The WCVM is investing over $140,000 in support of equine health-based research projects and graduate student awards. Photo: Cat Zens.
The WCVM is investing over $140,000 in support of equine health-based research projects and graduate student awards. Photo: Cat Zens.

Funds fuel horse health

The Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) has invested over $140,000 in support of equine health-related research and graduate students for 2023.

About $60,500 of funding comes from the Townsend Equine Health Research Fund (TEHRF). While part of the money supports equine research, the remainder of the contribution supports tuition awards for five WCVM-based graduate students whose research focuses on horse health.

A second source of funding is the Mark and Pat DuMont Equine Research Fund. Created in 2016 by Mark and Pat DuMont, this fund supports equine research at the veterinary college. This year, the DuMonts made a generous contribution of $80,000 in support of equine health research projects at the WCVM.

 Visit the TEHRF website to learn more about the WCVM fund’s history, goals and achievements.


What are effective methods for treating temporomandibular joint disease?
Drs. James Carmalt and Nathalie Reisbig, WCVM

Temporomandibular joint disease (TMD), which causes jaw pain and dysfunction, is a potential cause of poor performance issues in horses participating in competitive sports. Since few researchers have studied this area, treatment is based on individual clinicians’ past experiences or “educated guesses” in the absence of evidence-based information.

WCVM scientists aim to analyze differences in basic cellular metabolism between the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and hyaline cartilages. Their hypothesis is that the cartilage of equine fibrocartilage-lined synovial structures, such as the TMJ and navicular bursa, responds differently to inflammation and subsequent treatment in comparison to hyaline cartilage joints (such as the fetlock and stifle). The team is also exploring if current treatments for osteoarthritis are effective therapies for TMD. Their findings can assist with further research focused on treating TMD in horses and the relationship between TMD and other joint diseases.

How do iodine-based diets impact the thyroid health of mares and foals?
Dr. Claire Card, WCVM; Dr. Bernard Laarveld, USask College of Agriculture and Bioresources; and Dr. Nadia Cymbaluk (equine health consultant) 

Soils and feeds in the Canadian Prairies are deficient in iodine, a nutrient that’s essential for normal thyroid function. When mares don’t have access to adequate iodine levels in their feed during pregnancy, the deficiency can affect the future health of their foals. Specifically, the foals can be born with congenital hypothyroidism dysmaturity syndrome (CHDS) — a devastating disease found in Western Canada that results in the death of newborn foals. 

While previous WCVM studies have shown the presence of subclinical thyroid disease in western Canadian horses, the relationship between iodine and thyroid hormone concentrations in mares and foals has not been clarified. In this study, WCVM researchers are continuing their work to determine how low-iodine and iodine-based diets affect the thyroid health of mares and foals. Their findings will help to support nutritional recommendations for iodine supplementation of brood mares.


Dr. Paula Viviani is a Master of Science (MSc) candidate and large animal internal medicine resident. Her work is supervised by Dr. Julia Montgomery (Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences). Research interest: infectious diseases, immunity and fluid therapy. 

Dr. Madison Ricard is a PhD student in diagnostic anatomic pathology who is supervised by Dr. Bruce Wobeser (Department of Veterinary Pathology). Research interest: equine foal loss.

Dr. Maria Monar is a MSc candidate and equine theriogenology resident who works with Dr. Claire Card (Department of Large Animal Clinical Services). Research interest: equine reproduction.

Dr. José Guerra is a large animal surgery resident who is supervised by Dr. Keri Thomas (Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences). Research interest: equine surgery.

Toni-Anne Saworski is a MSc candidate who is working with Dr. Emily Jenkins (Department of Veterinary Microbiology). Research interest: parasites in horses.

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