to those of 2001 (ie, sudden freezing in mid-April following warmer-than-usual springtime temperatures and larger-than-usual numbers of eastern tent caterpillars in and around pastures) should reduce the risk of mares having MRLS-associated ETAs. It was not possible to determine whether exposure to white clover or caterpillars were causal factors for MRLS or were merely indicators of unusual environmental conditions that resulted in exposure of mares to a toxic or infectious agent. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;222:210–217)