Can Hoof Wall Radiographs Help Identify Early Laminitis?

Radiographing deep hoof wall layers, where laminitic changes occur first, could be helpful in early clinical assessment.
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When it comes to diagnosing acute laminitis, radiographs can be a veterinarian’s best friend. But even radiographs have limitations and, historically, have often only been helpful after significant changes have occurred within the hoof.

From using MRI (which is rarely used for laminitis diagnosis due to its expense and limited availability) to examine cadaver hooves, researchers know that four layers exist within the hoof wall. Conventional radiography only identifies one layer, which appears as the dorsal hoof wall. However, with the advent of digital radiography, veterinarians have been able to distinguish between both the superficial and deep layers.

To help diagnose laminitis earlier, a group of researchers from the University of Montreal recently set out further examine these two layers radiographically and assign them a normal range of values (or measurements).

“In a laminitic horse, the deep layer increases in thickness and actually is the main contributor to the total dorsal hoof wall thickening,” said researcher Julien Olive, DVM, now a veterinary radiologist at the Animal Oncology and Imaging Center in Switzerland

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Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as a certified equine acupressure practitioner. She also hosts a blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse. Once an avid barrel racer, she now enjoys giving back to the horses who have given her so much.

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