Science & Equine

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Written by Marly Coppens

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Digital cryotherapy and decreased laminitis in horses

Despite recommendations of recent studies that ICE improves lameness scores in horses following oligofructose treatment, evidence to support this practice is lacking, even though clinical practice treats these horses with ICE. In this retrospective case study digital cryotherapy reduced the incidence of laminitis, suggesting it is an effective prophylactic strategy for the prevention of laminitis in horses with colitis.

The goal of digital cryotherapy is to decrease the mean hoof temperature. Two hours after surrounding the feet with ice, digital temperatures decrease to a mean hoof temperature of 11.9°C. Which may slow the metabolic rate of the lamina and inhibit early inflammatory.

From 2002 to 2012 medical records of horses diagnosed with colitis were reviewed:
• 21% of 130 horses developed laminitis
• 10% of 69 horses treated with ICE developed laminitis
• 33% of 61 horses developed laminitis but did not receive ICE
• Horses treated with ICE had 10 times less odds of developing laminitis compared with horses treated without ICE

Acute laminitis diagnosis was based on clinical signs including the presence of Obel grade lameness, increased digital pulses, abnormal posturing and inability or unwillingness to move.
Cryrotherapy was performed in the same manner each time. Distal limbs were submerged in ice just proximal to the metacarpal phalangeal joint for at least 48 hours. Five liter fluid bags were used and attached to the limbs with duct tape. Bags were filled with ice every 2 hours to maintain ice/ice water slurry.

> A. Kullmann et al., Equine Veterinary Journal, 46 (2014), 554–559. All right reserved to 2013 EVJ Lt. Click here for the Pubmed summary

Application of prophylactic digital cryotherapy using a 5 l fluid bag and duct tape
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