Although there are many hormonal changes associated with reproduction, the effects of ovulation and early pregnancy on adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and insulin concentrations are poorly described. We hypothesise that both ovulation and early pregnancy will alter ACTH and insulin concentrations in healthy mares. Eighteen mares showing no clinical signs suggestive of, or laboratory findings consistent with, pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction PPID and insulin dysregulation (ID) are enrolled. ACTH, cortisol, insulin and glucose concentrations are measured over their peri-ovulatory period, as determined via ultrasounds and progesterone concentrations. The mares are grouped by age and gestation status, and a two-way repeated-measures ANOVA is used to determine the effects of age and early pregnancy, along with the peri-ovulatory period, on analyte concentrations. No significant effect of age, ovulation or early pregnancy is detected on the mares' cortisol, insulin or glucose concentrations; however, there is a significant effect of early pregnancy and ovulation on ACTH concentrations (p = 0.04 and p = 0.04 respectively). ACTH concentrations change around ovulation and with early pregnancy. Therefore, knowledge of a mare's reproductive status might be beneficial when interpreting ACTH concentrations.
Keywords: early pregnancy; endocrinology; equine; hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis; insulin dysregulation; metabolism; oestrous cycle; pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction.