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Research On Cryotherapy In The Treatment Of Laminitis

Equine laminitis: Cryotherapy reduces the severity of lesions (Pollitt et al. 2009)

Laminitis can be devastating for both horse and owner, as it not only leads to loss of performance but is the second biggest killer of horses, after colic.

Recent research indicates early cryotherapy treatment may improve outcomes for horses suffering with acute laminitis.

This key research, conducted by expert equine veterinarians Prof. Christopher C. Pollitt and Dr. Andrew W. van Eps of the Australian Equine Laminitis Research Unit at the University of Queensland into the benefits of cryotherapy for prevention of laminitis in the Distal Limb during the developmental stage of the disease, has proved that cryotherapy sessions improve the pathology of acute laminitis.


In order to carry out the experiment, 3 groups of 6 normal Standardbred horses were used.

Continuous cryotherapy, using a mixture of ice and water, was applied for 72h to the distal limbs of Group 1.

Groups 2 and 3 were administered oligofructose to induce laminitis. Group 2 was treated with cryotherapy for 72 hours (straight after dosing).


The cryotherapy treatment proved effective in cooling the distal limb of the horses that underwent 72h of treatment in comparison with the control group.

More importantly:

  • No lameness was observed in the treated limbs of these horses.
  • Laminitis histology scores in the treated limbs were considerably lower than those of the corresponding untreated forelimbs.
  • Laminitis histology scores in the treated limbs of the overall group resulted significantly lower than those of the untreated limbs.
  • When applied to just one foot, cryotherapy significantly reduced the severity of acute laminitis in this study.

Pollitt and van Eps propose that continuous, medium to long term cryotherapy applied to the distal limbs of horses safely and effectively improves the clinical signs and pathology of acute laminitis.