Serum biochemistry and immunoglobulin dynamics in multi-day endurance racing horses Public Deposited

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  • Endurance riding reflects a relatively new sport among equine athletic disciplines and is growing rapidly. Of all the equine athletic disciplines, endurance riding is the most closely interrelated with veterinary assessment and control to ensure that horses are not exercised beyond their athletic capacity. As endurance riding competition has evolved, the average speeds at which horses typically complete their events have increased. Faster speeds offer greater challenges for veterinarians judging and treating horses in these competitions since horses are at greater risk of potentially life-threatening metabolic compromise or orthopedic injury. Since endurance racing is comprised of prolonged submaximal exercise, often in warm environmental temperatures, participating horses experience a substantial thermal load that must be dissipated largely through evaporative cooling. Competing horses may lose as much as 12 liters of sweat per hour during endurance racing which, without replacement, can result in severe electrolyte derangements and metabolic compromise. Though multiple studies have evaluated the effect of a single day of racing activity on biochemical variables in endurance horses, the impact of multi-day endurance events has not been assessed. In addition, the strenuous training and racing schedules endurance horses typically experience may place them at greater risk of infectious disease. Previous studies of other athletic species have identified changes in immune function and infectious disease prevalence with training and competition, including alterations in serum and mucosal immunoglobulin concentrations. Though some studies have evaluated specific aspects of immune function in endurance horses, there have been no studies of immunoglobulin dynamics in response to training and athletic competition in this population. The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of multiple day endurance activity on serum biochemical values. Additionally, serum immunoglobulin fractions were examined in this group of horses before and during the multi-day endurance event, and were compared to values measured in untrained age and breed matched horses. Changes in serum biochemistry variables noted in competing horses in the study were mild and reflected the loss of water and electrolytes in sweat, including mild but significant increases in serum urea nitrogen, creatinine, and phosphorus concentrations, which persisted across multiple days. In addition, serum creatine kinase increased significantly after exercise in the horses racing 25 miles and while CK and AST persistently remained elevated over multiple days in the horses racing 50 miles. Bilirubin concentration and sorbitol dehydrogenase activity also increased, although these elevations were mild. Few horses displayed changes in these variables that exceeded reference intervals. In regard to serum immunoglobulin fractions, serum concentration of immunoglobulin Gb isotype was slightly but significantly higher in endurance horses prior to racing than compared to untrained control horses. The cause for this difference remains undetermined, and there was no significant difference in serum concentrations of the other measured immunoglobulin isotypes (IgA, IgM, IgG(T), IgGa) between trained or untrained horses, or in response to the number of days raced. The results of these studies help to define the changes in multiple routinely measured serum biochemistry variables during prolonged multi-day endurance exercise and also provide foundation data regarding serum immunoglobulin isotype fractions in endurance horses. In the current study there was no evidence that horses undergoing multiple days of endurance competition have more substantial metabolic derangements than horses racing once, or that endurance horses develop significantly lower serum immunoglobulin concentrations in response to training or racing.
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