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Equine Harmful Genetic Mutations
 By Winniefield Park   •   9th May 2017   •   1,303 views   •   0 comments
Equine Harmful Genetic Mutations

Scientists have examined ancient horse DNA and discovered that horses were once much more genetically diverse than they are now. Domestication may have preserved horses from extinction, but the downside for the modern domestic horse is that they seem to have far more genetic mutations than ancient horses did. In our quest to build the perfect horses through selective breeding, we’ve also managed to develop many harmful genetic problems. Some are breed specific, others can affect any breed of horse. Here are some that can be tested for to avoid raising horses that pass on the disorders.

Impressive Syndrome or HYPP
Every horse that has HYPP can trace its pedigree back to the American Quarter Horse stallion, Impressive. This includes QH crosses such as warmbloods, draft crosses, Paints and Appaloosas. The symptoms of this disease suffer from barely perceptible muscle tremors and sudden paralysis which can lead to death from cardiac or respiratory failure. It’s a danger not just to the horse since a previously undiagnosed horse can have one of these attacks while the horse is being ridden or handle. Diagnoses is made through DNA testing. There is no cure, and horses carrying the gene for HYPP are a poor choice for breeding.

Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy
Another genetically caused disease you might have heard of that affects American Quarter Horses and breeds closely tied to the Quarter Horse is PSSM. This is a muscle disorder that causes symptoms similar to tying up. The horse may appear slightly colicky, stiff, have gait anomalies, weakness, and sweating. Because their muscles can not break down glycogen, these horses can not handle a high carb diet and their feed must be low starch and sugar.

Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency
Another disease similar to PSSM is GBED. This disease deprives a horse of the ability to synthesize sugar to support its vital functions. Foals born with this disease fail to grow properly, have no energy, can not maintain body temperature and can have seizures and tremors. They rarely live past the age of two months.

Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa
Belgian and Saddlebred horses are affected by a disorder known as Red Foot Disease or Hairless Foal Syndrome. This mutation is caused by the body’s inability to adhere to the underlying tissues. Within a week of birth, the skin starts to slough off. The hooves may also be shed. In addition to severe pain, this leads to infection, although the foal is usually euthanized before this can happen. There is no way to cure or control this disease.

Foal Immunodeficiency Syndrome
Fell and Dale ponies are fairly rare already, and sadly FIS may affect up to 10% of the foals born each year. Foals appear fine when they are born, but after two or three weeks, they stop thriving. Their appetite is affected, they may have diarrhea and a runny nose. The become prone to bacterial infections. Foals with FIS die or are euthanized within a few months.

Arabian horses can have Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, a disease that leaves them defenseless against infection. Foals die within months of birth.

Hydrocephalus
This disorder affects Friesian horses. Foals are born with excessive fluid on the brain. They are usually born prematurely and the birth can cause harm to the mare.

Lavender Foal Syndrome
Also known as Coat color Dilution Lethal, this affects Arabian foals, specifically those of Egyptian breeding. They are born weak, with a washed out ‘lavender’ coat color. The foal will die or must be euthanized within days of birth.

Lethal White and Splashed White Overo
Frame overo is an eye-catching, jagged white pattern on paint horses. But, when the genes for this coat color are also responsible for LWO. If both parents have the genes for LWO, it causes abnormalities in the foal’s intestines. The foal will die within days of birth. Genetic testing can determine which mare/stallion pairs are likely to cause LWO. Splashed white occurs for similar reasons, but will result in deafness. Another color related mutation, Leopard Print and Congenital Stationary Night Blindness affects Appaloosas and causes the horse to have poor vision in low light.

Hoof Wall Separation Disease
This disease affects Connemara Ponies. The hoof wall of affected ponies is fragile and breaks away easily. The resulting weakness and infection can cause severe pain. There is no cure.
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