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Histopathological examination of chronic laminitis in Kaimanawa feral horses of New Zealand

Authors: Rovel T, Beausac C, Hampson BA, de Laat MA, Pollitt CC
Publication: New Zealand Veterinary Journal, Volume 60, Issue 5, pp 285-289, Sep 2012
Publisher: Taylor and Francis


AIMS: To investigate the prevalence, histopathological and histomorphometric presentation of chronic laminitis in a population of Kaimanawa feral horses.

METHODS: Following the capture and euthanasia of feral horses from the Kaimanawa Ranges of New Zealand, the left forefoot of 28 stallions and 28 mares aged between 6 and 12 years were removed and processed for histology. Sections of lamellar samples from each horse were examined using light microscopy. The presence of laminitis was assessed and the histopathological lesions were described. Horses were grouped by histological diagnosis into laminitic and non-laminitic groups and histomorphometric analysis was conducted and compared between groups. The parameters examined were total length of primary epidermal lamellae (PEL), keratinised length of PEL, and the length of secondary epidermal lamellae (SEL) at the abaxial end and axial end of each PEL.

RESULTS: Of the horses examined, 25 (45%) were diagnosed with chronic laminitis. The most prevalent histopathological features were the presence of excessive cap horn, and multi-branched and attenuated SEL. Histomorphometric assessment of the lamellar architecture revealed no difference in morphometric measurements between the normal and laminitic groups for any parameter measured (p>0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: The current study found a high prevalence of laminitis in feral Kaimanawa horses. The reason for this in the Kaimanawa population is not known. Histomorphometric analysis may not be a good indicator of chronic laminitis in feral horses.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: It is an important finding that the feral horse lifestyle in the environment of the Kaimanawa Ranges in New Zealand offers no protection against foot disease. The finding suggests that horses are vulnerable to laminitis whether in domestic care or in a feral habitat.

KEY WORDS: Equine, laminitis, histomorphometric analysis, histopathology, feral
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