About Azoturia

Azoturia is a condition in horses that is usually, but not always, associated with exercise and is also known as "Monday morning disease", "Tying Up" and "Equine Rhabdomyolysis Syndrome". Muscular problems are common in working horses and range from stiffness and mild cramps to recumbency.

Azoturia can develop rapidly and most often occurs when a horse in hard work is given a rest day without having its working diet reduced.

It was previously thought that Azoturia occurred due to increased lactic acid levels leading to muscle fatigue and cramps, but more recently it has been concluded that Azoturia is due to a metabolic abnormality in muscle cells resulting in some horses having an underlying susceptibility to the condition which can be triggered by one or more exercise related factors. Fillies and mares are affected much more commonly than stallions and geldings. Recently, a genetic component to the disease has been reported.

Mares coming into heat may also be prone to Azoturia.

Symptoms Of Azoturia

As Azoturia develops the muscles of the horse over the loins and quarters harden resulting in cramps and muscular stiffness when exercised. The horse's stride becomes shorter, it staggers behind and then goes lame and may collapse if work is continued. The horse has a high temperature and sweating may be evident. Examination of the hindquarters will show stiffening. In severe cases the myogolobin released from the damaged muscles turns the urine dark red, there will be signs of severe pain with sweating, elevated heart rate and the horse may not be able to stand.

Treatment Of Azoturia

The horse should be dismounted and made to rest where it is and veterinary advice should be sought immediately.
In severe cases intravenous fluids will be given along with anti-inflammatories. Treatment for Azoturia may consist of anti-inflammatories, a sedative, muscle relaxers and massage of the affected muscles. After recovery the horse should be rested for 6-8 weeks.
In mild cases, walking the horse is sometimes useful and they may recover with no further treatment. Some drugs may be used depending on the severity. Bute may be given daily as a painkiller. These horses should be rested for 3-4 days before being gradually introduced to exercise.   

Prevention Of Azoturia

Regular exercise with warming up and cooling down periods together with only the necessary amount of feed and reduction of feed on rest days will help to prevent azoturia. Lowering the training intensity together with reduction of hard feed is often useful.