Objectives—To compare limb-load distribution between horses with and without acute or chronic laminitis.
Animals—10 horses with carbohydrate-induced acute laminitis, 20 horses with naturally occurring chronic laminitis, and 20 horses without foot abnormalities (controls).
Procedures—Limb-load distribution was determined, using a custom-designed system that allowed simultaneous quantification of the mean percentage of body weight voluntarily placed on each limb (ie, mean limb load) and the SD of the mean load over a 5- minute period (ie, load distribution profile [LDP]). Load distribution profile was used as an index of frequency of load redistribution.
Results—Mean loads on fore- and hind limbs in control horses were 58 and 42%, respectively, and loads were equally and normally distributed between left and right limbs. In addition, forelimb LDP was greater, compared with hind limbs, and was affected by head and neck movement. In comparison, limb-load distribution in horses with chronic laminitis was characterized by an increase in the preferential loading of a forelimb, a decrease in total forelimb load, and an increase in LDP that was correlated with severity of lameness. In horses with carbohydrate-induced acute laminitis, mean limb loads after onset of lameness were not different from those prior to lameness; however, LDP was significantly decreased after onset of lameness.
Conclusion and Clinical Relevance—Quantification of limb-load distribution may be an applicable screening method for detecting acute laminitis, grading severity of lameness, and monitoring rehabilitation of horses with chronic laminitis. (Am J Vet Res 2001; 62:1393–1398)