Kentucky Derby winning horse "Barbaro" has a potentially fatal disease in his left rear leg, but veterinarians are pledging to do all they can to save him.

Chief surgeon Dean Richardson said in a conference call Thursday that Barbaro has a severe case of laminitis, an inflammation that has virtually destroyed the colt's left rear hoof. 

The inflammation developed because Barbaro had to bear most of his weight on his left hoof after his right hind leg was shattered at the Preakness Stakes May 20th in Baltimore.

Richardson said that as long as Barbaro is not suffering, vets will continue to try to save him.  However, Richardson said recovery will take nearly six months, and the horse could be euthenized at any time. 

The veterinarian said that though the complication is serious, Barbaro continues to eat well, his weight is maintained, his heart rate is normal and the stability on his right hind leg is good.

Laminitis is an inflammation of the connective tissue between a horse's hoof and the bone in its foot.  If the tissue is damaged, the horse loses the connection between the bone and the hoof. 

The condition is extremely painful.  The only treatment is for a horse to regrow the hoof wall, in much the same way a human being would have to re-grow a fingernail if the nail had been ripped off.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.