Epidemiologic analysis of factors influencing exertional rhabdomyolysis in thoroughbreds

Jennifer M. MacLeay, Sandy A. Sorum, Stephanie J. Valberg, Will E. Marsh, Mike D. Sorum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Objective - To determine incidence, effect on performance, and management practices associated with exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER) in Thoroughbreds. Sample Population - Medical records for 984 Thoroughbreds and a survey of trainers of horses with and without ER. Procedures - Medical records for 984 Thoroughbreds stabled at a midwestern racetrack were examined to determine the incidence of ER during the 1995 racing season. A retrospective questionnaire was administered to trainers to determine management practices associated with ER in 59 Thoroughbreds with ER and 47 control Thoroughbreds in training. Multiple logistic regression was used to determine management factors associated with ER. Results - ER affected 48 of 984 (4.9%) Thoroughbreds. Two-year-old females were most frequently affected, and 36 of 96 (37.5%) trainers had ≥ 1 horse with ER. Horses with ER were more likely not to race during the racing season, compared with control horses. For horses that raced, differences were not found with respect to racing performance between ER and control horses. Exertional rhambdomyolysis developed frequently in susceptible horses that had ≥ 1 day of rest prior to exercise and that galloped during exercise. Horses with ER were commonly fed > 4.5 kg of grain daily. Nervous and extremely nervous horses were 5.4 times more likely, and horses with some form of lameness were 4.2 times more likely, to have ER. Conclusions and Clinical Relevance - Exertional rhabdomyolysis is common in Thoroughbreds, and ER can be affected by temperament, sex, age, diet, exercise routines, and lameness. Management that minimizes excitability, particularly when tailored to each horse, may be most effective for controlling ER.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1562-1566
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican journal of veterinary research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 1999

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