Looking for a cut-and-dried formula for bringing all laminitic horses back to health? Good luck! Laminitis treatment is an ever-evolving art, the success of which depends on disease cause, type, severity, and many other factors.

Debra Taylor, DVM, of Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Sciences, recently studied one small subset of these horses to try to determine an accurate rehabilitation strategy. She evaluated obesity-associated laminitis cases subjected to identical rehabilitation protocols to determine if their recovery was successful; she presented her findings at the 2013 International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot, held Nov. 1-3 in West Palm Beach, Fla.

In the retrospective study, Taylor and colleagues looked back at Auburn University Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s clinical data from 14 obese horses (defined as having a body condition score [BCS] of 7 or higher on the 1-9 Henneke scale) suffering from laminitis but with no history of pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (or equine Cushing’s disease) or systemic inflammatory disease—two conditions associated with laminitis development. Six horses presented with acute laminitis and eight with chronic, but all underwent the same rehabilitation process.

"The rehabilitation method emphasized a mineral-balanced, low-nonstructural carbohydrate diet; controlled grazing; daily exercise; hoof trimming that minimized hoof wall loading; and sole protection in the form of rubber hoof boots and/or hoof casts," Taylor said.

She said veterinarians chose to place a horse in a cast for six to eight weeks only if his soles were cracke