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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • abdomen;
  • colic;
  • pancreas;
  • pancreatitis

Summary

Reasons for performing study

Definitive ante mortem diagnosis of pancreatitis in horses is difficult. Reports summarising the most common clinical signs, clinicopathological features and concurrent disorders in horses with a definitive diagnosis of pancreatitis that may aid in the recognition of disease are lacking.

Objectives

To describe case details, clinical signs, clinicopathological data and necropsy findings in horses with a definitive diagnosis of pancreatitis.

Methods

This was a retrospective study (1986–2011) and inclusion criteria consisted of horses with a definitive diagnosis of pancreatitis. A medical records database search was performed and data extracted included case details, clinical signs, clinical laboratory data and post mortem findings. Pancreatitis was defined as acute, active chronic or chronic and presumed primary or secondary, based on post mortem findings.

Results

Pancreatitis was diagnosed in 43 horses (acute pancreatitis in 34, active chronic in 4 and chronic in 5). A presumed diagnosis of primary pancreatitis was made in 6 horses. Pancreatitis was associated with gastrointestinal disorders in 28 horses (14 large colon, 10 small intestine and 4 gastric ruptures) and primary hepatic disease in 3 horses. Six horses had pancreatitis associated with other disorders: multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome (one horse), strychnine toxicosis (one horse) and compromised immune system (4 horses).

Conclusion

Pancreatitis is an uncommon disorder that can occur as a primary problem or secondary to gastrointestinal, hepatic or immunocompromising disorders, and when it occurs it affects adult horses more commonly.

Potential relevance

Unexplained abdominal pain, gastric dilation or rupture, peritonitis and/or the presence of white fibrinous plaques and fat necrosis in the peritoneum and mesentery or mass-like structures in the root of the mesentery during an exploratory celiotomy should raise a suspicious of pancreatitis.