TitlePrevalence of exertional rhabdomyolysis in endurance horses in the Pacific Northwestern United States.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsWilberger, MS, McKenzie, EC, Payton, ME, Rigas, JD, Valberg, SJ
JournalEquine veterinary journal
Date Published2015 Mar

REASONS FOR PERFORMING STUDY: Exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER) is a reported syndrome in competing endurance horses; however, the prevalence and cause of ER in this population have not been defined. OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence of ER in a sample of endurance racing horses and investigate factors, including relevant genetic defects, contributing to the occurrence of rhabdomyolysis in this group. STUDY DESIGN: Prospective clinical study. METHODS: Riders of 101 horses participating in one of four 50-mile (80.5 km) distance races completed a comprehensive questionnaire regarding the medical history, management and performance of their horse. Serum creatine kinase activity (CK) was measured before and 4 h after completion of exercise. Hair samples were analysed by PCR for the R309H mutation in the glycogen synthase gene (GYS1) responsible for type 1 polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) and the C7360G mutation in the ryanodine receptor 1 (RYR1) gene causing malignant hyperthermia (MH). RESULTS: Samples were obtained from 68 Arabians, 20 half-Arabians and 13 horses of other breeds. Serum CK was above the resting reference interval (145-633 u/l) in 38 horses after racing (median 883 u/l, range 658-3739) but was compatible with values previously reported in apparently healthy endurance horses. Pathological ER was suspected to occur in 4 horses with serum CK activities exceeding 10,000 u/l 4 h after racing (median 84,825 u/l; range 10,846-381,790) including 3 Arabians and one half-Arabian horse. GYS1 and RYR1 mutations were not present in hair samples from any horses. CONCLUSIONS: Exertional rhabdomyolysis occurred at a prevalence of 4.0% in a sample of horses participating in 50 mile distance events and all affected horses were Arabian or half-Arabian. The cause of ER in the endurance horse population remains unknown; however, ER in competing Arabian endurance horses is unlikely to be due to type 1 PSSM or MH.