Uh oh! Is your hooved friend walking funny? It may be caused by Laminitis.
What is laminitis?
Laminitis is defined as the damage of the laminae, which is tissue that connects their hoof to the bones in their feet. This damage can be simple inflammation, stretching, separation, or tearing of the laminae. Once laminitis occurs, the coffin bone of the foot and hoof capsule start to rotate and sink into each other.
As you can probably imagine, this can be very painful for your horse. The good news is that it can sometimes be prevented!
Preventing Laminitis in Your Horse
The short answer for preventing laminitis is to make sure your horse is healthy, and to work to prevent endocrine diseases, such as equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) or pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), by making sure your horse is eating appropriately and not becoming overweight.
Some breeds of horses are more prone to developing laminitis, such as Draft Horses, Ponies, Morgan’s and miniature horses.
Regulating your horse’s feed is an important part of prevention. If a horse has sudden access to unregulated forage, such as escaping to an alfalfa pasture, they may develop “grass founder” laminitis because their body has not adjusted gradually to the change in their diet.
Horses may also develop laminitis if they experience digestive upsets caused by overloading on certain carbohydrates, such as excessive grains, or fruits.
Other causes of laminitis are excessive damages to the feet (referred to as “road founder”), leaning too much on to one foot because of injuries on another foot, other foot diseases, or exposure to bedding that contains black walnut shavings, and more.
Signs a Horse Might Have Laminitis are, but are not limited to the following:
- Hesitance when turning left or right
- Changes in their stride or gait
- Changes in behavior and temperament
- Shifting weight while standing
- Excessive caution while walking on hard surfaces, or an obvious preference for soft surfaces
- Heat and/or pulse coming from hoof
- Resistance of lifting foot
- Heels or hooves grow more quickly than the rest of the hoof
- Bruising or white line on hoof wall, and bruising of soul
- Changes in hooves or hoof wall angle
- Bulging/convex soul
The damage caused by laminitis is irreversible, and treatment is usually aimed at preventing further damage and managing the damage that has already occurred. If you’re concerned that your horse might have laminitis, it is best to start treatment sooner rather than later.
Depending on the severity of the laminitis, prognosis and treatment might look a little different, but it will usually include changing their diet to one that includes hay with low non-structural carbohydrates (NSC), sugars, and low calories. There is also a strong likelihood that your vet will suggest confining them to an area with soft ground with deep bedding to limit pressure on the laminae, and then work to reduce inflammation.
Reducing inflammation of the laminae is often accomplished through a combination of rest, icing of the hoof, and Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can also provide pain relief.
If you are concerned your horse might have laminitis, call your vet soon!
Young, Amy. (2020, March 23). Laminitis. UC Davis: Veterinary Medicine Center for Equine Health. https://ceh.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/health-topics/laminitis
American Association of Equine Practitioners. (2020). Laminitis: Prevention & Treatment. AAEP. https://aaep.org/horsehealth/laminitis-prevention-treatment
The Laminitis Site. (No date). Laminitis. https://www.thelaminitissite.org/