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News Article

Online study identifies key risk factors for equine laminitis

Study finds that weight gain, a previous history of laminitis, and soreness following routine hoof care are associated with laminitis development

Horses and ponies that gain weight are more than twice as likely to develop laminitis than if they lose or maintain their weight, research has found.

Carried out by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), the Animal Health Trust (AHT) and Rossdales Equine Hospital, the study also revealed that the groups particularly at risk were native pony breeds and their crosses, as well as horses and ponies with a history of laminitis and those with lameness or soreness after routine hoof care. The findings of the study are published in BMC Veterinary Research.

This research, funded by World Horse Welfare, comes from an online study that collected information on laminitis from a group of owners in real time. Data were collected from owners of 1,070 horses and ponies in Great Britain, who regularly reported their animal’s management, health and estimated weight via online questionnaires for 29 months.

Owners were encouraged to use a custom weight tracking tool designed by the study/research team to help regularly track changes in their animal’s weight and body condition. The uptake of this tool was high, with over half of participating owners using it. It is freely available to download from AHT Laminitis Research.

Analysing the large amount of data recorded by the study, researchers found that:

  • A high risk of laminitis was present in horses shod or trimmed at intervals of more than 8 weeks, and in those that took a long time to return to soundness after a bout of laminitis.
  • Diet, grazing management and health were factors closely associated with the development of laminitis and will be the subject of future investigation. (Subjects for investigation will include, for example, investigating how short-term access to grass in the morning and part-time use of grazing muzzles may contribute to laminitis development).
  • Researchers also noted that weight gain often occurred unintentionally, even when owners were aiming for their animals to maintain or lose it. This reiterates the need to consistently record weight and body condition in order to prevent undesirable weight gain.


Dr. Dee Pollard of the AHT, one of the study’s chief authors, commented, “We assessed the relationship between laminitis and many potential management and health factors and identified those more likely to be present before a laminitis episode was reported. We now have good evidence to develop laminitis prevention guidelines, and a number of different avenues to explore in the future.”

Read article: Identification of modifiable factors associated with owner-reported equine laminitis in Britain using a web-based cohort study approach by D. Pollard, C. E. Wylie, K. L. P. Verheyen and J. R. Newton published in BMC Veterinary Research (2019) 15:59, doi: 10.1186/s12917-019-1798-8

Article details

  • Date
  • 28 March 2019
  • Source
  • Royal Veterinary College
  • Subject(s)
  • Veterinary medicine