Reasons for performing study: The recommended duration of cryotherapy in horses is currently extrapolated from human medicine. Prolonged, continuous cryotherapy (days rather than minutes) may be of therapeutic value if it is safe and well tolerated.
Objectives: To evaluate the effect of prolonged, continuous application of ice and water to the equine distal limb.
Methods: A slurry of ice and water was applied to the right forelimb of 4 Standardbred horses for 48 h. Hoof temperature, ambient temperature and ice boot temperature were logged continuously and clinical observations recorded every 2 h. Lameness examinations were performed prior to application and 1 week, 6 months and 1 year after removal of the ice boot.
Results: Continuous cryotherapy was well tolerated and resulted in marked cooling of the treated foot. No significant variation in clinical parameters was noted, and no lameness or gross pathology noted in the treated limbs at any examination period.
Conclusions: The continuous application of ice and water is a safe and effective means of cooling the equine distal limb. The extremely low, constant temperatures achieved may be of benefit in the management of various distal limb conditions.
Potential relevance: Providing clinicians and research workers with a potent therapeutic/prophylactic modality for disorders of the equine distal limb.