Many people would recognise the symptoms of laminitis which include heat in the feet, increased digital pulses and the classic stance of the affected animal “rocking” back carrying most of its weight usually on its hind legs.
Those most likely to suffer are overweight horses and ponies, especially those being fed high protein bucket feeds, and also horses / ponies which have suffered from laminitis previously, however that said if can occur in any horse / pony and for a variety of reasons.
Laminitis is a very painful condition of the foot due to a disruption in the blood flow to the laminae of the foot. This causes inflammation which leads to a weakening of the support within the hoof which in severe episodes can cause rotation or sinking of the bone (pedal bone) within the hoof. Laminitis occurs in two forms, acute and chronic. Acute cases have a rapid onset with severe symptoms whereas chronic cases have a slower, less severe onset and are often a reoccurrence of a previous case.
Symptoms of acute laminitis:
Reluctance to move especially on the hard ground and hesitation on turning
Weight transfer onto the hind limbs
Hot hooves with an increased pulse in the heels
Pain on the sole in front of the point of the frog
Symptoms of chronic laminitis:
Rings on the hoof wall which are wider at the heel than at the toe
Bruised dropped soles
Widening and disruption of the white line
More rapid hoof growth at the heels which changes the hoof shape
What to do if you suspect symptoms of laminitis:
If you suspect laminitis this should be treated as a medical emergency and veterinary treatment is required. The consequence of leaving a case for “a couple of days” to see how it goes will almost definitely mean a prolonged treatment and could be catastrophic in severe cases.
Treatment of laminitis
Treatment consists of:
Increased support of the inflamed laminae through corrective shoeing
The use of drugs to help blood circulate to the feet
In some cases the use of probiotics or specific antibiotics prevent the gut from making the harmful chemicals which cause the disease
In all cases a period of strict box rest followed by controlled exercise is indicated
X-rays are often taken to identify structural changes within the hoof and to give some impression of long tem prognosis.
How can laminitis be prevented?
Prevention usually involves management changes such as:
Cutting out high energy feed, maybe replacing your mix/cubes with high fibre cubes
Using a grazing muzzle
Using electric fencing or paddocks to restrict access to fresh grass
Most importantly, ensuring your horse / pony undertakes regular exercise (Remember, field turnout is not exercise!)
Other factors that are important are routine hoof care and trimming and ensuring your horse does not become overweight.
A pdf leaflet on Laminitis produced by B.E.V.A. can be read from our website by going to Case Studies Dylan.
Laminitis does have an intimate relationship with cushings disease.