Vitamin D and calcium metabolism in horses in New Zealand

There is very little literature published on calcitropic hormones and calcium homeostasis in horses, but it appears that the calcium and vitamin D system, in particular, has substantial differences compared with other mammalian species. Horses have high serum total and ionised Ca2+ concentrations, high intestinal Ca2+ absorption, high urinary excretion and decreased renal reabsorption of Ca2+, in addition to low mean serum concentrations of vitamin D metabolites, and reduced parathyroid gland sensitivity to Ca2+. Regardless of the low concentrations of vitamin D, horses seem to be relatively resistant to developing rickets but are prone to secondary hyperparathyroidism and fibrous osteodystrophy due to imbalance in the calcium to phosphorus ratio in their diet.

The main objective of this project is to investigate different aspects of vitamin D metabolism in horses, in particular its role in calcium metabolism and bone formation. There is potential in the future, to expand research on vitamin D in horses to investigate the non-classical roles of vitamin D in the body and also to expand this research to other animals.

Want to know more?

Contact Sara Azarpeykan for more information on this project, which is co-supervised by Dr Keren Dittmer, Dr Erica Gee and Professor Keith Thompson.

Project support

This work is funded by the Equine Trust.

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