Laminitis is inflammation of the sensitive laminae; the membranous network that supports the pedal bone of the horse. Inflammation is accompanied by heat and pain.
Blood that is trapped within the foot and the laminae are deprived of oxygen and nutrients and this causes the pain. Pain also results when the blood flow is resumed. The greater the reduction in the supply of blood and the longer that this occurs for, the greater the damage to the foot.
Research suggests that it is the imbalance of fructans (a polysaccharide/starch) and argenine (an amino acid) in grass that causes laminitis in grass keep equines.
Obesity, overeating and insufficient work are the most common cause of the disease. Other causes are: Toxaemia from toxins released by the death of microbial populations due to rapid changes in the gut environment.
Trauma from excessive work on hard surfaces and in under conditioned horses, bad/irregular trimming, drug related including chemical wormers, stress and pituitary tumour
Laminitis is defined according to the severity.
FOUNDER: The laminae first stretch and then separate. This causes the separation between the bone and the hoof. The pedal bone rotates downwards and descends towards the sole, with the sole becoming flattened or convex. The (circumflex) artery and associated blood vessels become trapped between the pedal bone and the sole resulting in haemorrhage
SINKERS: If the blood flow is interrupted to the entire laminar corium, the pedal bone becomes detached from the hoof and is loose within the foot and the pedal bone rests on the sole. In worst case scenarios the pedal bone pierces the sole and this is a solar prolapse.
Signs of laminitis include lying down while grazing, slight lameness at walk or trot or the horse may be lying down, sweating and blowing.
There is a characteristic stance of acute laminitis: Horses stand with their hindquarters beneath them and their front legs extended in front of them while resting on their heels. They may rock from foot to foot.
Laminitis and founder cases tend to walk on their heels while sinker cases slap their feet down in a flat-footed way.
Chronic laminitis cases have growth rings that are wider at the heal converging towards the toe.
X-rays of the feet will show rotation of the pedal bone.
In white footed animals that have foundered, blood from the coronary corium can be seen in the wall as a red ring and bruising on the sole about 6 weeks after foundering.
It’s useful to be familiar with the digital pulse of your horse as a raised pulse may be indicative. Also be familiar with the contours of the coronary band (cb). This which will aid an appreciation of the characteristic depression above the cb associated with founder.
What to do: Call your horse vet. Your vet will probably give anti inflammatories and painkillers. A laxative feed or drench may be recommended in order to clear the digestive system as quickly as possible. Stable the horse in a deep bed. If the animal is unable to walk, or if the stable is some distance, a trailer should be used to transport the horse.
Frog supports: A pad made from carpet, rubber, a tail/leg bandage, fitted within the margin of the frog are helpful.
While movement aids circulation, care must be taken because under the effect of painkillers the horse may move more than it should, thereby exacerbating the laminitis.
Removal of the entire wall of the hoof from the coronary band downwards may be advised.
Therapeutic shoeing may be useful.
It may take a year or more after the onset, diagnosis and treatment of laminitis (depending upon severity) before the animal can resume work.
To prevent laminitis: Horses and ponies should be maintained at the correct weight, with restricted access to pasture. Stressed grass, i.e. starvation paddocks, lush spring and autumn grass and frosty grass on winter mornings tend to have high levels of fructans and susceptible equines should not be turned out under these conditions.
Ponies can be muzzled. Growing a mixture of grasses that are relatively low in nutrients is advised.
If stabled; a diet of hay and Lucerne together with a balanced supplement to provide micronutrients is needed. Horses and ponies that are correctly nourished and supplemented, even though having more condition than is desirable are less likely to succumb to laminitis. This is because the balance of nutrients is protective. Fat animals should be dieted but not starved and they too require balanced supplements.
During or after a laminitis incident horses and ponies are usually given very reduced rations and its especially important to provide them with a balanced supplement such as Equilibrate COMPLETE to provide the nutrients for repair and recovery.
There are a number of nutraceuticals and herbal remedies that can be useful in the treatment and the prevention of laminitis. These include Equilibrate MSM, garlic, ginseng, licorice, Cats claw, Devils claw, Valerian and cloves. Please use Enquiries if you would like a Specifically Formulated supplement.
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