New research suggests that horses at greater risk of developing pasture-associated laminitis might be better identified not only through breed, body condition score and higher risk environments, but also by checking hormone and insulin levels.

Laminitis manifests in the foot and results in varying degrees of pain, lameness and debilitation. There are several causes, but being able to identify animals at increased risk, as well as the potential risk factors, is key to reducing the incidence of the condition.
Two new studies have been conducted in collaboration with the Waltham Equine Studies Group.

The first, carried out by Nanna Luthersson and colleagues and published online in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, evaluated the laminitis risk factors in a group of Danish horses and ponies.

It confirmed that cold-blooded type animals, less than 5 feet in height, such as certain native ponies, as well as those being kept on high-quality pasture, were at an increased risk of developing laminitis for the first time. It also highlighted the important role that a change in grass intake, in terms of both type and amount, might play at any time of the year, not only the spring as commonly thought.

The second study, funded in part by the PetPlan Charitable Trust, British Veterinary Association’s Animal Welfare Foundation Norman Hayward Fund and the Laminitis Trust, was undertaken in conjunction with Nicola Menzies-Gow (Royal Veterinary College) and published online in the Equine Veterinary Journal.

The study evaluated the risk factors for the development of laminitis before the occurrence of the disease. It identified that low concentrations of the adipose tissue derived hormone adiponectin, together with high serum insulin concentrations (at rest and as part of a diagnostic test for pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction) might predict an increased risk of future pasture-associated laminitis. It’s hoped that more studies will be able to more accurately predict future laminitis development in an individual animal.

The RVC, in collaboration with Waltham is taking this forward through a study in which these markers are measured regularly, in conjunction with a detailed management assessment, in a group of ponies with no known history of laminitis at the start.


Luthersson N, Mannfalk M, Parkin TDH, Harris P, Laminitis: Risk factors and outcome in a group of Danish horses, Journal of Equine Veterinary Science (2016), doi: 10.1016/ j.jevs.2016.03.006.

Menzies-Gow N.J, Harris P.A. , Potter K. and Elliott J. (2016) Prospective cohort study evaluating risk factors for the development of pasture-associated laminitis in the UK EVJ Version of Record online: 25 AUG 2016 | DOI: 10.1111/evj.12606

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