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Evaluation of early fetal loss induced by gavage with eastern tent caterpillars in pregnant mares

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  • 1 Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, PO Box 12070, Lexington, KY 40511.
  • | 2 Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, PO Box 12070, Lexington, KY 40511.
  • | 3 Department of Entomology, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0027.
  • | 4 Department of Statistics, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0027.

Abstract

Objective—To determine whether gavage of pregnant mares (housed without access to pasture) with starved eastern tent caterpillars (ETCs) or their excreta is associated with early fetal loss (EFL), panophthalmitis, or pericarditis.

Design—Randomized clinical trial.

Animals—15 mares.

Procedure—15 mares with fetuses from 40 to 80 days of gestation (dGa) were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups and received 2.5 g of ETC excreta, 50 g of starved ETCs, or 500 mL of water, respectively, once daily for 10 days. Mares were housed in box stalls, walked twice daily, and not allowed access to pasture for 12 days before or during the 21-day trial.

Results—4 of 5 mares gavaged with starved ETCs (group 2) aborted on trial days 8 (2 mares), 10, and 13. No control mares or mares that received excreta aborted. Differences between the ETC group and other groups were significant. Abortion occurred on 49, 64, 70, and 96 dGa. Allantoic fluids became hyperechoic the day before or the day of fetal death. Alpha streptococci were recovered from 1 fetus and Serratia marcescens from 3 fetuses. Neither panophthalmitis nor pericarditis was seen. The abortifacient component of the ETCs was not elucidated.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—These findings suggest that mares with fetuses from 40 to 120 days of gestation should not be exposed to ETCs because they may induce abortion. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004; 225:717–721)