Assessment of horse owners’ ability to recognise equine laminitis: A cross-sectional study of 93 veterinary diagnosed cases in Great Britain
D. Pollard, C.E. Wylie, K.L.P. Verheyen and J.R. Newton
In this study, the aims were to ascertain whether owner-reported laminitis cases were confirmed as laminitis by the attending vet; and compare owner and veterinary reported information in these cases. Data were obtained from vets and owners of 93 cases of laminitis seen by 25 veterinary practices in 2014 and 2015. Respondents recorded clinical signs, risk factors and underlying disease, and owners completed their responses independently from their vets.
Welsh ponies and crosses were the most frequently represented breeds; 62% of cases were overweight. Of the 93 veterinary diagnosed cases, 51 (54.8%) were suspected to have laminitis by their owners. All 51 cases were confirmed to be laminitis by the attending vet. However, 45.2% of owners who did not suspect laminitis prior to vet diagnosis either did not know what the problem was or suspected a different condition including foot abscesses, bruised soles, navicular disease and colic.
Divergent growth rings were significantly more commonly reported by veterinary surgeons in cases where owners recognised laminitis, compared to cases unrecognised by owners. This suggests that owners of these horses either had previous experience of laminitis in their animal or used the presence of these rings as an indicator of laminitis. Difficulty in turning and weight shifting were more commonly reported by vets whereas increased hoof temperature and recumbency were more commonly reported by owners. Difficulty in turning was reported in more than 75% of cases, while the classic laminitic stance and divergent growth rings were much less common, highlighting a need to educate clients to recognise more subtle clinical signs.
Fewer owners reported equine metabolic syndrome compared to vets, but this difference was not apparent for PPID. The horse’s breed was more commonly reported as a risk factor in owner-recognised cases than in those not recognised by owners. Pony breeds were significantly more commonly reported in owner-recognised cases perhaps meaning that owners are not aware of the potential of laminitis in non-pony breeds. Fewer owners reported obesity compared to the vets, indicating that owners’ perceptions of their animal’s body condition score are not reliable.
Bottom line: Further owner education is needed, particularly in areas such as the spectrum of possible clinical signs, equine metabolic syndrome and assessment of body condition.