Objective: To compare effects of 3 methods of topically applied cold treatment (cryotherapy) on digital laminar and venous temperatures in horses.
Animals: 9 healthy adult Thoroughbreds.
Procedures: Thermocouples were placed in palmar digital veins and digital laminae of both forelimbs of horses. Three methods of cryotherapy were applied to the distal aspects of the limbs: wader boot (63-cm-tall vinyl boot filled with ice and water [ice slurry]), ice bag (5-L fluid bag filled with ice slurry), and a gel pack boot (boot containing frozen gel packs). Gel packs and ice slurries were replenished every hour during cryotherapy. The forelimb that received the first treatment was randomly assigned; thereafter, control and treated forelimbs were alternated for each treatment. For each treatment, temperatures were recorded every minute during 15-minute pretreatment, 2-hour treatment, and ≥ 30 minute rewarming periods. Once temperatures had returned to within 3°C below pretreatment values, the experiment was repeated in a similar manner for other cryotherapy methods.
Results: Digital venous temperatures were similar to laminar temperatures during each treatment. Ice bag and wader boot treatments caused similar cooling of digits. Gel boot treatment did not cause substantial cooling of digits.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Ice bag treatment caused laminar and digital venous cooling equivalent to that of wader boot treatment. Cryotherapy by use of 5-L fluid bags with an ice slurry may be a readily available, practical, and efficient method for prevention of laminitis in horses. Digital laminar and venous temperatures were similar in forelimbs of horses before and during cryotherapy.