Scientists reveal new theory on hoof disease

Through the use of 3D imaging, the University of Nottingham has uncovered about the cause and future treatment of hoof disease.

Using innovative 3D Synchrotron imaging techniques, as well as histological sampling and stem cell biology, scientists at the University of Nottingham have discovered new information about the causes and potential treatment of hoof diseases in horses. The research team studied the hooves of 129 horses, acquiring the most detailed pictures ever produced of hoof structure, biology and physical dynamics.

Photo courtesy of University of Nottingham
New high resolution imaging techniques allow scientists to dissect the hoof components and visualise them in 3D

The results revealed a number of key findings:

  • A “dished hoof” (i.e. a dorsally curved hoof as observed in cases of chronic laminitis) is fundamentally caused by the fact that hooves are asymmetric (with a short heel and long toe). This in turn explains why donkeys are less prone to hoof disease/deformities/pathologies, since they tend to have long heels.
  • The dorsal curvature can be exacerbated by a low body condition score or/and rapidly-growing hoof.

The research, led by Dr. Cyril Rauch, Associate Professor in Physical and Mathematical Veterinary Medicine & Science, will have huge implications for the prevention and management of chronic hoof pathologies and deformities.

royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsif.2019.0214

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