The use of routine radiological database from equine practice to determine the prevalence of osteochondrosis and the relation to feeding practice factors in a Dutch warmblood horse population
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Osteochondrosis (OC) is a very common disease in Dutch warmblood horses. The dynamic process of the endochondral ossification gets disturbed, which can result in irregular cartilage in equine joints, mostly hock and stifle. This causes economical, emotional and genetic losses in the horse industry in The Netherlands. The multifactorial etiology of the development of OC is still not completely understood. Factors like exercise, genetics, exterior, housing, trauma and feeding seems to play a role. Studies show a possible influence of specific minerals, like copper, zinc and magnesium, fast growth, girth perimeter and weight of the horse on the development of OC. The aim of this study is to determine the prevalence of OC of a veterinary based warmblood horse population and to search for influencing factors from feeding practice. A database was created by the retrospective use of 626 radiological examination reports of warmblood horses (age 1 – 5y), conducted by a veterinary equine clinic. The environmental factors (housing, feeding and management practice) of the 45 farms were collected by the use of questionnaires and statistically tested for significant correlation with the OC-status of the farms. The results show a prevalence of OC of 26,7 %, with the tarsocrural joint most affected; 13,7 %, followed by the metatarsophalangeal joint; 6,0 %, the metacarpophalangeal joint; 5,6% and the femoropatellar joint; 5,4 %. The factors of the feeding practices of pregnant mares, foals before weaning and foals after weaning did not show any significant correlation, except of the amount of concentrates of the weaned foals. More statistical analyses are necessary for any reliable conclusions. This study shows the need of balanced diet for mare and foal. As well as the possibility of the use of a veterinary clinic database to determine the prevalence of OC in a population of warmblood horses.