Supporting-Limb Laminitis Uncommon, Researchers Find

As a result, one vet said efforts to prevent laminitis of common origins could reduce the disease’s impact more.

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Supporting-limb laminitis (SLL) describes laminitis that develops in a foot opposite a lame leg. While the risk of SLL occurring is slight, recent study results show that it might be preventable in some cases.

In a large equine referral clinic in the United Kingdom, only 0.02% of horses considered at risk for SLL actually developed the disease, said Claire Wylie, PhD, MSc, BVM&S, veterinary epidemiologist at Rossdales Equine Hospital, in Newmarket. Her research was the first to accurately define the overall prevalence of SLL in a hospitalized equine population. And interestingly, she said, not all of the SLL-afflicted horses had non-weight-bearing lameness.

“It makes sense that a horse with such a severe lameness will overload its contralateral limb more than a milder lameness, but there are likely a multitude of factors,” Wylie said. “I would like to investigate whether the cases that do develop SLL have a degree of insulin resistance that could be exacerbated by lack of exercise, changes in feeding, et cetera, and could therefore be related to a combination of other underlying factors.”

Of more than 65,000 patient records from horses admitted between 2005 and 2013 to Rossdales Equine Hospital, one of Europe’s largest equine referral clinics, only nine horses, one pony, and one donkey developed SLL, she said. And the primary reason for admittance into the hospital seemed to have little connection with the development of the disease. There did appear to be a slight relationship with one condition—a non-chipping carpal fracture (Wylie explained that knee, or carpal, fractures are often “chip” fractures, which are a consequence of osteochondritis dissecans ; this group refers to those fractures which are probably not related to OCD, whether or not they are displaced)—as 16.6% of the horses admitted for this condition developed SLL. However, as only six patients were admitted for carpal fracture to start with, the percentages are not very reliable, she said

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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