Check SAA and Clear the Way for Quicker Treatment Decisions in Foals

WinStar Farm veterinarian benefits by including this simple handheld test in routine exams

By Amy Poulin Braim, Senior Veterinarian, Equine Technical Services, Zoetis

Diagnose illness earlier, start treatment sooner, which can help a foal recover quicker before an infection’s severe effects take hold. It’s the ideal scenario every equine veterinarian strives to achieve. Using an easy handheld test as part of every foal’s routine examination increases the chance it can happen during an evaluation of young horses.

Measure SAA to gain unique disease insight 
Serum amyloid A (SAA) is a major acute-phase protein produced by a horse’s liver that is a reliable biomarker for inflammation due to infection. SAA levels rapidly and dramatically increase in response to an infection.1 Veterinarians who measure SAA levels as part of a routine examination can use that information to differentiate noninfectious versus infectious causes of disease, and with the rapid rise of SAA, allow abnormalities to be identified quickly.2-4 In foals, SAA levels greater than 50μg/mL are suspect and should be retested in 12 to 24 hours, with levels greater than 100μg/mL being highly suggestive of infection.3 In fact, when SAA is used alone, levels greater than 100μg/mL could be used to differentiate infectious from noninfectious cases.3

“Any foal that I’m examining I’ll do an SAA test,” said Natanya Nieman, DVM, Resident Veterinarian at WinStar Farm in Kentucky. “In foals, if the SAA level is abnormal, I suspect health issues like diarrhea, pneumonia, sepsis and possibly neonatal maladjustment syndrome.”

Learn results in 10 minutes 
Nieman tests SAA levels in foals using Stablelab®. In 10 minutes, a handheld stall-side diagnostic blood test can provide a veterinarian with critical information related to equine inflammation due to infection. The Stablelab handheld reader detects and quantifies SAA, which was shown to be 30 times more sensitive than a thermometer5 and more dependable for detecting inflammation caused by infection, monitoring disease progression and return to health versus traditional lab tests.6

Nieman runs an SAA test during a typical clinical exam for foals. During these exams she also evaluates its physical appearance, ability to nurse, observes ocular response with a penlight and listens to heart, lung and gastrointestinal sounds with a stethoscope. Then if something appears abnormal in the SAA results or the foal indicates some sort of illness, additional bloodwork is performed. The Stablelab reader allows Nieman to check the SAA level immediately while at the foal’s side and have a baseline level to reference in the days to come.

“I use Stablelab because I think the SAA is more sensitive than the fibrinogen levels,” Nieman explained. “And it gives me a better picture of what is immediately going on with the horse. If other levels are completely normal, but the SAA is elevated, greater than 100, I get concerned.” 

Neiman monitors the foal’s health and uses SAA tests to help monitor the foal’s response to treatment. “I will come back the next day to repeat the SAA test and bloodwork to see if the results have changed. Depending on the case, I’ll also run an SAA test 3 and 7 days after the initial test, which helps us know if the foal is responding to treatment or antibiotics. I use Stablelab as part of a serial testing and we’ll follow it through to completion, until the foal is healthy. I also think the SAA comes down quicker, when the infection is resolved, so with repeat SAA testing I might be able to stop treating with antibiotics sooner, and it gives me another gauge as to the severity of the illness we’re treating.”

Nieman said she started using Stablelab in 2015 and has kept using it to check SAA in foals because of the results its produced for guiding her treatment decisions as well as monitoring response to the treatment provided.

“With SAA testing, I felt like I am able to pick up on things quicker, and I am able to track the progress of our treatment plan, making me feel more confident that the issue was resolved,” she said. “We can start treatment sooner, and we can end it quicker.”

The benefits of more effective treatment can be immediate for horse owners, Nieman said. Shorter treatment cycles with a greater likelihood of generating a healthy outcome saves money and the stress of caring for a sick horse. And for veterinarians traveling between farms, or who usually need to send off bloodwork to a lab, Stablelab helps initiate treatment sooner and save time.

“If I suspect an infection, then I would do an SAA test on that horse — regardless of age,” Nieman said.

To learn more about incorporating SAA testing with Stablelab into routine foal exams, talk to your Zoetis equine representative today or visit

About Zoetis 
Zoetis is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 65 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines, vaccines and diagnostic products, which are complemented by biodevices, genetic tests and precision livestock farming. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2019, the company generated annual revenue of $6.3 billion with approximately 10,600 employees. For more information, visit

For more information, contact: 
Amy Poulin Braim, VMD, DACVS-LA 

Theresa Fitzgerald 
Bader Rutter 

1 Jacobsen S. Review of equine Acute-Phase proteins. AAEP Proceedings, 2007;(53)230-235. 
2 Hulten C, Demmers S. Serum Amyloid A (SAA) as an Aid in the Management of Infectious Disease in the Foal: Comparison with Total Leucocyte Count, Neutrophil Count and Fibrinogen. Equine Veterinary Journal. 2002;34(7):693-698. 
3 Stoneham SJ, Palmer L, Cash R, Rossdale PD. Measurement of Serum Amyloid A in the Neonatal Foal Using Latex Agglutination Immunoturbidimetric Assay: Determination of the Normal Range, Variation with Age and Response to Disease. Equine Veterinary Journal. 2001;33(6):599-603. 
4 Nolen-Watson R. How to interpret Serum Amyloid A concentrations. AAEP Proceedings, 2015;130-237. 
5 Oertly. et al. The accuracy of Serum Amyloid A in determining early inflammation in horses following long-distance transportation by air. AAEP Proceedings, 2017;460-461. 
6 Belgrave RL, Dickey MM, Arheart KL, Cray C. Assessment of Serum Amyloid A testing of horses and its clinical application in a specialized equine practice. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2013;243(1):113-119. 



Mon–Fri, 8:30am–6:30pm ET

This site is intended for U.S. Animal Healthcare Professionals. The product information provided in this site is intended only for residents of the United States. The products discussed herein may not have marketing authorization or may have different product labeling in different countries. The animal health information contained herein is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with an animal healthcare professional. All decisions regarding the care of a veterinary patient must be made with an animal healthcare professional, considering the unique characteristics of the patient.

All trademarks are the property of Zoetis Services LLC or a related company or a licensor unless otherwise noted. ©2022 Zoetis Services LLC. All rights reserved.