Where Does Laminitis Start?

Research will help determine where laminitis begins and how it affects internal structures of the foot. Hoof researcher David Hood, DVM, PhD, and his staff at the Hoof Diagnostic and Rehabilitation Clinic at Texas A&M University, joined forces with histologist Sherry Morgan, DVM, PhD, of Abbott Laboratories in Abbott Park, Ill., to create an innovative new hoof tissue biopsy technique that can be analyzed with laboratory histology methods.

Hood's research, featured in a recent issue of the American Journal of Veterinary Research, shows that lesions begin on the outer portions of the hoof-to-bone laminar interface and progress inward. "This can be described as regional damage," Hood told The Horse. "We will be able to determine if the full interface is merely affected, damaged, or totally destroyed."

Hood's group induced laminitis in test horses and sampled hoof tissue from the mid-toe region at regular intervals before the onset of lameness (prodromal). The samples were sent to Morgan for analysis, and the horses were able to recover. Many horses used in laminitis research must be euthanized.

Samples taken from the horses showed lesions in the laminae in this stage of the disease, although the basement membrane of the secondary laminae was intact. Hood feels this intensifies the debate over the progression of laminitis and illustrates the complexity of the disease since other researchers have opined that laminitis begins in the basement membrane.

The study of laminitis is particularly difficult because most clinicians and field practitioners are notified of horses with laminitis when lameness is present, which is long after the initial damage was done.

Hood's next research will be to determine what is causing the prodromal (before lameness signs) lesions and how they can be stopped.

A wet lab in how to perform this hoof tissue biopsy technique was to be a part of the Second International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot on Nov. 12, 2003, in Palm Beach, Fla. (www.slackinc.com/laminitis).

About the Author

Fran Jurga

Fran Jurga is the publisher of Hoofcare & Lameness, The Journal of Equine Foot Science, based in Gloucester, Mass., and Hoofcare Online, an electronic newsletter accessible at www.hoofcare.com. Her work also includes promoting lameness-related research and information for practical use by farriers, veterinarians, and horse owners. Jurga authored Understanding The Equine Foot, published by Eclipse Press and available at www.exclusivelyequine.com or by calling 800/582-5604.

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