Laminitis in Central Kentucky

At the 15th annual Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium January 21-23, Manu Sebastian, DVM, MS, of the University of Kentucky's Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center, presented a study of laminitis cases submitted to the center for necropsy from 1995-1999. Two hundred eighty-one horses were part of this study, with 87 diagnosed with only laminitis and 194 with other conditions as well as laminitis.

Following are notes of the study's findings:

  • Eighty horses (28%) had chronic laminitis, and 15 of those had pituitary adenoma (a benign tumor of the pituitary gland that synthesizes hormones; in this study found only in horses more than 15 years old).
  • Trauma, fracture, infections, and joint lesions of the feet were noted in 57 horses (20%).
  • Colitis, including infections and grain overload, was found in 54 horses (19%). Of these, 11 were infected with Salmonella.
  • Reproductive tract infection and/or retained placenta were found in 23 horses (8%).
  • Renal pathological conditions including nephritis (kidney inflammation) and nephrosis (a noninflammatory disease of the kidneys chiefly affecting function of the nephrons, the excretory units of the kidneys) were noted in 12 cases (4.2%).
  • Surgical and postsurgical complications led to laminitis in 11 cases (3.9%).
  • Respiratory tract infections also afflicted 11 horses (3.9%).
  • Colic and other noninfectious gastrointestinal problems accounted for nine horses (3.2%).
  • Septicemia other than that involving the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts accounted for six cases (2.1%).
  • Forty-three (15.3%) horses had unilateral laminitis (in only one foot), while 148 (52.7%) had laminitis in both front feet, and 78 (27.8%) had laminitis in all four feet. Seven horses had laminitis in both hind feet. Four horses had laminitis in one hind foot due to injury/fracture, and one horse and one front and one hind foot affected (due to injury in both legs).
  • Affected breeds included Thoroughbreds (69%), Miniatures, Morgans, mixed breeds, Palominos, American Saddlebreds, ponies, Quarter Horses, Standardbred, Arabians, horses of unknown breeding, warmbloods, and Belgians.

"These findings suggest that the causes of laminitis or conditions associated with laminitis still remains elusive in many of the cases, which prevents us from developing a preventive strategy for this disease," said Sebastian.

Following the presentation, Ric Redden, DVM, and host of the Symposium, was asked about preventing laminitis. "Obesity is the easiest thing in the world to prevent, but the hardest to teach (owners to prevent)," he answered. "It's harder to prevent steroid/hormone problems. But 100% of unilateral laminitis cases (caused by overuse due to injury in the other front or hind leg) can be prevented with correct mechanics at the time of the problem."

About the Author

Christy M. West

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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