Q: My 14-year-old Thoroughbred mare was diagnosed with arthritis about a year ago. She competed in low-level horse trials for about six years and only recently began to show signs of arthritis, but 14 seems to be a little young for such a severe case. My hope had always been to breed her at about this point in her life, but it seems a shame to breed a horse with this gene (if it is even a genetic problem). How likely is it that arthritis will be passed on, and does her age denote a special case that would be more likely passed on to her offspring?                        Nina

A: Little is known about the heritability of arthritis in horses, and no genetic region has been clearly shown to be associated with predisposition in humans. It is not surprising that a 14-year-old mare, especially one that has had an athletic career, would have some arthritic changes. If this had occurred at three to five years of age, one would be more concerned. The bottom line is that I would not hesitate to breed this mare because the probability that this is a genetic trait she would pass on is very low.

About the Author

Steven Brinsko, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT

Steven P. Brinsko, DVM, MS, PhD, Dipl. ACT, an Associate Professor and Chief of Theriogenology at Texas A&M University, received his DVM from the University of Florida, MS from Texas A&M University, and PhD from Cornell University; he is also a board certified specialist in the American College of Theriogenologists (Veterinary Reproduction). His interests include all areas of equine reproduction with emphasis on the stallion. Dr. Brinsko has given numerous presentations at national and international meetings and has authored or co-authored over 100 scientific publications as well as 11 book chapters related to the field of reproduction.

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