UofG PhD student develops app to help combat obesity in horses
The University of Glasgow has created and updated a free weight management app to help owners monitor their horse’s bodyweight and condition.
The new version of the Equi-BCS app – refreshed in response to a survey of more than 100 people, including veterinary professionals, nutritionists and horse owners – was developed by Katie Williams, an equine nutritionist, who carried out the survey and development of the app as part of her PhD in veterinary research at the University.
The app allows owners to record and share their horse’s weight data, making it much easier for professionals to support horse owners to help them keep their horse’s weight on track. This feature also supports horses that are not holding their weight, so health issues can be spotted early.
Obesity is a serious health and welfare issue for horses just as it is for many domesticated pet species. The resulting insulin dysregulation or disruption to the horse’s normal metabolism, can result in laminitis, a potentially fatal disease. The prevalence of veterinary-diagnosed laminitis ranges from 7% to 23.5%, but it is thought to be even more common if those with sub-clinical signs are included. Equine obesity has also been shown to increase the risk of complications following emergency colic surgery.
Ms Williams said: “One of the toughest challenges for any horse owner is keeping weight off their horse, and previous studies have shown that horse owners tend to underestimate their horse’s body condition score
“To succeed, a collaborative approach is required including vets, nutritionists and farriers working together with horse owners.”
The app contains detailed images and instructions to help horse owners score their horse accurately and photos can be uploaded and stored so that horse owners can remind themselves of how their horse has looked in the past.
Research in human weight tracking apps has shown that frequency of use correlates with greater success and so an important feature of the app is that it will notify users when they are due to assess their horse again.
Ms Williams added: “It is incredible how quickly a horse can change and so monitoring regularly, ideally every two weeks, is key. Receiving a reminder will provide the prompt that many people need to ensure they take time to assess their horse and either make adjustments to the ration, or seek advice from their vet or nutritionist.”
The Equi-BCS app can be downloaded for free from Apple’s app store or Google Play along with other apps offered by the University of Glasgow offering advice and guidance to horse owners and to those considering working as a vet or para-professional.
Professor Peter Hastie and Professor Jo-Anne Murray, who are supervising the project, believe that the University’s Equi-BCS app, along with a myriad of other apps developed by the University, are a great way of imparting knowledge exchange to individuals and communities that can have a real impact on many sectors and industries.
First published: 1 March 2022