Yes, Your Overweight Horse is at Risk for Laminitis

The good news is that many of the laminitis risk factors researchers identified can be detected early and modified.
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Yes, Your Overweight Horse is at Risk for Laminitis
Horses with body condition score of 7 or higher, generalized and/or regional adiposity, larger neck circumference, and decreased height (think pony) were at an increased odds of developing laminitis. | Photo: Michelle Coleman, DVM, PhD

Barn circles might banter about the chubby chestnut with the deep gutter down her back, or jest about the round roan who looks like he could foal any day now. But in a landmark observational case-control study in client-owned North American horses, scientists have demonstrated that these animals are more ticking time bombs than laughing matters—they are at risk for developing the painful and sometimes-fatal hoof disease laminitis. The good news is that many of the laminitis risk factors the researchers identified can be detected early and are modifiable.

“As we all know, laminitis is a disease of considerable importance to both horses and horse owners, with estimated incidence of 1.5% to 34% of horses affected annually, and 13% of horse operations,” said Michelle Coleman, DVM, PhD, assistant professor of Large Animal Internal Medicine at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, in College Station. “The lifetime risk of a horse developing laminitis is estimated at 15%. We all know that there’s a significant clinical and economic impact of this disease, especially in that there is no effective method or cure, and no effective method for prevention of disease.”

Coleman noted that this disease not only affects horses and horse owners but also veterinarians, who identified laminitis as the top priority for research funding in a 2009 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) survey of its membership. Coleman presented results from the pasture- and endocrinopathy-associated laminitis (PEAL) study at the 2016 AAEP Convention, held Dec. 3-7 in Orlando, Florida. She and her 15 co-authors in the Laminitis Research Working Group launched the research at the 2011 convention. And while she admitted many of the results were unsurprising, they confirm in no uncertain terms what veterinarians have believed for years and stress the importance of managing laminitis-prone horses very carefully

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Written by:

Stephanie L. Church, Editorial Director, grew up riding and caring for her family’s horses in Central Virginia and received a B.A. in journalism and equestrian studies from Averett University. She joined The Horse in 1999 and has led the editorial team since 2010. A 4-H and Pony Club graduate, she enjoys dressage, eventing, and trail riding with her former graded-stakes-winning Thoroughbred gelding, It Happened Again (“Happy”). Stephanie and Happy are based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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