A recent study conducted in Denmark by Luthersson et al, in collaboration with WALTHAM®, set out to identify the risk factors for ‘new’ cases of laminitis, i.e. those believed not to have previously suffered from laminitis, and monitor their outcome. The same study also monitored the outcome of chronic cases, i.e. those that had suffered from laminitis before.
• Information was collected from 110 cases of veterinary diagnosed laminitis; 69 ‘new’, 41 chronic and 80 controls (non laminitics).
• All cases were followed for a 12 month period.
• There was no link between gender and laminitis.
• A recent change in grazing, ‘high quality grazing’ and being a cold blooded breed and less than 149cm tall (i.e. Shetland, Welsh, Fell, Dartmoor, Icelandic horses, Norwegian Fjords or a mix of these breeds) were all significant risk factors for new cases of laminitis.
• Although cresty neck score (CNS) and body condition score (BCS) were strongly associated with new cases of laminitis, these results were influenced by breed and also each other.
• Weight and estimated starch intake were not found to be significant in this study.
What does this mean?
• This study highlights the importance of both a change in pasture and breed as risk factors for laminitis. Although this study was carried out in Denmark, these findings are applicable to natives in the UK.
• A change in grazing, both in terms of the amount and quality of the grazing provided may pose a significant risk at any time of year, not just in spring.
• Be vigilant in managing those that may be prone to laminitis throughout the year, remembering that changes in grazing may present a significant risk regardless of the season.
• Aim to maintain a body condition score of 4.5-5 on a 1-9 scale.
• Although starch intake was not found to be significant in this study, this is likely to be because the majority of horses and ponies were not fed high starch diets. High starch, cereal based feeds should still be avoided for those at risk of laminitis.