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Study on recovery of horses and ponies

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01 May 2009, at 12:00am

Dr Nicola Menzies-Gow, lecturer in equine medicine and surgery at the RVC, presented a report to the National Equine Forum in March on the BEVA/BVA Animal Welfare Fund study on recovery from acute pastureassociated laminitis in horses and ponies managed in first-opinion practice.

 Dr Menzies-Gow revealed that 107 cases of acute pasture-associated laminitis were recruited from firstopinion practice to study factors associated with clinical severity, survival and return to ridden exercise.

 There were 43 mares and 64 geldings, median age 11 years; 31% were small ponies, 42% large ponies/cobs, 16% small horses and 11% large horses.

 Ninety per cent had acute laminitis; 61% were mild (Obel grade 1 or 2) and 29% were severe (Obel grade 3 or 4). Forty per cent had previously had laminitis and were significantly less likely to have severe laminitis than those which had not.

 Eighty-three per cent were overweight and there was a trend towards severe laminitis cases having a higher body mass index (BMI).

 Eight weeks after disease onset, 95% were alive. Lower body weight, optimal body condition, mild rather than severe laminitis and acute/chronic founder were significantly associated with survival. There was a trend towards treatment with acepromazine being associated with survival.

 Fifty-nine per cent were being ridden again; this was 2.6 times more likely in animals without previous laminitis.

 The clinical outcome was judged by a panel of three veterinarians as good in 72% of cases. Clinical outcome was significantly associated with horse type; outcome was bad in none of the small horses compared with 34.1% of large ponies/cobs, 32.4% of small ponies and 30.0% of large horses.

 The take-home message for horse owners is that laminitis may be more severe in ponies, large breeds of horse and overweight individuals; and that overweight horses that get laminitis are more likely to be euthanased.