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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

15 Talking Points on Laminitis Prevention from the BEVA Congress: What Horse Owners Need to Know to Prevent Laminitis


At the 2019 British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) Congress earlier this month in Birmingham, England, three speakers emphasized the need to further educate horse owners on the prevention of laminitis and in the dangers of equine obesity. Their lectures have been condensed down to talking points for communicating with owners about changes in horsecare that may help horses avoid the disease.

Meet the speakers: David Rendle is an equine internal medicine specialist at England’s Rainbow Equine Hospital; he spoke on "the endocrinology of laminitis in the field". Andrew Van Eps is with the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center and spoke on "updates on management of laminitis". Nicky Jarvis represented Redwings Horse Sanctuary in England with a lecture on "Its obese! What can I do to stop it foundering?".

The speakers emphasized these 15 points on prevention:
  • Around 90% of cases are endocrinopathic laminitis, “which is the same as pasture associated laminitis...either equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) or pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID).” (Rendle)
  • While greater understanding of EMS and PPID has helped in preventing laminitis, there is still much that remains unknown. (Rendle)
  • Insulin dysregulation is often disregarded in the assessment of laminitis when PPID is suspected: “If insulin dysregulation and metabolic dysfunction are overlooked in horses that are diagnosed (often incorrectly) with PPID and appropriate management changes are not implemented, the risk of laminitis may persist.” (Rendle)
  • On the management of endocrinopathic laminitis: “...central is clearly diet and management change, not pharmaceuticals.” (Rendle)
  • The key to the prevention of endocrinopathic laminitis is early identification of horses at risk. (van Eps)
  • “Management to reduce the laminitis risk in these cases can then include a combination of dietary control, pasture access management, weight loss and exercise, which can dramatically reduce the risk of laminitis development or progression.” (van Eps)
  • Comment on obese horses: “The horse isn’t just a little bit chunky, it actually has ‘ill health’ because of that amount of fat.”(Jarvis)
BEVA's 2019 lecturers on laminitis included three veterinarians: (from left) David Rendle of Rainbow Equine Hospital in England, Andrew van Eps from the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center and Nicky Jarvis of Redwings Horse Sanctuary in the UK. (photos from Hoof Blog archives)

  • When a horse is classified with a body condition score of 5 out of 5, approximately 40% of its bodyweight on a weighbridge is fat, equating to 240kg of fat for a 600kg (horse). (Jarvis)
  • Owners love to say “but he’s always been like this and he’s never had laminitis before” so it can be incredibly hard work to change the mindsets.” (Jarvis)
  • Nicky Jarvis explained her approach to weight loss, which aims at dropping 0.5 to 1% of the horse’s current bodyweight per week by feeding a daily ration (dry matter) equivalent to 1.5% of bodyweight. (Jarvis)
  • Appreciating that weight loss on the field can be difficult as intake can’t be quantified, practical management tactics, include: strip grazing, grazing muzzles, track systems, shared grazing with sheep or pre-grazing with horses who are in healthy condition. (Jarvis)
  • Emphasize the advantages of forage analysis to ensure hay is of a low water soluble carbohydrate content (10 - 12%) and the benefits of soaking it. (Jarvis)
  • For animals resistant to weight loss, despite a controlled diet: Carefully introduce good quality barley straw as a partial forage alternative for horses with good teeth, at up to 40% of the ration. (Jarvis)
  • For a long term approach, rather than crash diets in the summer or once they have laminitis, encourage people to realize that it’s a natural thing for horses to lose weight over winter. (Jarvis)
  • If we can get them to keep those rugs (blankets) off and persuade them not to go to their local shop and buy supplementary feeds and grains just because they feel cold, we wouldn’t have so many problems during the summer months.” (Jarvis)

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