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Understanding SGOT and CPK Levels in Horses: What Do They Indicate?

When it comes to assessing the health and well-being of horses, veterinarians often rely on various diagnostic tools and tests. Two of these important indicators are SGOT (Serum Glutamic Oxaloacetic Transaminase) and CPK (Creatine Phosphokinase) levels. These blood tests can provide valuable insights into the overall health, muscular integrity, and organ function of a horse. In this blog, we will delve deeper into what SGOT and CPK levels can tell you about a horse's condition and why these markers are crucial in equine healthcare.

Understanding SGOT Levels:

SGOT is an enzyme found in several tissues, including the liver, heart, kidneys, and muscles. Elevated SGOT levels can be an indication of tissue damage or disease in these organs. In horses, an SGOT test is commonly performed to evaluate liver function and muscle health. High SGOT levels are often associated with conditions such as:

  1. Liver Disease: Liver infections, toxicities, or diseases like hepatitis can cause an elevation in SGOT levels. Monitoring SGOT levels helps veterinarians diagnose and assess the severity of liver issues in horses.

  2. Muscle Damage: When muscle tissues are injured or damaged, SGOT is released into the bloodstream. Elevated SGOT levels can occur due to exertional rhabdomyolysis (tying-up), muscle trauma, or conditions like equine polysaccharide storage myopathy (EPSM) and recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis (RER). Regular monitoring of SGOT levels aids in diagnosing and managing these muscular disorders.

Understanding CPK Levels:

CPK is an enzyme primarily found in skeletal muscles, including the heart, diaphragm, and voluntary muscles. CPK levels rise when muscle cells are damaged or undergo stress. In equine medicine, CPK testing is commonly used to evaluate muscle health and diagnose muscle-related conditions. Elevated CPK levels are often associated with:

  1. Muscle Trauma: Any significant muscle injury, such as strains, tears, or trauma, can lead to an increase in CPK levels. Monitoring CPK levels helps veterinarians assess the extent of the muscle damage and aids in formulating appropriate treatment plans.

  2. Exertional Rhabdomyolysis: Also known as "tying-up," this condition is characterized by muscle pain, stiffness, and damage due to strenuous exercise or other triggers. High CPK levels, along with other clinical signs, help diagnose and manage exertional rhabdomyolysis.

  3. Electrolyte Imbalances: CPK levels can be influenced by imbalances in electrolytes such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Disturbances in these electrolytes can contribute to muscle cell damage and subsequent CPK elevation.

Interpreting SGOT and CPK Levels:

It's important to note that SGOT and CPK levels alone do not provide a definitive diagnosis but act as useful indicators to guide further investigations. Interpretation of these levels should be done in conjunction with a horse's clinical signs, medical history, and other diagnostic tests. If SGOT or CPK levels are elevated, your veterinarian may recommend additional tests such as liver function tests, muscle biopsies, ultrasounds, or further blood work to establish an accurate diagnosis.


Monitoring SGOT and CPK levels in horses is a valuable tool for assessing liver function and muscular health. These blood tests allow veterinarians to identify potential organ damage, liver disease, and muscle-related conditions. By detecting abnormalities in these enzyme levels, prompt treatment and management strategies can be initiated, leading to improved outcomes for the equine patients. Remember, only a qualified veterinarian can accurately interpret these results and guide you in providing the best care for your horse.

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