Equine Liver Disease Facts

Liver problems in horses can be difficult to diagnose. Here's what researchers have found about this insidious disease. From the editors of EQUUS magazine.

A 2003 British study of 88 cases of equine liver disease identified several variables associated with the risk of disease and its likely outcome. Among the findings:

  • Ponies were more likely to develop liver disease than riding horses, a fact the researchers say may reflect different management practices and not necessarily any breed tendency.
  • Middle-age horses, between 8 and 11, were most commonly affected by liver disease, while those under 3 were rarely affected.
  • Mares were just as likely as stallions and geldings to develop liver disease.
  • In nearly half the cases, the cause of liver disease was undiagnosed, with majority of horses showing only mild clinical signs. These horses had the lowest fatality rates.
  • Horses with liver disease caused by toxic plants and infections were more likely to die than those with unidentified causes of disease.

For more on liver disease, read “Bonnie’s Tough Semesters” in EQUUS 391, April 2010.

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