Shoeing for Chronic Laminitis

There are limited options for effective treatment of horses with lameness due to chronic laminitis. A common practice involves therapeutic shoeing, which is intended to reduce pain, aid in healing, and help return the horse to activity. Recently, researchers from Texas A&M University examined four types of therapeutic shoes to determine their effectiveness at rapidly reducing pain and lameness in horses with chronic laminitis.

The four types of shoes tested included standard flat, fullered egg-bar, heart-bar, and modified equine digital support shoes. Each shoe type was applied for seven days. Horses were scored subjectively for lameness and pain using the Obel grading scale (the 1-4 standard scale, where 4 is extremely lame and reluctant to walk), and objectively using force-plate analysis, which calculates how much pressure a horse places on his feet.

Of the 10 horses tested, there was no significant improvement in lameness after short-term application of any type of therapeutic shoe. This is not to suggest that therapeutic shoeing is ineffective for the management of chronic laminitis. On the contrary, by their very design, therapeutic shoes alter the position of structures within the foot to a more normal conformation so that healing can occur. This can be painful in the beginning, as the biomechanics of the foot are shifted. Over the long term, pain should decrease along with lameness. Over the short term, however, therapeutic shoeing with the shoe types tested appears to be ineffective for pain management in horses with chronic laminitis.

Taylor, D.; Hood, D.M.; Wagner, I.P. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 63 (12), 1629-1633, 2002.

About the Author

Susan Piscopo, DVM, PhD

Susan Piscopo, DVM, PhD, is a free-lance writer in the biomedical sciences. She practiced veterinary medicine in North Carolina before accepting a fellowship to pursue a PhD in physiology at North Carolina State University. She lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and two sons.

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