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Objectives: To compare postoperative inflammatory responses in horses administered perioperative procaine penicillin and those not administered penicillin using acute phase protein serum amyloid A (SAA) as a marker of inflammation.

Study Design: Randomized clinical trial.

Animals: Stallions (n=50) castrated under field conditions.

Methods: SAA concentrations were determined on days 0, 3, and 8. Six horses were subsequently excluded because of elevated SAA concentrations on day 0. Of the remaining 50 horses, 26 were administered nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) therapy and 24 were administered NSAID and 25,000 U/kg procaine penicillin on day 0, 1, and 2.

Results: SAA concentrations increased significantly from preoperative levels in both groups, and on day 8 concentrations were significantly (P<.02) higher in horses administered only NSAID than in those administered procaine penicillin and NSAID. Infectious complications occurred more frequently (P<.01) in horses with preoperatively elevated SAA concentrations (the excluded horses) than in horses with normal preoperative SAA concentrations (the included horses).

Conclusions: Perioperative antimicrobial therapy reduced the postoperative SAA response, suggesting that bacteria were present in the surgical wound and contributed to inflammation after castration. Horses with elevated preoperative SAA concentrations developed infectious complications more often than horses with normal preoperative SAA concentrations.

Clinical Relevance: Administration of antimicrobials may be important in horses being castrated standing under field conditions. Increased SAA concentrations seem to be an indicator of increased surgical risk in horses and may be useful before elective surgery for planning.