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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • septic arthritis;
  • foal;
  • neonate;
  • prognosis;
  • survival analysis

Summary

Reasons for performing study: Septic arthritis is a serious problem in the neonate, with a poor prognosis being reported for recovery. The impact of neonatal septic arthritis on the likelihood that Thoroughbred (TB) foals will start on a racecourse is not known.

Hypothesis: The development of septic arthritis in a TB foal significantly reduces the likelihood that it will race when compared to foals from the same dam.

Methods: Medical records of 69 foals treated for septic arthritis were reviewed. The dam's foaling records were reviewed and lifetime racing records were then retrieved for both the affected foals and at least one of their siblings (controls). Outcomes that were statistically evaluated included discharge from the hospital and whether the foal eventually raced. Univariate analyses of categorical variables were conducted for each outcome. The number of affected and unaffected foals that raced at least once were compared using regression analysis. Survival analysis was used to compare age at first race between the study and comparison groups.

Results: Foals with septic arthritis were less likely to start on a racecourse compared to controls (odds ratio [OR] 0.28; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.12-0.62, P = 0.001), while those foals that were discharged from the hospital were also less likely to start on a racecourse compared to controls (OR 0.36; CI 0.15–0.83, P = 0.008). The presence of multisystem disease was associated with a decreased likelihood of surviving to be discharged (OR 0.13; 95% CI 0.02-0.90; P = 0.005), but did not affect the likelihood that they would start in at least one race if discharged successfully (OR 0.45; 95% CI 0.04-2.81; P = 0.34) compared to the other foals with septic arthritis. Log-rank comparison of survival curves confirmed that foals discharged following treatment for septic arthritis took significantly longer to start in their first race compared to the sibling population (mean age of study group 1757 days, CI 1604-1909; mean age of sibling group 1273 days, CI 1197-1349; P = 0.0006).

Conclusions: The development of septic arthritis in a TB foal significantly reduces the likelihood that it will start on a racecourse when compared to controls.

Potential relevance: Accurate figures allowing a realistic assessment of the athletic future of a foal following treatment for septic arthritis are of significance for both owner and treating veterinarian.