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Clinicopathological features of equine primary hepatic disease: a review of 50 cases
  1. B. C. McGorum, BSc,CertEM, PhD, BVMS1,
  2. D. Murphy, MVB, PhD2,
  3. S. Love, PhD, BVMS2 and
  4. E. M. Milne, BVMS, PhD,FRCVS3
  1. 1 Department of Veterinary Clinical Studies, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre, Easter Bush, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9RG
  2. 2 Division of Equine Clinical Studies, University of Glasgow Veterinary School, Bearsden Road, Bearsden, Glasgow G61 1QH
  3. 3 Scottish Agricultural College Veterinary Science Division, St Mary's Industrial Estate, Dumfries DG1 lDX


The clinicopathological features of 50 cases of equine hepatic disease were reviewed. There was a wide range of clinical signs and at least 50 per cent of the animals exhibited either dull demeanour, anorexia, abdominal pain, cerebral dysfunction and/or weight loss. Life-threatening complications of hepatic failure recorded were: gastric impaction in 10 cases, bilateral laryngeal paralysis in seven cases and coagulopathy in five cases. All the cases had high activities of gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) and most had high activities of glutamate dehydrogenase (GLDH) and high concentrations of bile acids. Fewer of the horses had abnormal concentrations of bilirubin, albumin and globulin. The horses that were euthanased or died had significantly higher concentrations of GGT, GLDH and bile acids than the survivors. There were biochemical data for 18 cases with signs of hepatic encephalopathy, all of them had plasma ammonia levels greater than 90 μmol/litre but this was not significantly correlated with the clinical severity of the condition. Half of the cases with hepatic encephalopathy were hyperglycaemic, none was hypoglycaemic, and none had abnormally low levels of plasma urea.

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