Research

Research activities at the Department of Equine and Small Animal Medicine are focused on animal health and welfare. Our clinical research concentrates on equine and small animal disease diagnostics and treatment practices, as well as animal welfare research in various species. We actively support the development of models related to translational research in veterinary medicine where animal diseases are used as models for human diseases.

The Department of Equine and Small Animal Medicine coordinates the Doctoral Programme in Clinical Veterinary Medicine under the Doctoral School in Health Sciences at the University of Helsinki.

Further information on the Department’s researchers, publications and projects is available in the Tuhat research database

Veterinary pharmacology studies the absorption and distribution of pharmaceutical substances in the body, as well as their biotransformation and secretion from the body with the special characteristics of specific species in mind. Knowing the mechanisms of action of pharmaceutical substances is a prerequisite for understanding desired and adverse effects caused by treatments, as well as for avoiding the latter.

Treatment doses and appropriate treatment regimes, as well as restrictions (temporal safety limits) on the use of food products derived from medicated animals are based on veterinary pharmacology studies.

The discipline of toxicology studies the adverse effects caused by drugs and other foreign substances in animals.

We investigate pharmaceutical substances used for animal sedation, anaesthesia and pain relief. We are expanding the scientific understanding of pain sensation in animals with a new research method documenting canine cognitive abilities. Suffering caused by pain is a negative sensation that has an impact on cognitive functions as well. Our latest project is focused on neutral and positive emotional states in canines.

The research in diagnostic imaging utilises various imaging techniques in a versatile manner. At the unit, small animals and horses can be examined with digital X ray equipment, as well as state-of-the-art ultrasound devices and CT and MRI equipment suitable for studying small animals.

A central research goal is the promotion of practical diagnostics in patient work. The researchers are in active cooperation with other departments of the Faculty, as well as international partners in the field of veterinary medicine

Research is focused on diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, as well as pulmonary and cardiac diseases.

The gastroenterology research group investigates opportunities for utilising advanced endoscopic techniques. During endoscopies, the altered regions of the stomach or the intestine can be studied with blue laser imaging and other novel techniques. Changes in the bile duct and pancreas can be studied with contrast examinations. Other research subjects include the impact of food and antibiotics on canine chronic diarrhoea and the gut microbiome. Intestinal inflammations alter the permeability of the intestinal tract. These changes can be studied with the help of blood samples. Research on hepatic diseases is focused on investigating techniques and markers used in liver function assessments, as well as the diagnostic tools, and the genetic and immunological background of chronic hepatitis in the Dobermann breed.

The pulmonary disease research group is investigating the genesis of these diseases and looking for better diagnostic techniques and treatments for acute and chronic pulmonary diseases. Pulmonary fibrosis causes diminished oxygen uptake. The group has been studying the causes of this disease and the changes observed during its progress. Pneumonia is a common disease also in canines; we have studied its treatment methods and the follow-up of recovery. Brachycephaly can cause serious breathing difficulties in dogs. A walk test has been developed to support breeding that can be used to exclude those individuals with the most severe symptoms from breeding. 

Cardiac diseases are also common in canines. The cardiac disease research group is looking for reasons why, for example, arrhythmia is more prevalent in certain breeds. At the onset of a cardiac disease, the changes may be minor. In order for these to be discovered, the normal function and size of the heart must be known. Therefore, the group has also studied dogs with healthy hearts. Methods used in the study include ultrasound imaging, long-term ECG recording and blood analyses. Research results have been used in the prevention of cardiac diseases when conducting health surveys. These surveys are used to select breeding dogs with no signs of cardiac diseases.

A significant part of our research projects is carried out as multidisciplinary cooperation with several Finnish and international researchers working with animal and human medicine and technology.

In small animal surgery, research is conducted on soft tissue surgery, orthopaedics, anaesthesia and pain relief, neurology, as well as oral and dental diseases, and ocular diseases. The research focus is on small animal health and welfare while supporting translational medicine, which promotes research on human diseases.

Clinical research in small animal surgery is a fast-growing field, with related research at the Department conducted on an international level. Clinical research is carried out when treating patients. With permission granted by owners, animals can participate in research projects. In other words, study participation is always voluntary. Thus, all dog owners and their dogs have the opportunity to help us understand disease causes and improve their diagnostics, in addition to finding new forms of treatment.

There are four active research groups in small animal surgery. Additionally, individual research projects are ongoing in the fields of ocular diseases, and oral and dental diseases.

PRIMARY PARTNERS

Department of Veterinary Biosciences, University of Helsinki
Department of Food Hygiene and Environmental Health, University of Helsinki
Agrotechnology unit at the Department of Agricultural Sciences 
Orion Corporation
Tampere University of Technology
University of Tampere
University of Turku
UKK Institute, Tampere
Police Dog Training Centre

International partners
Department of Musculoskeletal Biology, Institute of Aging and Chronic Disease and School of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, UK
Royal Veterinary College, London, UK
Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

The research focus is on the dissertation projects of doctoral students and the specialisation articles of veterinarians completing their specialisation. In addition, we supervise the completion of several Licentiate theses in the field of equine medicine each year. These projects are conducted in cooperation with both Finnish and international research partners. Research in the discipline of equine medicine is focused on the most central diseases occurring in Finland. Please read more about ongoing projects and recently published clinical studies.