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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

An investigation into factors influencing basal eye temperature in the domestic horse (Equus caballus) when measured using infrared thermography in field conditions

Jansson, Anna; Lindgren, Gabriella; Velie, Brandon D.; Sole, Marina


Infrared thermography (IRT) is a popular technology used for the detection of thermal changes given its non-invasive nature and lack of direct contact with the individual. Accordingly, the maximal eye temperature (MaxET) measured with IRT has been extensively applied in equine research. However, there is little information available about the potential limitations of the MaxET in field studies. Thus, the aims of this study were to 1) quantify the individual variation of MaxET in field conditions and the effects of individual, breed, body size (height at withers), eye side, sex and age, 2) determine the effects of environment and operator, and 3) explore the relationship between MaxET and rectal temperature (RT) at rest. To accomplish these aims, 791 MaxET measures from 32 horses were collected in Sweden in five different months and five farms over a period of 12 months. There was an effect of individual on IRT (P < .05) and individual MaxET varied from 29.4 to 37.6 degrees C. IRT was also affected (P < .05) by breed and sex (maximal difference 1.1 degrees C and 0.3 degrees C, respectively) but not by eye side, age and height at withers. There were significant effects of month and farm (maximal differences; 2.4 and 2.3 degrees C, respectively), between outdoor and indoor measurements (0.8 degrees C) and also between operators (0.2 degrees C). There were no correlations between MaxET and RT. These results demonstrate that in horses observed at rest in their home environment, MaxET is affected by endogenous (sex and breed) and environmental factors (farm, location and month of the year) and shows no relationship to RT. We strongly suggest that IRT technology should be used with great caution in field studies and only under conditions where these factors can be accurately accounted for.


Infrared thermography; Eye temperature; Horse; Environmental factors

Published in

Physiology and Behavior
2021, Volume: 228, article number: 113218