Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Laminitis: Obese Horses and Ponies in Greater Danger

by Fran Jurga | 7 May 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

A British study has examined the factors that affect the likelihood of recovery from grass-related laminitis, and concluded that obese horses are more likely to die.

In the study, members of the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) documented cases over four years and found that when overweight horses develop grass-related laminitis, they tend to have more severe signs than those of optimal weight.

Reporting on the study conclusions, principal investigator and veterinary surgeon Celia Marr said “When (grass-related) laminitis does occur, overweight animals are more likely to die of the disease than their thinner counterparts. The animals with the best outcome tended to be those that had received acepromazine, a drug that improves the blood supply to the feet and relaxes the animal."

Marr's advice to horse owners: "Horse owners and vets are encouraged to ensure that horses and ponies are not allowed to become excessively fat as this can have a significant effect on their health, as we have seen in this study.”

Summary points of the study:

1. 107 cases of acute pasture-associated laminitis were recruited from first-opinion veterinary practices to study factors associated with clinical severity, survival and return to ridden exercise.

2. Of the horses in the study, 83 percent were overweight and there was a trend towards severe laminitis cases having a higher Body Mass Index (BMI).

3. Eight weeks after disease onset, 95% were alive.

4. Lower body weight, optimal body condition, mild rather than severe laminitis and acute/chronic founder were significantly associated with survival.

5. The clinical outcome was judged by a panel of three veterinarians as good in 72% of cases.

6. The clinical outcome was significantly associated with horse type; outcome was bad in none of the small horses compared with 34.1 percent of large ponies/cobs, 32.4 percent of small ponies and 30.0 percent of large horses.

The study was sponsored by the British Veterinary Association Animal Welfare Foundation (BVA AWF) and Merial Animal Health.

Hoof Blog note: Please remember that this study relates only to horses with pasture-type laminitis. There are several types of laminitis and perhaps one thing this study does is accentuate the differences in expectations that horse owners may have in their horses' recovery chances.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to

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