Science & Equine

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Written by Els Smet

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The effect of cryotherapy applied in laminitis

Digital hypothermia or cyrotherapy is often used as a treatment for acute laminitis, however there is no evidence showing this is beneficial at this stage of the disease. This article aims to investigate the therapeutic effects of cryotherapy when applied at the onset of lameness in an experimental laminitis model.

Eight horses were induced with laminitis using the oligofructose model. When lameness was detected at the walk, cryotherapy was applied to one forelimb while the other forelimb was maintained at ambient temperature. To ensure the horses were comfortable, the peripheral palmar nerve was blocked for 36 hours. Dorsal lamellar sections (proximal, middle and distal) of both legs were harvested 36 hours after starting cryotherapy and were analysed and scored on a scale of 0 (normal) to 4 (severe) by two blinded observers.

The results show that cryotherapy had a huge effect on the progression of laminitis lesions. Complete physical separation of lamellar dermis from epidermis (which is a score of 4 or severe laminitis) was found in half of the not-cooled feet at one or more cross-section level, while this was not found at all when cryotherapy was used. In the cryotherapy limb only mild histological changes were seen while in the not-cooled limb complete lamellar separation was seen.

To conclude, cryotherapy applied after the onset of lameness in acute laminitis, dramatically reduced the progression of laminitis pathology and prevented lamellar failure.


> From: van Eps et al., Equine Vet J 33 (2017) 860-883. All rights reserved to EVJ Ltd. Click here for the online summary.

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