Last Updated on June 9, 2022
If you’ve had blood work done on your horse, you might be wondering what is SAA horse and what does this test mean? Let’s find out all about SAA in horses, including what is SAA horse!
What Is SAA Horse?
SAA is one of the tests carried out on a routine blood screen for horses. The initials SAA stand for Serum Amyloid A, and this substance is a protein found in the blood of horses. The word serum means the fluid component of blood, which transports protein and other substances around the cardiovascular system.
SAA is referred to as a major acute-phase protein. This means that it is not produced by the body all the time, but instead is produced in response to certain physical situations. In this case, the production of SAA is triggered in response to inflammation.
Inflammation is a normal response by the body in the face of infection or disease. If you’ve ever cut your finger and seen reddening of the skin around the cut, this is localized inflammation. In the face of disease, systemic inflammation will occur.
In a wound or lesion, inflammation will be immediately apparent and the symptoms are easily detectable. You will see swelling, reddening of the skin, pain, and heat. There may also be some loss of function of the area such as lameness, as the pain makes it difficult to move normally.
However, when inflammation is systemic in response to disease it becomes much harder to detect. The horse may appear dull or depressed or have a reduced appetite. A fever may occur, and the horse may have reduced energy levels.
While inflammation is generally a good thing, and necessary to fight disease and infection, it is helpful for medical staff to know if an inflammatory response is occurring. This means that supportive therapies can be used to help the horse to recover faster and reduce the risk of serious health conditions.
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Why Are Horses Tested For SAA?
A SAA test is normally carried out in a routine blood screen for horses that are unwell. It is used as part of a diagnostic process to try and pinpoint the cause of disease, and also to track the response of the body to treatment.
SAA is a very useful test for veterinarians as it responds quickly to changes in the condition of the horse. Produced by the liver in response to any type of tissue injury, SAA levels will increase quickly in line with the levels of inflammation. As the inflammatory response starts to wane, levels of SAA will drop at the same time.
This means that SAA can be used not only to detect that the horse is suffering from an inflammatory response, but repeated tests will also indicate if the horse is responding to treatment or not. As signs of systemic inflammation can be very subtle in the horse, SAA gives a useful insight into what is occurring inside the horse.
Increased SAA levels are often seen in conditions involving the equine respiratory, digestive, and reproductive systems. It is also common to see raised SAA in horses that have undergone surgical procedures.
The other way in which SAA tests are used in horses is to detect subclinical diseases that can affect the performance of equine athletes. These are diseases that do not manifest with clinical symptoms but instead cause the horse to not perform as well as expected. Testing for SAA can help to detect if the horse is suffering from low-level inflammation.
What Is A SAA Test In Horses?
The SAA test in horses is a very simple test that is performed on the blood of horses. Your veterinarian will take a sample of blood from your horse’s jugular vein. This is a quick and easy procedure and a very small needle is used, so your horse will only feel a tiny needle prick.
This sample will then be tested in a laboratory. Your veterinary clinic may have an in-house laboratory, in which case the results should come through fairly quickly. Most veterinary clinics need to send their samples to an external laboratory, so you may not receive the results for two or three days.
Summary – What Is SAA Horse
So, as we have learned, SAA in horses is a major acute-phase protein that indicates that an inflammatory response is occurring within the body. SAA levels increase when inflammation occurs, and decrease when inflammation starts to subside. This makes it a very useful test to track the inflammatory response in horses.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on what is SAA horse! Maybe you are struggling to figure out what your horses’ blood work results mean? Or perhaps you’re not sure if you should have your horse tested for SAA or not? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
What Is SAA Level?
SAA in horses is a protein that is produced in response to inflammation, normally caused by bacterial infection. SAA is produced by the liver, and healthy horses have very low levels of SAA.
What Is SAA In Horse Blood Work?
If your horse's blood work includes a test for SAA, this means Serum Amyloid A. SAA is included on a routine inflammatory blood screen in horses, as it is helpful to indicate whether inflammation is occurring and the response to treatment.
What Is Normal SAA In Horses?
In a normal horse, SAA levels should be very low. The normal range for SAA in a healthy adult horse is 0-20 milligrams per liter. Neonatal foals can have SAA levels of up to 26 mg/l, while yearling Thoroughbreds have a lower normal range of 0-10 mg/l.
What Does High SAA Mean?
High SAA levels in horses means that an inflammatory response is occurring within the body. This is normally in response to bacterial infection, although other contributing factors can also cause high SAA. SAA levels of 3000-5000 mg/l are not uncommon in horses with inflammation, and this can increase to around 12,000 - 15,000 mg/l in horses with severe infectious such as peritonitis, colitis, or lymphangitis.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse
care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since
she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local
stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She
has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in
various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the
patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went
on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in
the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of
horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for
educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN REVN RVN A1