Supporting Limb Laminitis in Casted Horses (AAEP 2011)

Study horses treated with full-limb casts had a fivefold greater risk of developing laminitis.
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“Supporting limb laminitis (laminitis developing in the hoof opposite a severely painful limb) can be one of the most challenging and often times unpredictable complications in horses with severe, unilateral lameness.” began Joanna Virgin, DVM, currently of Oakridge Equine Hospital, in Edmond, Okla., at the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas. “This problem can be associated with fracture fixation (repair) and other painful orthopedic procedures, joint or tendon sheath infection, severe osteoarthritis, or neurological deficits, but it may occur secondary to any condition that results in prolonged, severe lameness in one limb.  Many of these conditions, particularly fractures, are treated with half limb, full limb, or transfixation pin casts and support limb laminitis is a significant risk for these patients in the postoperative period.

“Previous (limited) research has found at least a 50% mortality rate associated with supporting limb laminitis,” she added. Various studies have found the incidence of the problem to range from 2.3-16% of all horses with unilateral (in one front or hind limb) lameness.

Very little research has been performed investigating risk factors for developing this complication, but Virgin reported previous research showed the duration and severity of the lameness significantly increase the risk.  Some researchers believe that horses with poor foot conformation, such those with thin soles, low heels, and negative palmar angles (horses should normally have a slightly positive angle between the bottom of the coffin bone and the ground surface) could be predisposed, she added. 

Thus far, there has been no association shown between these laminitis cases and the breed of the horse, gender, body weight, or limb affected (hind or fore), she added

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Written by:

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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