• 22 August 2016

First ever in-depth equine disease study reveals ageing population

A vet research team have identified an ageing population of horses in the UK for the first time ever thanks to funding from the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF).

Dr John Marshall and his team at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Glasgow, were awarded funding by a grant from AWF’s Norman Hayward Fund to investigate equine disease through the use of multicentre electronic medical record analysis, using data from over 50,000 horses in the UK, USA and Canada to investigate disease affecting the health and welfare of horses. This is the first piece of research to come out of the three-year study, published in Preventive Veterinary Medicine (131), and highlights not only the ageing population of horses in the UK, but also how an increase in ageing horses is leading to an increase in the number of them suffering from multiple long-term diseases.

This is the first time the trend towards an ageing horse population has been analysed with this level of certainty and mirrors the concerns in the human medical field surrounding how best to deal with an older population with more complex medical needs.

Dr Claire Welsh, Research Associate on the team, said:

“In human medicine, researchers have had access to huge databases of patient information spanning decades, enabling them to uncover important health trends that would not have been possible with smaller data sets. This study represents the first large-scale analysis of horse health in the UK, having amalgamated thousands of records of episodes of care into a single 'big-data' resource.  

“Thanks to funding from AWF we are able to study this new data resource with our cutting-edge epidemiology methods, meaning we can produce UK horse health and longevity statistics of unparalleled accuracy and investigate diseases to improve horse health and welfare.”

Dr Tiffany Hemming, AWF Chairman, said:

“One of AWF's key charitable aims is to raise the standards of animal welfare which is why we're so keen to support pioneering research like Dr Marshall's. Every year we fund several projects that have the potential to make a real difference to animal welfare and the incredible work of Dr Marshall and his team, in a relatively short timeframe, shows what can be done with a grant.”

AWF was set up over three decades ago by British Veterinary Association (BVA) members with a passion to alleviate unnecessary pain and suffering in all animals including farm animals, wild animals and pets.

As well as Dr Marshall’s research, AWF grants support invaluable work in a range of fields, from pain management in cats to lameness prevention in livestock - none of which would be possible without the charitable support of others. Find out how you can donate to AWF and help make improvements to animal welfare by visiting http://www.bva-awf.org.uk/support-us.