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Cold Therapy to Prevent Laminitis in Horses

Date Published: 10/22/2007
Date Reviewed/Revised: 01/20/2014

Laminitis can be caused by many diseases but regardless of the cause, the only method that has scientifically been shown to aid in preventing laminitis from occurring in most cases is cold therapy of the hoof and the tissues immediately above the hoof. Although it is commonly known cold therapy is effective, it is difficult to keep the hoof and tissues cold enough to be effective in preventing laminitis. The original study performed by Dr. Chris Pollitt in Australia indicated cooling the feet to 33.8°F (1°C) for 72 hours continually was effective in preventing laminitis.

A recent study out of Cornell University tested three different methods of cooling the feet, including using a wader boot filled with a slurry of ice, a used 5-liter plastic IV bag filled with an ice slurry, and a special commercially available frozen gel pack boot. Results indicated the ice slurry in the wader boots and the plastic bag both maintained temperature that was cold enough to accomplish the goal. Unfortunately, the commercially available gel boot did not lower the temperature of the hoof enough to be effective. That is unfortunate because the gel boot would be easy to use and is low maintenance but since it was not effective, an ice slurry is needed to be effective in preventing laminitis. The ice slurry is labor intensive as ice must continually be added to the slurry to maintain the low temperature.