Prophylactic digital cryotherapy is associated with decreased incidence of laminitis in horses diagnosed with colitis

Equine Vet J. 2014 Sep;46(5):554-9. doi: 10.1111/evj.12156. Epub 2013 Dec 5.


Reasons for performing the study: Recent research suggested that prophylactic digital cryotherapy (ICE) improved lameness scores, diminished histological changes and early laminar inflammatory signalling in horses following oligofructose administration. In clinical practice, horses at risk for sepsis-associated laminitis receive ICE. Evidence to support this practice is lacking.

Objectives: To determine factors associated with development of laminitis in horses diagnosed with colitis, including ICE.

Study design: Multicentre retrospective case series.

Methods: Medical records for horses admitted to 2 university hospitals diagnosed with colitis with evidence of systemic inflammatory response from 2002 to 2012 were reviewed. Horses were excluded if they exhibited signs of laminitis at admission, were ponies, miniature or draught breeds, or <2 years old. Data were analysed using univariate and multivariate logistic regression.

Results: Twenty-seven of 130 horses (21%) developed laminitis. Seven of 69 (10%) horses treated with ICE developed laminitis compared with 20/61 (33%) horses that developed laminitis but did not receive ICE. Factors associated with laminitis included site of hospitalisation, admission respiratory rate (↑) and blood L-lactate (↑), and ICE (↓), P<0.05. Horses treated with ICE had 10 times less odds of developing laminitis compared with horses treated without ICE (odds ratio 0.11, 95% confidence limit 0.03-0.44). Sixteen horses (16/130, 12%) were subjected to euthanasia in hospital. Fourteen of these horses had laminitis and 2 did not develop laminitis. Survival for horses with colitis that developed laminitis was 13/27 (48%) compared with survival for horses with colitis that did not develop laminitis, 101/103 (98%).

Conclusion: Laminitis occurred in more clinically compromised horses. Use of ICE reduced the incidence of clinical laminitis in the study population suggesting that digital cryotherapy is an effective prophylactic strategy for the prevention of laminitis in horses with colitis.

Keywords: colitis; cryotherapy; horse; inflammation; laminitis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colitis / complications
  • Colitis / veterinary*
  • Cryotherapy / veterinary*
  • Female
  • Foot Diseases / etiology
  • Foot Diseases / prevention & control
  • Foot Diseases / veterinary*
  • Hoof and Claw / pathology*
  • Horse Diseases / etiology*
  • Horse Diseases / prevention & control
  • Horses
  • Ice
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / prevention & control
  • Inflammation / veterinary*
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Ice