Reasons for performing study: A previous preliminary study demonstrated the potential of distal limb cryotherapy (DLC) for preventing laminitis. Clinically, DLC must be effective for periods longer than 48 h and the preventive effect must extend beyond its discontinuation.
Objectives: To evaluate the effect of DLC, applied during the developmental phase of induced laminitis, on the severity of clinical laminitis and lamellar histopathology 7 days after dosing.
Methods: Eighteen normal Standardbred horses were divided into 3 groups of 6. Continuous cryotherapy was applied for 72 h to the distal limbs of the first group. The second and third groups were administered laminitis inducing doses of oligofructose and 72 h of cryotherapy applied (immediately after dosing) to the second group. After clinical assessment all horses were subjected to euthanasia 7 days after dosing and hoof lamellar tissues were harvested and analysed.
Results: In the laminitis induced horses clinical lameness and laminitis histopathology was significantly reduced in horses that underwent 72 h of DLC compared with untreated controls. Cryotherapy alone produced no significant lameness or other ill effect.
Conclusions: Continuous, medium- to long-term (72 h) cryotherapy applied to the distal limbs of horses safely and effectively ameliorates the clinical signs and pathology of acute laminitis.
Potential relevance: Pre-emptive distal limb cryotherapy is a practical method of ameliorating laminitis in ill horses at risk of developing the disease.