Cryotherapy for Laminitis Prevention after Lameness Onset

Cryotherapy prevented further lamellar damage in laminitic horses when used after lameness developed.
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Get your ice buckets ready: a recently completed study has shown that submerging laminitic horses’ hooves in ice and water (a practice termed digital hypothermia or cryotherapy) after the onset of clinical signs can slow the progression of internal damage caused by the disease.

During a presentation at the 2012 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum, held May 30 – June 2 in New Orleans, La., Andrew W. van Eps, BVSc, PhD, MACVSc, Dipl. ACVIM, senior lecturer in Equine Medicine at The University of Queensland School of Veterinary Science, discussed the study’s findings with a veterinary audience.

"Several studies have demonstrated that digital hypothermia reduces the severity of laminitis lesions when initiated early in the developmental stage of … laminitis," van Eps said. "However, it remains unclear whether there is still a beneficial effect when cryotherapy application is initiated after the detection of lameness."

To test the effects of cryotherapy on lame, laminitic horses, van Eps and colleagues prompted laminitis development in eight horses. When lameness was first observed, the team submerged one front hoof in ice and water; the other limb remained untreated so the horses could serve as their own controls, he said. Van Eps noted that the horses received continuous analgesic (pain-killing) medication in their forelimbs to keep the animals comfortable during the trial

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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