Native-breed pony owners across the north east of Scotland are asked to help in new research intolaminitis.
Two linked research projects, by Philippa Davies and Ashley Ward, PhD students at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), will explore why some animals are more susceptible than others. The researchers also hope to establish suitable management strategies to help reduce the occurrence of pasture- associated laminitis.
Obesity, increased blood insulin and low levels of adiponectin are known to be associated with increased risk of laminitis. But not all such cases will develop laminitis. On the other hand, some ponies that are not overweight will develop the condition.
One project will explore the way individual ponies metabolise the pasture. By examining faeces and urine of individual animals, the researchers hope to find differences that could help identify those at greater risk of developing the condition.
A second project will look at the composition of Scottish pony pastures and evaluate, among other things, the sugar content of the different grass species throughout the year. The researchers hope to establish associations between the chemical composition of grass and laminitis risk.
“Grasses high in sugars are considered to be unsuitable for animals prone to laminitis, but not enough is known about what this means in practical management terms.”
The projects are the result of collaboration between SRUC, WALTHAM Petcare Science institute and Aberdeen University’s Rowett Institute.
SRUC’s Dr Pippa Morrison, one of the supervisors on the studies, said: “We know that for many owners of horses and ponies, the possibility of their animal developing laminitis is a constant worry and a very real concern.
“When it happens, laminitis can arrive with little or no warning and can be quite shocking. All too often animals suffer extreme pain and the consequences can be devastating.
“These studies have been carefully designed to help us better understand some of the risk factors associated with laminitis, both at the pony and pasture level, and may help to identify animals at increased risk and those for which recurrence of the disease is more likely.”
Owners willing to take part in the research will complete a questionnaire and allow the researchers to collect samples from the pasture and ponies.
Philippa and Ashley are looking for healthy native-breed ponies aged four years old and over, with no previous diagnosis of PPID (equine Cushing’s disease), to take part in these studies.
If you are interested in getting involved, or if you would like more information, please contact: projectPAL@sruc.ac.uk