Researchers Study the Predictors of Laminitis in Ponies

Researchers in England conducted a prospective cohort study of ponies (Welsh, Cobb, Shetland and crosses) to identify factors associated with increased risk for laminitis.

Only non-pregnant animals over 5 years old, without a history of laminitis were enrolled in the study after which they were visited and examined by a veterinarian every 6 months. Data from physical exams, measurements, metabolic testing and management were collected over a 4-year period. Laminitis cases were identified when confirmed by a veterinarian or suspected by a farrier or the owner.

Overall, 374 ponies, aged 5-32 (average 14) years and mostly used for riding, were enrolled and contributed 891 pony-years of observations. Forty-three cases of laminitis occurred during this time, so the incidence was about 5 cases per 100 pony-years (that is five cases out of 100 ponies over 1 year or one case out of 20 ponies over a year). The incidence of laminitis was three times higher in the summer compared with winter. Higher body condition scores, excessive hair growth, increasing age and lower exercise levels were all variously associated with increased risk of laminitis. However, elevated resting and postprandial insulin levels, lower adiponectin (a hormone related to fat metabolism) levels and divergent hoof growth rings were most strongly predictive of developing laminitis.

These results may help identify ponies at low, medium or high risk of laminitis so that preventive measures could be targeted to those most at risk.

— Knowles EJ et al. EVJ 2022:13572

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Albert Kane

Albert J. Kane, DVM, MPVM, Ph.D.

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