Researchers at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) have been awarded funding from CVS (UK) Limited to develop a new assessment tool that will evaluate the quality of life of both horses and ponies suffering from common hormone disorder, Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID). The data and findings of the tool can then be used to aid vets and owners in making informed decisions about treatment options.
PPID is a hormone disease affecting the pituitary gland of horses. Approximately 25-50 percent of animals with PPID also develop laminitis which affects the soft tissue (laminae) that attaches the pedal bone to the hoof wall and can be recurrent and potentially serious. This can lead to extreme pain, instability of the pedal bone within the hoof capsule and in some cases, euthanasia. However, PPID can also manifest in clinical signs such as weight loss, behavioural changes and lethargy – all of which can have a negative impact on an animal’s quality of life.
Therefore, the project will develop an assessment tool that can be used to objectively evaluate the quality of life in equines with PPID. The research will be led by Nicola Menzies-Gow, professor in equine medicine at the RVC, alongside Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at the RVC, Dr Edd Knowles and Dr Imogen Schofield both from CVS.
The research will take place over three years, first by interviewing equine vets and owners of animals with PPID to determine the aspects of PPID that are perceived to impact quality of life most. This will then be used to develop a questionnaire that a larger number of horse owners will complete to determine the frequency with which each aspect impacts quality of life. Following this, the team will develop the question-based tool and produce a numerical score to allow quality of life assessment interpretation.
The new quality of life tool will then be used in a study that will recruit and follow 140 horses and ponies newly diagnosed with PPID over a two-year period to see how their quality of life is impacted by the disease and whether treatment with the drug pergolide – currently licensed for the treatment of PPID – improves quality of life.
Not only will the study help determine whether pergolide has an impact on quality of life of equines, it will more broadly help both vets and owners in their decision-making when considering treatments or in some cases, euthanasia.
Nicola Menzies-Gow, professor in equine medicine at the RVC, said: “This is an exciting project that will hopefully allow development of a tool that can be used to objectively assess the quality of life of horses and ponies with PPID and determine which aspects of the disease and its treatment have the greatest impact on this.”
Imogen Schofield, veterinary statistician and epidemiologist at CVS, said: “CVS are delighted to be supporting this important research into the quality of life of horses and ponies with PPID. This research will build on our profession’s understanding of the impact of this complex disease and will guide management decision-making, to ensure that affected animals receive the best possible care.”
The RVC has been at the forefront of laminitis research for the last 20 years and this research project will continue to progress advances in the understanding and treatment of the debilitating condition. For more information, please visit the RVC website.