Push to develop test to identify horses at risk from laminitis

A horse suffering from laminitis.
A horse suffering from laminitis.

A British researcher has received a £42,000 grant to work on developing a diagnostic test to identify horses prone to pastured-related laminitis.

Dr Nicola Menzies-Gow, from the  Royal Veterinary College, said some horses and ponies appeared predisposed to recurrent pasture-associated laminitis. However, there were no diagnostic tests that identified at-risk animals before the disease occurred, or when their history was unknown.

Developing such a test would allow preventative management countermeasures to be appropriately targeted, she said.

Blood samples have been collected from 446 ponies with no previous laminitis and these ponies are currently being followed to see which go on to experience laminitis.

By measuring several potential markers in their blood and then comparing the values between those ponies that develop future laminitis and those that do not, it may be possible to develop a diagnostic test for laminitis predisposition, Menzies-Gow said.

Dr Nicola Menzies-Gow
Dr Nicola Menzies-Gow

“When applied to the horse population as a whole, this may significantly reduce the frequency of, or even completely prevent episodes of laminitis in predisposed animals through implementation of preventative measures, thus significantly improving their welfare,” she said.

Menzies-Gow said laminitis was an extremely painful condition and one of the most common causes of lameness and disability in horses and ponies.

About 8000 ponies and horses suffered an acute attack for the first time each year, representing some 3 percent of the British horse population. Many of these animal become chronically debilitated and prone to recurrent attacks, thus joining Britain’s herd of approximately 16,000 chronically affected animals, she said.

The grant was made by the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF), which last Thursday opened the research grant process for its Norman Hayward Fund.

The fund is restricted to research into the disease and welfare of sheep cattle and horses. In the last six years more than £1 million has been awarded to veterinary research projects in Britain.

Fund chairwoman Tiffany Hemming asked potential applicants to think about putting their research into practice when submitting proposals.

“AWF is keen to support research that we can see will make a practical difference to animal welfare in a relatively short time period,” she said.

More information on AWF grants: http://www.bva-awf.org.uk/grants/.


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