Researchers at the University of Liverpool published an article in The Veterinary Journal about new insight on the cause and symptoms of endocrine laminitis.

Led by Dr. Cathy McGowan, a professor at Liverpool’s Department of Equine Clinical Science and Institute of Aging and Chronic Disease, the team has been researching laminitis caused by hormonal dysregulation for years. Dr. Janet Patterson-Kane and Dr. Ninja Karikoski co-authored the article.  

According to, the team’s research directly links insulin and laminitis, drawing on McGowan’s work as a veterinary specialist when she noticed that the horses she treated with endocrine disease all had abnormal insulin regulation.

“These findings completely change the way we think about a very important disease in horses,” she says. “This is very important to the equine industry and veterinary profession and will be the basis of future research directions.”

The article highlights three significant advancements in understanding the disease.

  1. Endocrine laminitis is now understood to be the predominant form of laminitis in animals displaying lameness.

  2. Laminitis is thought to be a clinical syndrome affecting multiple organs and tissues, the whole body or weight bearing — not a discrete disease.

  3. Evidence of a prolonged subclinical phase can be found in some horses in the form of visible rings on the hoof wall.

The third finding, regarding hoof rings, stands to be particularly useful for horse owners, hoof-care specialists and veterinary surgeons to potentially notice and intervene before the onset of laminitis. In the studies, the rings developed over the course of approximately 3 months before the known duration of laminitis.

Being able to manage endocrine disease this far ahead of the onset of laminitis has potential to prevent lamellar stretching. According to the study, this stretching comes before membrane failure.

“Basic research at the cellular/molecular level is likely to be necessary to determine precisely how hyperinsulinaemia drives the key and possibly preventable lesion of lamellar stretching,” according to the team.