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Evaluation of risk factors, management, and outcome associated with rectal tears in horses: 99 cases (1985–2006)

Anthony ClaesVeterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616

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Barry A. BallDepartment of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616

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James A. BrownVeterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616

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Philip H. KassDepartment of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616

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Abstract

Objective—To identify risk factors for rectal tears in horses; assess the effect of initiating cause on tear location, size, and distance from anus; and determine short-term survival rate among horses with various grades of rectal tears.

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—99 horses.

Procedures—Medical records for horses with a rectal tear were reviewed, and data including age; sex; breed; cause, location, and size of the tear and its distance from the anus; tear grade; treatment; and outcome (short-term survival [ie, survival to discharge from the hospital] vs nonsurvival) were recorded. Data for age, sex, and breed of horses with rectal tears were compared with data for all horses evaluated at the hospital during the same interval to determine risk factors for rectal tears.

Results—Arabians, American Miniature Horses, mares, and horses > 9 years of age were more likely to develop a rectal tear than other breeds, males, or younger horses. Dystocia had a significant influence on rectal tear size. Location of a rectal tear and its distance from the anus were not associated with cause. Applied treatments for grade 1, 2, and 3 rectal tears were effective, unlike treatments for grade 4 rectal tears. Irrespective of treatment, the overall short-term survival rate among horses with grade 1, 2, 3, and 4 rectal tears was 100%, 100%, 38%, and 2%, respectively.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Accurate identification of risk factors could help practitioners and owners implement adequate measures to prevent the development of rectal tears in horses.

Abstract

Objective—To identify risk factors for rectal tears in horses; assess the effect of initiating cause on tear location, size, and distance from anus; and determine short-term survival rate among horses with various grades of rectal tears.

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—99 horses.

Procedures—Medical records for horses with a rectal tear were reviewed, and data including age; sex; breed; cause, location, and size of the tear and its distance from the anus; tear grade; treatment; and outcome (short-term survival [ie, survival to discharge from the hospital] vs nonsurvival) were recorded. Data for age, sex, and breed of horses with rectal tears were compared with data for all horses evaluated at the hospital during the same interval to determine risk factors for rectal tears.

Results—Arabians, American Miniature Horses, mares, and horses > 9 years of age were more likely to develop a rectal tear than other breeds, males, or younger horses. Dystocia had a significant influence on rectal tear size. Location of a rectal tear and its distance from the anus were not associated with cause. Applied treatments for grade 1, 2, and 3 rectal tears were effective, unlike treatments for grade 4 rectal tears. Irrespective of treatment, the overall short-term survival rate among horses with grade 1, 2, 3, and 4 rectal tears was 100%, 100%, 38%, and 2%, respectively.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Accurate identification of risk factors could help practitioners and owners implement adequate measures to prevent the development of rectal tears in horses.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Brown's present address is Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center, PO Box 1938, Leesburg, VA 20177.

Supported by the John P. Hughes Endowment, University of California, Davis.

Presented in part at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Theriogenology, Monterey, Calif, August 2007.

Address correspondence to Dr. Ball.