Excessive bodyweight has become a major health issue in the equine industry. Obesity can contribute to other diseases, including Equine Metabolic Syndrome, laminitis and insulin resistance. Therefore, researchers from Auburn University recently explored methods of rehabilitation used to manage obese horses with laminitis.
Clinical data from 14 similar laminitis cases were analyzed to evaluate responses to rehabilitation after 5 to 20 months of treatment. Each horse presented as obese and laminitic with no history of a systemic inflammatory disease. The rehabilitation method emphasized a mineral-balanced, low nonstructural carbohydrate diet; daily exercise; hoof trimming that minimized hoof wall loading; and sole protection in the form of rubber hoof boots and/or hoof casts.
Coffin bone (distal phalanx) alignment within the hoof capsule was improved, and hoof wall thickness was decreased following treatment. Solar depth was also increased. Reduction of heel (palmar) angle measurements was detected in acutely and chronically affected horses. This treatment effect was greater for horses with chronic laminitis than for horses with acute laminitis. Horses were 5.5 times more likely to be sound post-treatment than before treatment.
Daily exercise, dietary modification, and removal of ground reaction force from the hoof wall were focuses of the rehabilitation program. Hoof care and husbandry as applied to these horses may be an effective method of rehabilitation of horses from obesity-associated laminitis.
Summarized by Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota.