Friday, July 12, 2013

British Laminitis Research: Tracking Normal Horses Who Later Develop Pasture Laminitis Vs Those Who Don't

Typical feet of a pony with pasture laminitis. Could laminitis be prevented by identifying likely-to-founder ponies early in their lives? A British research project aims to track normal ponies who, later in life, do and don't develop pasture-associated laminitis. (Nicola Menzies-Gow photo)

Dr Nicola Menzies-Gow of the Royal Veterinary College has been awarded a grant of £42,000 (approximately $65,000US) by Great Britain's Animal Welfare Foundation to work on a study: "Markers of equine laminitis predisposition: Searching for potential future diagnostic test". The award was announced this week by the college.

Dr Menzies-Gow explains what she is aiming to achieve by attempting to develop a diagnostic test:

Nicola Menzies-Gow
"Laminitis is an extremely painful condition and is one of the most common causes of lameness and disability in horses and ponies.

"Taking its UK prevalence as 3% means that approximately 8000 ponies and horses suffer an acute attack for the first time each year. Many of these become chronically debilitated and prone to recurrent attacks, thus joining the UK herd of approximately 16,000 chronically affected animals.

"Certain individual animals appear predisposed to recurrent pasture-associated laminitis. However, there are no diagnostic tests that identify at-risk animals before the disease occurs or when their history is unknown. Developing such a test would allow the preventative management countermeasures to be appropriately targeted.

"Blood samples have been collected prospectively from 446 ponies with no previous laminitis and these ponies are currently being followed to see which go on to experience laminitis in the future. By measuring a number of potential markers in their blood and then comparing the values between those ponies that develop future laminitis and those that do not, it may be possible to develop a diagnostic test for laminitis predisposition.

"When applied to the horse population as a whole, this may significantly reduce the frequency of, or even completely prevent, episodes of laminitis in predisposed animals through implementation of preventative measures, thus significantly improving their welfare."

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