Hemorrhaging found in dead polo horses

Hemorrhaging found in dead polo horses

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Apr 21, 2009
Wellington, Fla. -- Veterinarians examining the remains of some of the 21 polo horses that died Sunday, just before the 105th U.S. Open polo tournament, have found hemorrhaging in various body parts of the animals.

The discovery is an important part of the process, but the information alone cannot determine a cause of death, according to Sarah Carey, spokeswoman for the University of Florida (UF) College of Veterinary Medicine.

Pathologists from the Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathology at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine are conducting the tests.

UF's Florida Racing Laboratory also has agreed to conduct tests on samples that will be sent by the Division of Animal Industry (DAI) in Kissimmee.

UF received 15 horses early Monday morning, while the DAI, which is headed by the state veterinarian, received the others.

Dr. Richard Sams, program director with the Florida Racing Laboratory, says could have preliminary results for what caused the deaths by the end of the week.

It all depends on how soon the samples are sent from Kissimmee.

Officials have said it appears the animals died of heart failure caused by a toxin that could have tainted their food, vitamins, supplements or all three.

Airborne infection has been ruled out, officials said.

The Florida Racing Laboratory will conduct two tests - an amino assay test, which deduces the classification of drugs, if in fact drugs were used; and an instrumental methods of analysis test, which is more definitive and can identify a specific drug.

The horses, worth up to $2 million, belonged to a 60-horse Venezuelan team, Lechuza Caracas. The animals reportedly appeared dizzy and disoriented while being unloaded from their trailers Sunday afternoon just prior to a 3 p.m. match. Seven died at the scene, and the others during treatment elsewhere or while being moved to a medical facility.

"There is a fair amount of speculation and misinformation out there right now," Sams says. "We need to do the testing and the right kind of investigating."