Title page for ETD etd-10212005-083052

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Carter, Rebecca Ann
Author's Email Address brusso@vt.edu
URN etd-10212005-083052
Title Thyroid Status in Exercising Horses and Laminitic Ponies
Degree Master of Science
Department Animal and Poultry Sciences
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Kronfeld, David S. Committee Chair
Gwazdauskas, Francis C. Committee Member
Panciera, David L. Committee Member
Splan, Rebecca K. Committee Member
Staniar, William Burton Committee Member
  • horse
  • thyroid
  • exercise
  • laminitis
  • thyrotropin releasing hormone
Date of Defense 2005-09-30
Availability unrestricted

Rebecca A. Carter


The objective of these studies was to contribute to the understanding and assessment of thyroid function in horses. The first study evaluated methods of assessing thyroid function in horses, including validation of an enzyme immunoassay (EIA) for measuring equine thyroid hormones and development and assessment of a thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH) response test. Our data indicated that EIA is an acceptable method for the measurement of total (T) and free (F) thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) in equine plasma. Its measurements are not equivalent to values obtained by radioimmunoassay (RIA), but they can be calibrated to predict corresponding RIA values. A protocol was developed for TRH response tests involving administration of 1 mg TRH intravenously, with blood sample collection immediately before, 2.5, 5.0, and 24 h after administration. Analysis of plasma TT4, FT4, TT3, and FT3 revealed that the magnitude of hormone response was best approximated by the area under the curve of hormone plotted against time and by the absolute change in thyroid hormone concentration. Baseline concentrations, peak concentrations, and percent of baseline values were not as well able to predict the magnitude of hormone response. The second study assessed the effects of exercise and feed composition on thyroid status. Thirteen mature Arabian geldings, adapted to either a high sugar and starch (SS) or high fat and fiber (FF) feed, underwent 15 wk of exercise training followed by a treadmill exercise test. The TRH response tests performed before training, after training, and the morning after the exercise test revealed that the exercise test decreased the TT4 and FT4 response, whereas feeding of high levels of sugars and starches increased the response of TT3 and FT3. During the first four weeks of training, increased TT4 and FT4 concentrations occurred simultaneously with increased nonesterified fatty acid concentrations, decreased triglyceride concentrations, and increased insulin sensitivity. The increase in TT4 and FT4 may have provided the cellular signaling necessary for increased lipolysis and insulin sensitivity. These metabolic changes facilitate the increases in lipid and carbohydrate metabolism that are needed to fulfill the additional energy requirements of regular exercise. The third study assessed thyroid status in ponies with different laminitic histories. Total T4, FT4, TT3, and FT3 were measured during March and May 2004 in 126 ponies that were categorized as either previously laminitic (PL; n = 54) or never laminitic (NL; n = 72) and evaluated for current laminitis in May (CL; n = 13). Decreased concentrations of TT4 and FT4 were found in PL ponies when compared to NL ponies in March (P = 0.018, 0.020) and May (P = 0.018, 0.001). However, TT4 and FT4 concentrations in CL ponies were not different than concentrations in NL ponies in May (P = 0.82, 0.72), and when retrospectively separated out in March, were not different than NL ponies (P = 0.90, 0.84). Therefore, basal thyroid hormone concentrations are not useful as a predictor or hormonal characteristic of pasture-associated laminitis. The decreased TT4 and FT4 in PL ponies may be an indication of a response or compensation to laminitis and may facilitate the metabolic changes necessary to cope with the disease.

Key Words: Horse, Thyroid, Exercise, Laminitis, Thyrotropin releasing hormone

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