Can Endocrine Dysfunction Be Reliably Tested in Aged Horses That Are Experiencing Pain?

Heidrun Gehlen, Nina Jaburg, Roswitha Merle, Judith Winter
Animals: An Open Access Journal From MDPI 2020 August 14, 10 (8)
The aim of the present study was to evaluate (i) the effects of different intensities and types of treated pain on the basal concentrations of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol, and (ii) the thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) stimulation test, to determine whether treated pain caused a marked increase of ACTH, which would lead to a false positive result in the diagnosis of pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID). Methods: Fifteen horses with treated low to moderate pain intensities were part of the study. They served as their own controls as soon as they were pain-free again. The horses were divided into three disease groups, depending on their underlying disease (disease group 1 = colic, disease group 2 = laminitis, disease group 3 = orthopedic problems). A composite pain scale was used to evaluate the intensity of the pain. This pain scale contained a general part and specific criteria for every disease. Subsequently, ACTH and cortisol were measured before and after the intravenous application of 1 mg of TRH. Results: There was no significant difference in the basal or stimulated ACTH concentration in horses with pain and controls, between different pain intensities or between disease groups. Descriptive statistics, however, revealed that pain might decrease the effect of TRH on the secretion of ACTH. There was an increase of ACTH 30 min after TRH application ( p = 0.007) in the treated pain group, but this difference could not be statistically confirmed. Measuring the basal ACTH concentration and performing the TRH stimulation test for the diagnosis of PPID seem to be possible in horses with low to moderate pain.

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