New research sheds new light on laminitis risk factors
New research suggests we may soon be able to better identify horses at greater risk of developing pasture-associated laminitis, not only by looking at breed type, body condition score and associated higher risk environments but also by checking hormone and insulin levels.
Laminitis manifests in the foot and results in varying degrees of pain, lameness and debilitation. There are several causes of laminitis and currently these are divided into three main categories: sepsis/systemic inflammatory conditions, endocrine/metabolic disturbances, which includes pasture associated laminitis, and mechanical overload. Being able to identify animals at increased risk of laminitis, as well as the potential risk factors, is obviously key to reducing the incidence of the condition.
Two new studies have been conducted in collaboration the WALTHAM® Equine Studies Group. The first evaluated the laminitis risk factors in a group of Danish horses and ponies. It confirmed that Cold-blooded type animals <149cm, such as certain native ponies, as well as those being kept on high quality pasture were at an increased risk of developing laminitis for the first time. It also highlighted the important role that a change in grass intake, in terms of both type and amount, may play at any time of the year not only the spring as commonly thought.
The second study evaluated the risk factors for the development of laminitis prior to the occurrence of the disease. It identified that low concentrations of the adipose tissue derived hormone adiponectin, together with high serum insulin concentrations (at rest and as part of a diagnostic test for PPID) may predict an increased risk of future pasture-associated laminitis. It is hoped that future studies will be able to generate more robust cut off values, which will more accurately predict future laminitis development in an individual animal.
The RVC in collaboration with WALTHAM® is currently taking this forward through a study in which these markers are measured regularly, in conjunction with a detailed management assessment, in a group of ponies with no known history of laminitis at the start.
Clare Barfoot RNutr and the research and development manager at SPILLERS® said: “The Danish study gives us important practical facts about the susceptibility of cold-blooded types, and is particularly applicable to natives in the UK. The second study gives hope that there may soon be a test or series of tests that will help predict those at an increased risk of suffering from pasture associated laminitis in the future thereby reducing the number of animals affected by this debilitating condition. In the meantime until we fully understand the condition it is sensible to manage all the risk factors we currently know about, in particular keeping your horse at a healthy weight.”
Follow Clare’s tips to help keep your horse safe from laminitis all year round: