Laminitis is one of the most common causes of death in horses, and one of the most stubborn ailments. In an effort to thwart it onset, equine surgeon Dr. David Wilson, professor of large animal surgery at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, is in the process of developing a vaccine that could have the potential to prevent the devastating effects from ever occurring.
There are a variety of reasons laminitis presents, including physical trauma, poor hoof maintenance and carbohydrate overload, among others. Wilson and his research team focused on laminitis caused by carbohydrate overload. The vaccine created by Wilson and his research group targets gastrointestinal upset that is caused when a horse eats too much rich grass or concentrate with high levels of carbohydrates.
The creation of the vaccine was based on widely accepted research which confirmed that an excess consumption of grain leads to the presence of streptococcal bacteria, which then produces exotoxins. It is also known that two specific exotoxins can cause the degradation of the hoof's basement membrane.
“Once the membrane can no longer hold the hoof together, there is no structural support for the coffin bone, which then rotates or sinks within the hoof – a very painful process for the animal,” said Wilson in a Horse Journals article.
Normally, when hoof tissue is pulled away from bone, the bone fractures. During the onset of laminitis, when the hoof is exposed to exotoxins, the bone easily detaches from the hoof tissue.
Those findings led Wilson and his team to create a streptococcal exotoxin vaccine. To test the vaccine, the group induced carbohydrate overload to two groups of horses, a control group and one that had been given the vaccine. Results showed the vaccine prevented the onset of laminitis symptoms in 80 percent of the horses. Wilson is in the process of sourcing additional horses for more research trials.
Read more at Horse Journals.
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