What Is Laminitis In A Horse? (Solved)

Laminitis is a common, extremely painful and frequently recurrent condition in horses, ponies and donkeys. It has significant welfare implications for owners. This condition affects the tissues (laminae) bonding the hoof wall to pedal bone in the hoof.

Should you shoe a laminitic horse?

  • High body morphometrics,such as the body condition score and generalized and regional adiposity,already mentioned,along with larger neck circumference and decreased height (as in a pony);
  • Recent diet or stabling changes;
  • Exposure to lush pasture;

How does a horse get laminitis?

Laminitis commonly results from endocrine diseases such as equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) or pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), but other causes can include weight bearing on supporting limbs due to injury and excessive sugar intake from grain or lush pasture. Laminitis is irreversible.

What are the first signs of laminitis?

Signs of acute laminitis include the following:

  • Lameness, especially when a horse is turning in circles; shifting lameness when standing.
  • Heat in the feet.
  • Increased digital pulse in the feet (most easily palpable over either sesamoid bone at the level of the fetlock).

What happens when a horse gets laminitis?

In laminitis, the blood flow to the laminae is affected, resulting in inflammation and swelling in the tissues within the hoof, and severe pain. As the laminae are starved of oxygen and nutrient rich blood, the cells become damaged.

What is the most common cause of laminitis?

Laminitis can be caused by many factors, including overeating ( obesity ), working on a hard surface (commonly referred to as road founder), running high fevers, exposure to black walnut shavings, and stress. Ponies are extremely susceptible to laminitis, especially when fed rich, lush forage.

Does laminitis go away?

Laminitis is a crippling condition which can be fatal in severe cases. Once a horse has had an episode of laminitis, they are particularly susceptible to future episodes. Laminitis can be managed but not cured which is why prevention is so important.

Can horses get laminitis from hay?

Conserved forage, such as hay and haylage, is the cornerstone of the laminitis prone horse’s diet; as they typically spend longer periods stabled, or in a no-grass area.

Should a horse with laminitis be put down?

Grade 3 laminitis can occur suddenly (complete separation can happen as fast as 48 hours after the process begins), or very gradually over time. In either case, the pain is constant and excruciating. Grade 3 laminitis turns deadly when euthanasia becomes the horse’s only means for relief.

How do you prevent laminitis?

Fortunately, metabolic disorders in horses can be controlled, reducing the risk of laminitis, with these basic steps:

  1. Identify at-risk horses.
  2. Treat PPID.
  3. Minimize sugars and starches in the diet.
  4. Limit access to lush pasture.
  5. Manage body weight.
  6. Prevent starch overloads.
  7. Make dietary changes gradually.

Do shoes help laminitis?

The only shoe that truly provides any type of support for a laminitic horse is a heart bar. Application of a heart bar shoe should be a very precise procedure, requiring training and x-rays for proper placement. If necessary, a vet may call for pads.

Can laminitis be reversed?

Can a horse with laminitis be cured? Once an animal has had laminitis, they will be at an increased risk of getting it again. The current episode can be cured, but it is likely that laminitis will occur again at some point in the future.

How do I know if my horse has laminitis?

10 Early Warning Signs of Laminitis

  • A strong/bounding digital pulse.
  • A hoof that’s hot for hours.
  • A distorted hoof shape and/or unusual rings.
  • An increased heart rate.
  • Too little—or too much—foot lifting.
  • Apparent stretched and/or bleeding laminae.
  • A shortened stride.
  • Increased insulin levels.

What are the signs of a horse foundering?

Signs and Symptoms of Founder

  • Sudden onset of lameness.
  • Resistance to walking or moving.
  • Feeling a pulse and heat in the foot.
  • Shifting weight back and forth between legs.
  • Reluctance to bend the leg.
  • Standing with the legs camped out in front of the body or with all four legs under the body.
  • Laying down more frequently.

How quickly can laminitis come on?

A laminitic episode generally occurs sometime between 20 and 72 hours after a trigger event. This trigger might be an injury, for instance, or a metabolic condition that sets off an insulin chain reaction.

What plants cause laminitis in horses?

Plants Toxic to Horses

  • Alsike Clover.
  • White and Red Clover.
  • Tall Fescue.
  • Buttercup Species.
  • Pokeweed.
  • Nightshade Species.
  • Horsenettle.
  • Poison Hemlock.

What treats can you give a horse with laminitis?

Alternative Treats for Metabolic Horses

  • apples and apple sauce.
  • carrots.
  • watermelon.
  • flavored yogurt.
  • pretzels, chips and most cereals.
  • cookies, both human and equine.
  • candy, including peppermints, jelly beans, etc.

What is laminitis, and how can it be prevented or treated? – RSPCA Knowledgebase

Laminate foot laminitis (also known as founder) is an inflammation of the ligaments of the foot, which are the soft tissue structures that connect the coffin or pedal bone of a horse’s foot to the hoof wall. Extreme pain is caused by the inflammation and damage to the laminae, which also results in the coffin bone becoming unstable in the hoof. In more severe cases, it can result in the complete separation of the pedal bone from the hoof wall as well as rotation of the pedal bone within the hoof wall.

Once a horse has experienced an episode of laminitis, he or she is more susceptible to experiencing another episode.

Initial (acute) symptoms

  • In spite of the fact that all four feet are susceptible to being damaged, the forelimbs are more commonly and seriously afflicted than the hindlimbs. Equine patients that are affected by this condition are reluctant to move and adopt a’sawhorse’ attitude, in which they rock their weight off the most severely damaged forelimbs. Horses suffering from laminitis will frequently lie down. As a result of the intense discomfort in the other supporting forelimb, it will be difficult for you to lift up one of your forelimbs. To the touch, the hoof wall and coronary band (the soft tissue that surrounds the top of the hoof) are frequently warm. When foot testers (a tool used by your veterinarian or farrier to detect hoof pain) are used, there is frequently discomfort, particularly around the toe area. In contrast to analog pulses, digital pulses are powerful and quick (the digital pulse may be discovered at the rear of your horse’s fetlock). Request a demonstration from your veterinarian if you are unsure of how to do this.

Chronic symptoms

This kind of inflammation is identified in situations where the inflammation has been present for a long period of time and structural alterations are now evident:

  • “Rings” of laminitis appear on the surface of the afflicted hoof, and these “rings” correlate to earlier bouts of laminitis in the horse. The curvature of the hoof wall is similar to that of a dish or slipper, with lengthy toes. A bulge in the sole corresponds to the rotation of the pedal bone in the hoof when the bone has rotated in the hoof
  • Due to restricted flexibility in its front legs, the horse will tend to bear greater weight on its rear legs, which is known as the “laminitic position.”


Overfeeding obese ponies is a fairly prevalent cause of laminitis, especially during the spring months following a period of heavy rain. In grasses and clovers, the soluble carbohydrate content increases as a result of the rain. When consumed, this triggers metabolic changes in the body, which results in altered blood flow to the laminae of the foot and ankle. Among the other reasons are:

  • When a horse gets into a feed shed or bin, he may be overfed grain, resulting in grain engorgement. a mare’s placenta remains in situ after foaling
  • Situations characterized by septicaemia Obesity (a major predisposing factor in laminitic horses)
  • A weakened immune system. Lameness that prohibits one leg from sustaining its own weight, resulting in laminitis in the other supporting limb
  • Extreme labor in unshod horses on hard terrain, or over-enthusiastic hoof clipping might result in trauma.

Risk Group

Ponies that are overweight, as well as their crossbreds, are more susceptible to laminitis. Any horse suffering from one of the conditions listed above, on the other hand, may be impacted. Those horses that have had past episodes of laminitis (e.g., hoof rings or slipper-shaped feet) are more susceptible to subsequent episodes of laminitis due to the fact that they have fewer healthy laminae remaining to provide support for the pedal bone. The spring season is when the majority of instances of laminitis caused by overfeeding occur.


If you feel your horse is suffering from laminitis, you should seek veterinarian care right once. A radiograph (X-ray) of your horse’s foot will likely be required depending on the severity of the clinical symptoms. This is done to evaluate how much rotation there is in your horse’s hoof and how much pressure is being applied to the pedal bone. The information gained from this will offer your veterinarian with a baseline against which to measure response to treatment as well as the required information from which to collaborate with your farrier to get the best possible outcome.


To have a successful outcome, early diagnosis and treatment with a strong focus on prevention are essential, as is a positive working relationship between you, your veterinarian, and your farrier:

  • First and foremost, eliminate the source of the problem. The removal of horses from their food supply should be done quickly if they have acquired laminitis as a result of overfeeding. When a mare has retained her placenta, it is a medical emergency. Your veterinarian will need to remove any residual placenta, rinse the uterus with saline, and begin necessary medical care right away. Horses suffering from a septicaemic condition will also require vigorous medical care from your veterinarian
  • Anti-inflammatories will be the cornerstone of treatment in this situation. According to the etiology, severity, and stage of laminitis, consult with your veterinarian about the most appropriate treatment and dosage rate to be used. Horses suffering from this condition must be kept in thick shavings so that they may dig their hooves into a comfortable posture. Alternately, you may choose to use a sand yard, but it is critical to use a hoof pick twice daily to prevent sand from building up in the sole. Exercise should be avoided during the early stages since it may result in additional rotation of the pedal bone
  • Proper hoof care is essential. Your farrier should speak with your veterinarian and trim the hoof in accordance with the degree of rotation of the pedal bone. Ongoing nutritional control is also important. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate feeding schedule. In addition to getting additional feed sources that are high in soluble carbohydrate, many feeds that are marketed as safe for laminitic horses are not suited for use in your horse. Until you are able to obtain veterinarian assistance or guidance, feed just hay
  • Horses want companionship. You should make certain that horses confined during laminitis therapy have the opportunity to socialize with other horses.


  • Make certain that your horse or pony is fed a well-balanced ration that is appropriate for their kind, age, and level of exercise. Access to rich pasture should be restricted, particularly during the rainy spring months. If you fear your mare has retained her placenta (12 hours later may be too late), or if your horse appears to be in any way sick, seek veterinarian treatment immediately. Regular foot care from a professional farrier is essential for your horse’s well-being.

The Equiculture Responsible Horse Carepage contains further information.


  • It is characterized by inflammation and destruction of the tissue that lies between the hoof and the underlying coffin bone. As a result, in severe cases, it can develop to founder, which is a condition in which the hoof and the coffin bone get separated, and the coffin bone might spin, resulting in significant discomfort. Other causes of laminitis include damage to supporting limbs, high sugar consumption from grain or lush grass, and endocrine illnesses such as the equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) or pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID). Laminitis is a condition that cannot be reversed. Treatment is being undertaken in order to prevent additional harm. Horses’ recovery results differ significantly from one another.

*You may print off a copy of this article by clicking here. Laminitis is a condition characterized by tissue injury and inflammation between the hoof and the underlying coffin bone (distal phalanx, P3). On one side, it contacts the surface of the bone, while on the other, it contacts the interior surface of the hoof wall, forming a connection between both. This tissue is termed laminae (also known as lamellae). It is possible to have anything from slight foot pain to complete separation of the coffin bone and hoof depending on how strongly these attachments have been weakened (founder).

A horse’s laminitis can be caused by a variety of factors, including excessive grain intake, access to sugary pasture, compensatory weight bearing as a result of an injury to the opposite limb (supporting-limb laminitis or contralateral limb laminitis), ingestion of toxic plants (such as black walnut shavings), and excessive work on hard surfaces (such as concrete) (road founder).

Ponies and older horses account for a greater proportion of laminitis cases than younger horses and animals of other breeds.

What are the clinical signs of laminitis?

The clinical indications of laminitis are dependent on the degree of damage done to the laminae and vary from horse to horse. Lameness in one or more hooves, with varying degrees of severity, is frequent. Horses suffering from this condition may be sluggish to move or unwilling to rise (recumbent). When standing, they may transfer their weight from one hoof to the other, or they may stand with their front feet stretched out in front of them and their rear feet beneath their body (known as a “sawhorse posture” in English).

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How is laminitis diagnosed?

Laminitis is diagnosed based on clinical indicators, which might be difficult to determine in mild forms of the disease. Generally speaking, laminitis is split into three stages: the developing stage, the acute stage, and the chronic stage. The coffin bone has been displaced in the hoof of a horse suffering from laminitis, as shown on this X-ray.

  • Developing: The developmental phase is the stage in which the laminae are first injured and is the most serious. Horses often do not present clinical indications, but the underlying illness and pathological processes are already in motion in their bodies. Acute: The initial indications of lameness are detected during this phase, which can last anywhere from a few hours to many days. It is possible for the coffin bone to be rotated and displaced, however not all horses will have bone displacement. Horses may have elevated digital pulses, higher foot temperatures, swelling in the limbs, frequent weight shifting, subtle or evident lameness, a posture suggesting pain, a hesitation to move, and a reluctance to stand
  • However, these symptoms are not always present. Chronic laminitis is defined as a set of clinical indications that persist for more than a week before being identified. As a result of displacement of the coffinbone, pain and lameness are experienced during this phase, and the amount of the displacement may be seen on radiographs. Horses suffering with this condition display higher digital pulses, varied degrees of lameness, and weight loss. In certain cases, the coronary band may be cleft, giving the hooves a distinctive “dished” look. In circumstances where the problem has been for a long time, growth rings on the hoof may be seen. Some horses suffer white line separation, seedy toe, and abscesses as a result of this condition. Extremely severe instances can result in the coffin bone penetrating through the sole of the hoof

How is laminitis treated?

If you have laminitis, it is irreversible, and the harm is already done once you see the first indications of the disease. It is critical at this moment to keep the situation from deteriorating further. Pain control and supportive care are the primary components of treatment. Good working relationships between owners, veterinarians, and farriers are essential for successful management. Horses may be placed on stall rest with heavy bedding, and in severe circumstances, they may be sling supported.

Cold treatment, such as ice baths or ice boots, can also be used to reduce the amount of inflammation in the body.

It is possible to utilize radiographs to guide trimming and shoeing in order to shift weight from the hoof wall to other structures and reduce strain on the deep flexor tendon.

A low-calorie ration balancer and hay with a low non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) content are included, as well as therapy for the underlying cause of the secondary disease (i.e.

What is the prognosis for laminitis?

The prognosis for horses suffering from laminitis might differ significantly from one horse to the next. Horses suffering with a minor case of laminitis may be able to recover, particularly if the coffin bone has not been dislocated. Once founder has occurred, rehabilitation is time-consuming and the outcome is unpredictable.

Some patients are killed because the discomfort is unbearable and cannot be controlled satisfactorily. Recovery is most successful when it occurs as early as possible. If you have any reason to believe that your horse is getting laminitis, contact your veterinarian immediately.

How can laminitis be prevented?

It is possible that the following measures will assist in the prevention of laminitis:

  • Exclude horses at risk from access to lush grass (which is high in sugars), particularly those with EMS and/or PID. Sugars and carbs should be kept to a bare minimum in the diet of horses that have experienced laminitis, are insulin resistant, or are otherwise at risk. Regular farrier treatment should be scheduled to ensure that the horses’ hooves are correctly balanced. Maintain a healthy weight for your horses (overweight horses are more likely to develop laminitis). It is possible to measure weight changes over time using weight cassettes and body condition score (BCS). Provide assistance for the limb that is opposite the wounded limb in order to avoid supporting limb laminitis from developing.

*Without the express written permission of the UC Davis Center for Equine Health, this paper may not be reprinted in any form. Requests should be sent through email to [email protected].

Laminitis in Horses

The term “ACVS Diplomate” refers to a veterinarian who has received board certification in veterinary surgery from the American College of Veterinary Surgery. Only veterinarians who have successfully completed the certification requirements of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) are entitled to use the title “specialist in veterinary surgery.” Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (DACVS) are the only ones who have earned the right to use the title “specialist in veterinary surgery.” Your board-certified veterinary surgeon from the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) completed a three-year residency program, met specified training and caseload criteria, conducted research, and had that study published.

  1. This procedure was overseen by ACVS Diplomates, who ensured that the training was consistent and that the high standards were adhered to.
  2. It was only after that that your veterinary surgeon was awarded the ACVS Diplomate designation.
  3. Laminitis is caused by a bacterial infection in the lamina of the hoof.
  4. The distal phalanx/coffin bone of the horse corresponds to the bone at the top of the middle finger of a person’s right hand (Figure.
  5. It is entirely enclosed within the hoof of the animal.
  6. There is no other way to prevent the horse’s body weight (about 500 kg or 1100 lb) from driving the coffin bone through the bottom of the sole of his hoof except to form a link between it and its coffin bone.
  7. This contact is joined by several hundred folds, which are known to as lamellae, in order to optimize the strength of the binding between the hoof wall and the coffin bone (Figure 2).

For this reason, and since lamellae are created by live cells with a well-developed blood and nerve supply, the hoof wall-coffin bone link is susceptible to a wide range of systemic disorders that can lead to the development of laminitis. The Most Important Factors

  • Overconsumption of grains
  • Ingestion of lush grass Significant intestinal disease: surgical colic or diarrhea
  • Sepsis (circulating microorganisms in the blood stream) caused by, but not limited to the following:
  • Pleuropneumonia
  • Uterine infection caused by a retained placenta in post-foaling mares
  • Uterine infection caused by a retained placenta in post-foaling mares Peritonitis (infection of the abdominal cavity) is a kind of infection.
  • The use of bedding made of black walnut shavings
  • Exposure to these flakes Obesity and overweight bearing (for example, your horse steps on a nail on the left front limbis, rendering it unable to bear weight
  • If the problem in the left front limb is not resolved, the right forelimb is placed at a high risk of developing laminitis from bearing the majority of the weight = contralateral limb laminitis)
  • A horse’s weight bearing capacity is exceeded.

Factors that make a difference

  • Excess glucocorticoids in the bloodstream
  • Cushing’s disease in horses or corticosteroid administration in horses The metabolic syndrome is a condition that is frequently connected with obesity. Ingestion of ergot alkaloids, such as those present in fescue grass or hay that has been contaminated with endophytes
  • Inactivity (which is frequently accompanied with obesity)
  • Unusual and rigorous physical activity
  • “Road founder” is a term used to describe excessive concussion on the foot caused by activity on a hard surface. Stress can be caused by a high-stress job or workplace, long-distance transportation, or hospitalization. Poor hoof conformation, as well as incorrect trimming and shoeing
  • Previous injury to the digital vasculature or the lamellar dermis may indicate a history of laminitis.

Excess glucocorticoids in the bloodstream; Cushing’s disease in horses or corticosteroid administration in horses. Weight gain is generally related with the metabolic syndrome. A person’s consumption of ergot alkaloids, such as those found in fescue grass or hay that has been infected with endophytes; The lack of physical exercise (which is frequently accompanied by obesity). Strenuous physical activity that is unfamiliar to you. “Road founder” is a term used to describe excessive concussion in the foot caused by exercising on a hard surface.

incorrect trimming or shoeing due to poor hoof conformation a prior injury to the digital vasculature or the lamellar dermis; a family history of laminitis; a history of laminitis

  • There has been extensive damage to the blood flow within the hoof. Because of insufficient blood flow, a bacterial infection within the hoof has developed. The prolapse of the tip of the coffin bone through the sole of the hoof is referred to as coffin bone prolapse. Damage to the bone near the tip of the coffin bone as a result of aberrant mechanical stress

Clinical signs and symptoms of laminitis, bounding digital pulses, and radiographic abnormalities are used to make the diagnosis of laminitis. The intensity and duration of the main cause are other factors that influence radiographic alterations. From thickening of the area between the hoof wall and coffin bone to a change in coffin bone density, to noticeable rotation or sinking of the coffin bone, and, in chronic instances, disintegration and resorption of the coffin bone, radiographic alterations can be seen.

  • This can be a valuable addition to regular radiographs because it can reveal areas of reduced or absent blood vessels on the front of the hoof.
  • Despite this, there is still plenty about the world that we do not fully comprehend.
  • The time frame in which we have the best opportunity to impact the outcome is before the horse even begins to show indications of foot discomfort (pre-emptive treatment).
  • In most cases, once the horse exhibits indications of laminitis, the damaging process has already begun, and treatment becomes much more difficult, with a more unpredictable outcome.
  • Intensive systemic anti-inflammatory and pain medication
  • Cryotherapy
  • And immediate medical and/or surgical treatment of the underlying main cause are recommended. Due to the fact that these horses may spend a significant portion of their time lying down, they require meticulous nursing care to avoid complications such as:
  • Once your horse is stable enough, you may concentrate on foot care (see Figure 7).

When you should seek veterinarian advice are as follows:

  • If you see any indications of colic, call your doctor. If your horse has gotten into the feed bin or grain bag, you should immediately call your veterinarian. Coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, or fever are all indicators of a cold. A difficult delivery (dystocia) for your mare, and you are unclear whether the complete placenta was passed, you can use this method. If your horse is taking short, stiff steps or if they are transferring their weight often between legs, they may be suffering from lamenessor. Your horse’s inability to stand on their own two feet
  • Equine cresty neck is an aberrant distribution of fat pads in the horse (especially at the tail head/rump, neck, and withers).

Board-certified veterinary surgeons in equine practice who are members of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) have received specialized training in the therapy of orthopedic problems in horses, including laminitis. For the most part, the majority of ACVS-certified veterinary surgeons in horse practice work in referral hospitals that have state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment equipment. Aftercare and a positive outcome: It is common for horses to require particular treatment for the remainder of their lives once they have had laminitis and have recovered to a stable condition.

This is dependent on how severe the overall clinical and radiographic symptoms are. Long-term care may be recommended by your veterinarian, and may include the following services:

  • Reducing turnout time, giving a firmly bedded stall, or locating a turnout place with soft ground/sand and a smaller grazing space are all suggestions. Low-carbohydrate/high-starch diet
  • Reducing grass intake (particularly in the spring)
  • Soaking and boiling hay
  • And a variety of other practices. On a regular basis (every 3–5 weeks), corrective shoeing is performed. Administration of anti-inflammatory medications (phenylbutazone (bute) or banamine) on a daily basis to assist control discomfort and make standing more comfortable is recommended. Recheck radiographs on a regular basis (every 3 months to yearly, depending on your veterinarian’s prescription)

As with therapy and aftercare, the prognosis is influenced by the underlying fundamental cause, clinical indicators, and severity of diagnostic results, among other factors. What is vital is that the fundamental cause of the laminitis be identified and addressed, and that the development of the disease is controlled (i.e., is not progressively worsening). In less severe situations, some horses may be able to return to their prior level of performance. More often than not, it is the best-case scenario that your horse will ultimately become pasture-sound again.

If left untreated, the severity of clinical signs can worsen to the point where the horse is unable to rise, and either the tip of the coffin bone can penetrate through the bottom of the sole of the hoof, or the hoof can become completely detached from the underlying bone, resulting in the horse “walking out of its hoof.” Euthanasia is the most compassionate treatment choice for horses that show clinical symptoms that are even remotely near to reaching either of these thresholds.

Following therapy for laminitis, there is a risk of developing complications, which include, but are not limited to:

  • If just one hoof is initially afflicted, the opposite leg may develop contralateral limb laminitis as a result of excessive weight bearing on the affected hoof. Depending on the underlying original cause, laminitis might occur in any other unaffected limb. Hoof growth that is aberrant – the presence of rings, an irregular growth rate/pattern
  • Laminitis flare-ups that occur on a regular basis, such as every few months to years. Clinical symptoms might deteriorate, necessitating the need for frequent diagnoses, therapy, and care as described above. There is a greater proclivity for developing abscesses in the foot, which necessitates the need for veterinarian care and treatment.
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Laminitis in horses is also referred to as the founder’s disease. This Animal Health Topic was produced by Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and evaluated by Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons Any thoughts expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, nor do they represent the official viewpoint of the organization. For further information on this subject, the American College of Veterinary Surgeons suggests that you speak with an ACVS board-certified veterinary surgeon or your general veterinarian.

How to Support Horses With Acute or Chronic Laminitis – The Horse

“Laminitis has struck my horse. “What should I do?” Even while we may be familiar with the principles (cool the feet, offer support, and address discomfort), it might be beneficial to consult with veterinarians who are actively researching painful hoof disease for the most up-to-date recommendations on how to handle situations. As researchers get a better understanding of laminitis, recommendations may shift. In Kennett Square, Andrew van Eps has the degrees of BVSc, PhD, MACVSc, Dipl. ACVIM, and is an associate professor of horse musculoskeletal research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center.

They’ve discovered or validated the efficacy of mechanical techniques for treating both acutely laminitic horses and chronically laminitic horses along the road.

During the 11th annual Northeast Association of Equine Practitioners (NEAEP) conference, held Sept. 25-28, 2019, in Saratoga Springs, New York, Van Eps discussed these techniques for veterinarians and farriers.

Laminitis Defined

When the interlocking laminae, which hold the coffin bone in place within the hoof capsule, are injured or inflamed, laminitis develops in the horse. Occasionally, the laminae tear apart in extreme cases, causing the coffin bone to rotate downward or sink into the ground. Laminitis can be caused by a multitude of factors, including sepsis (blood infection) and endocrine disorders, as well as severe weight-bearing on a leg. (You can find out more about why and how this occurs here.) Numerous horses suffering from either the acute or chronic forms of the disease experience excruciating agony to the point where vets decide to euthanize them.

Managing Acute and Chronic Cases Mechanically

When there is laminar inflammation and failure, it is necessary to unload the hoof wall and minimize the lever arm of the foot to prevent further damage. Consider the bones in the leg and hoof as levers; if the toe is very long, the weight on it increases when the foot breaks over during movement, causing pain in the animal suffering from laminar inflammation. Van Eps has a variety of methods for supporting the horse and making an attempt to decrease the lever arm.

  • He advocates standing horses with acute severe laminitis on sand as a first line of defense against laminitis. “There are some excellent boots out there that you can design unique impression material inserts into,” he stated. “It is in accordance with the frog and sole,” he explained. In addition, it facilitates pivoting so that it gives underfoot and lowers torsional stress on the hoof wall, as well as allowing the foot to find its own comfort zone a little bit more easily.” The moment arm lever on the toe is reduced as a result of the breakover.”

He acknowledged that sand is difficult to manage in the barn because it is heavy and difficult to keep dry, and that it must remain dry in order to be useful in these situations (it becomes hard if it is allowed to become wet or soiled, for example). Some horses do not like to lie down in sand, so he recommends placing it in the area where the horse is most likely to stand and then bedding the rest of the stall with shavings or straw. “I don’t think you can beat it for an acute case,” says the doctor, despite the inconvenience.

In the case of severe acute laminitis, there aren’t many new mechanical options, according to van Eps, but he did mention an in vitro (in the lab) study in which researchers assessed how trimming the hoof wall affected laminar tissue damage in cadaver limbs.

According to him, “I’m not advocating that people do this right now,” but he did point out that increasing water content in the foot is another way to make a foot more deformable, “and it’s definitely food for thought.” Van Eps refers to chronic cases resulting from an underlying endocrine disease (PPID or EMS) as “our nemesis,” because the signs can be very mild and easily missed by veterinarians, and the cases can be difficult to treat as a result of their complexity.

In particular, he advised looking for (hoof growth) rings that are more spaced out at the heel than they are at the toe.

In his opinion, “we definitely need to do a little bit better in terms of interpreting minor indications.” The progression of laminitis causes the formation of a lamellar wedge, which is a wedge between the coffin bone and the hoof wall that is largely irreversible, according to him.

“The bottom surface of the coffin bone, as well as the sole beneath it, are not intended to support the weight of the horse.

the pain,” as well as vascular compromise in the region, when the sole is compressed. Occasionally, in extreme situations, the coffin bone will pierce the sole, complicating the care even more.

Controlling Laminitis Pain

He believes that the pain in acute laminitis is mostly caused by inflamed lamellae, but that the discomfort in chronic laminitis is caused by the solitary compression beneath the tip of the coffin bone, which van Eps says is common in chronic laminitis. “However, the pain associated with chronic laminitis is complex and includes an aspect of neuropathic pain,” he explained, referring to the fact that alterations in the nerves of the leg and the spinal cord might actually contribute to a heightened feeling of pain in the horse.

He discussed many techniques of determining the intensity of discomfort experienced by a laminitic horse, including:

  • Enhanced cardiovascular and respiratory parameters
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate and respiratory rate In addition to force plates and other objective methods of evaluating weight distribution, pedometers and accelerometers can be used to evaluate weight-shifting activities. Behavioral indicators include:
  • Low carriage of the head
  • Unusual body position
  • In the stall, she’s turning away from you rather than toward you

Whenever someone sees a horse eating, they automatically think that the horse is not in pain, according to him, but this is not the case. “Horses will eat till they’re sick,” he remarked emphatically. “They’ll eat for the sake of comfort; it’s not a good measure of well-being.” To measure development, Van Eps recommends serial monitoring of several pain parameters, which entails checking on the horse on a frequent basis and documenting findings serially on paper. “I believe that you should constantly question whether (your pain control measures) are effective or not,” he stated.

Controlling Pain

Van Eps employs a variety of systemic pain management treatments for laminitic horses, including:

  • Analgesia both systemic and localized (delivered intravenously or straight to the lower limb, respectively). “We’re certainly not being proactive enough,” he said, “but we also have to recognize that pain may be a protective factor.”

As a result, by completely removing the horse’s discomfort, particularly in situations of severe laminitis, we run the risk of further damaging the horse’s foot tissues, which is especially dangerous if the animal is not securely confined.

  • Although nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as phenylbutazone and flunixin meglumine are the most effective first-line analgesics for laminitis, he cautioned that veterinarians should keep colonic ulceration and renal damage in mind when administering these medications to laminitic horses. Firocoxib and meloxicam may be beneficial in chronic instances in order to reduce the chance of these problems occurring. Gabapentin is an excellent treatment for neuropathic pain in humans, and it is increasingly widely used in horses suffering from acute and chronic laminitis, as well. The use of gabapentin early in the course of laminitis pain, especially in acute instances, may be beneficial in controlling this part of the pain. There are new analgesics on the market. According to him, one of these medications is acetaminophen, which provides some analgesic benefit, is reasonably cost-effective, and appears to be safe for use in horses
  • Another is ibuprofen, which provides some analgesic benefit, is reasonably cost-effective, and appears to be safe for use in horses.

In particular, he is interested in localized approaches to increase analgesia in horses, particularly when one leg is worse than the other or when they require adjunct pain management in addition to systemic medications, he explained. The following are some examples of regional approaches:

  • In the short term, epidurals for hind-limb lameness, and even forelimb lameness with specific modifications to the therapeutic method, can be beneficial
  • But, in the long run, epidurals are not recommended. A continuous peripheral nerve block (CPNB) numbs the lower extremity of the targeted limb by blocking the nerve supply to the lower extremity. “I think we are sometimes not aggressive enough in these circumstances,” he said of his use of a tiny pump to continually provide local anesthetic to the palmar nerves in cases when supporting limb laminitis is a hazard, such as surgery to one leg. The use of cold treatment begins to provide pain relief at the skin’s surface as soon as the surface tissue temperature drops below roughly 7 degrees Celsius (44.6 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the author.

Van Eps has discovered exceptional bone pathology (damage) in a large number of chronic laminitis cases that have failed to respond to analgesic therapy. According to him, “this has some parallels with human cancer-induced bone pain, in which there is bone loss and intractable pain,” as well as complex regional pain syndrome (damage to, or malfunction of, the peripheral and central nervous systems, which is often seen in one limb after injury), in which they also lose bone. and experience severe pain.” Bisphosphonates, it is worth noting, are the most effective pain relievers under certain circumstances.

“As a result, I believe it may be worthwhile to investigate using bisphosphonates in situations when pain cannot be managed with existing methods and there is evidence of significant bone loss,” he continued.

Foot Care for Chronic Laminitis

van Eps: In order to make laminitis horses more comfortable on their feet, van Eps:

  • Clogs are used to assist chronic laminitic horses in whom the coffin bone has rotated or sunk due to rotation or sinking. “I’ve made the switch to clogs,” he said. It’s not just my Dutch background that has influenced my taste in clogs, though. They are really simple to put on, and they provide you with a great deal of depth with which to work in terms of putting the breakover back where you want it or altering it laterally to medially, among other things. The most significant advantage, I believe, is the ability to actively release strain under the tip of the coffin bone, which is now compressing the sole. Even in chronic instances, I believe you will see a significant improvement very immediately.”
  • In many situations of mild-moderate chronic laminitis, heart-bar shoes are prescribed. In other circumstances, the hoof wall is resected (i.e., parts of it are removed). When there is indications of coffin bone osteomyelitis (bone infection), the doctor will use sterile maggots to clean away the necrotic tissue. Targets the underlying cause of the laminitis, which in many chronic cases is endocrine issues
  • In these horses, van Eps performs dynamic endocrine testing for both PPID and EMS, and retests on a regular basis: “Even if they’re on pergolide, re-measure their ACTH regularly to ensure that it’s under control.”

Finally, according to van Eps, effective communication between the veterinarian and farrier may be quite beneficial in the management of both acute and chronic laminitis patients. “Overall, it is crucial to know that chronic laminitis therapy will always be tough and that there will never be a ‘cure,'” he explained. “As a result, prevention is essential.” Early detection of underlying endocrine disorder (PPID and EMS), early identification of laminitis (detection of early change on radiographs), and establishment of suitable care prior to the progression of laminitis are the keys to successfully defeating this disease.” ​

Laminitis In Horses

It is a prevalent but yet poorly understood ailment that produces varied degrees of foot discomfort, ranging from the minor pottery pony to severe and life-threatening lameness. Owners frequently underestimate the potential for it to produce long-term structural unsoundness. It is not unusual for severe and unmanaged situations to need euthanasia for the sake of the patient’s humanity because of their intractable agony.

What is laminitis?

Laminitis is defined as an inflammation of the sensitive layers (laminae) of the hoof in its most basic definition. Numerous interdigitating specialized ‘leaves’ (laminae) consisting of sensitive tissue hold the coffin bone in place within the hoof’s interior. These soft tissues are injured in the event of laminitis, resulting in discomfort and inflammation as well as the creation of gaps between the laminae in some instances. Even in the most minor of circumstances, competent therapy will fix the problem quite quickly and with no long-term consequences.

As a result, the pedal bone may get separated from the hoof when the horse is rotated, and the bone may sink into its hoof as a result of the rotation.

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What causes laminitis?

There is a blockage in the blood flow to the sensitive tissues of the foot, which is the source of the problem. The following are examples of conditions that can lead to this, either directly or indirectly:

  • Several factors contribute to this condition: overfeeding
  • Excessive carbohydrate consumption, such as cereals
  • Toxemia associated with infection, particularly bowel infection
  • Adverse reactions to certain medications, such as corticosteroids and some antibiotics
  • Severe injury, such as a fracture or joint infection, resulting in increased weight-bearing on the opposite limb
  • Neglected feet or poor trimming and shoeing resulting in long toe/low heal conformation
  • Excessive concussion due to rapid exercise on hard ground
  • Horses or ponies who have previously suffered from laminitis are more vulnerable to recurrence. It has been shown that some elderly horses with chronic or recurring laminitis have tumors of their pituitary glands (pituitary adenoma producing Cushing’s disease) or “metabolic syndrome.”

How can I recognize the early signs?

In moderate cases of laminitis, the horse or pony may seem a little ‘pottery,’ but this is only temporary. The forelimbs are the most usually afflicted, however it is also conceivable to have only the hindlimbs affected or to have all four feet affected. Frequently, one foot is more painful than the others. In addition to feeling unusually warm to the touch, a pulse obtained at the heel’s arteries may seem unusually strong. Laminitic horses would frequently stand with their hind limbs well beneath their bodies and their forelimbs splayed out in front of them, in an effort to take the weight off their painful front feet, according to the ASPCA.

Horses suffering from this condition will move with their heels landing first in order to prevent concussion to the sore toe area.

Those who suffer from severe rotation and sinking will often find themselves incapable of bearing any weight on the afflicted leg or limbs in the event of an abrupt stoppage of movement.

These horses must be regularly examined for symptoms of foot discomfort, and they must have frequent corrective farriery as well as monitoring x-rays performed.

It is crucial to remember that laminitis can proceed from a mild to a severe state even if therapy is started as soon as possible. Early warning indicators must be taken seriously and action done as soon as possible.

What can be done?

It is critical to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible and allow him or her to monitor your horse using x-rays. When the cause is discovered, many minor instances can be treated with steady rest, a limited diet, anti-inflammatory medicine (such as phenylbutazone), and removal of the source of the laminitis, if it is present. Additionally, more severe instances may require medicine to lower blood pressure (acetylpromazine), remedial hoof trimming and shoeing, and anti-inflammatory medication to be taken for an extended length of time (often many months).

This will progressively restore the hoof to a more comfortable conformation in relation to the pedal bone.

In situations when the pedal bone has entered the sole, the prognosis is dismal, and euthanasia should be carried out for the sake of the animal’s welfare.

How can it be prevented?

Because wild ponies have evolved to travel great miles in search of scarce, poor-quality food, any pony with access to good grazing should be closely monitored for indications of becoming overweight or unhealthy. It is recommended that grazing be reduced by either stalling on shavings, peat moss or shredded paper for part of the day or increasing activity to help manage body weight when grass growth is abundant. It is best to avoid abrupt increases in concentration meal intake, as well as working on hard surfaces at a rapid pace.

  1. Both of these illnesses carry a significant chance of causing laminitis in their victims.
  2. Conclusion Laminitis can manifest itself in a variety of ways, ranging from a small ‘unlevelness’ to a potentially life-threatening illness, and it should never be taken lightly.
  3. Although high-quality critical care is provided in many cases of acute laminitis associated with toxemia, a significant percentage of these patients are unsalvageable.
  4. Prevention is far preferable than cure in most situations.

Laminitis in Horses

The hoof wall is composed of an exterior insensitive layer (horn) that is interconnected and supported by an inner sensitive layer that lies beneath the horn (laminae). During laminitis, the blood supply to the laminae is compromised, resulting in inflammation and swelling of the tissues within the hoof, as well as excruciating discomfort. The cells in the laminae become destroyed as a result of the lack of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood flowing through them. The sensitive laminae begin to die if the underlying reason is not identified and treated as soon as the first indications of the ailment appear, which is usually within minutes.

In extreme cases of laminitis, the pedal bone can sink and rotate due to the inability of the injured laminae to hold it, as well as the pull of the deep digital flexor tendon, which causes the bone to sink and spin.

In many circumstances, this is permanent; however, certain cases can be healed, albeit at the expense of a great deal of time, patience, and financial resources.

Even though laminitis can affect any part of the foot, it is more frequently observed in the front feet. Laminitis may afflict any horse or pony, regardless of breed.

Causes of Laminitis

A variety of variables can contribute to laminitis in horses, as well as predispose them to developing the ailment. In particular, overweight animals and animals that have already suffered from laminitis are at risk of developing laminitis.

Diseases with inflammation

Laminitis can flare up as a result of diseases that are associated with inflammation, such as:

  • Certain forms of colic, diarrhea, a retained placenta, and serious pneumonia are all possible.

Hormonal diseases

In this ailment, an anomaly in the pituitary gland, which is located near the base of the horse’s brain, is responsible for the excessive production of hormones. It is possible for the horse to have increased thirst and hunger as a result of this condition. The horse’s coat becomes very curly, and he or she typically sweats excessively and may lose weight. In addition to these symptoms, horses that have Cushing’s disease are more likely to develop laminitis as a result of their condition. Equine metabolic syndrome: If your horse is overweight, has been diagnosed with insulin resistance, and suffers from laminitis, he or she may be suffering from equine metabolic syndrome (EMS).

Mechanical overload

This can be caused by a fractured or diseased joint, which can compel one leg to carry a greater amount of weight than the other. Laminitis is more likely to occur in the leg that is carrying the majority of the body weight.

High intake of soluble carbohydrates (sugars and starch)

The ingestion of an excessive amount of these components generates an overload in the digestive system, with undigested sugar and starch being pushed through to the hindgut as a result of the overload. In the hindgut, microorganisms break down the undigested material, producing acidity and the death of the bacteria that digest fiber. Bacterial death causes the release of toxins into the gut, which are then transported into the bloodstream through the gut wall. These poisons generate a reaction in the horse that is hypothesized to alter blood flow, which, in the case of the foot, can result in the development of laminitis.


Laminitis can be triggered by a significant change in environment and/or frequent travel, which is particularly dangerous in overweight animals. Mares are also at danger during the first several weeks after giving birth due to the increased physical stress.

Severe infection

Toxaemia (blood poisoning) can occur in any situation in which an animal is exposed to a severe bacterial infection, such as after foaling when the placenta is retained, during a severe colic episode, or after a period of protracted diarrhoea.


There is a tendency among many horse owners to overfeed their horses. When a horse receives more calories than it is able to burn off, it will quickly gain weight and become overweight. If the horse’s weight increases to the point that it becomes fat, this can be extremely harmful to its health. Overweight horses place a higher burden on their essential organs as well as their limbs, which might result in death.

The fact that native breeds can comfortably thrive on ordinary pasture and would rapidly grow overweight if permitted to eat fertilized cow pasture should be kept in mind by all horse owners and breeders.


Laminitis can be caused by a variety of factors. It is possible for laminae to be damaged if a horse has been exercised quickly and for an extended amount of time on a hard surface (such as trotting on highways). This is especially true if the horse has poor quality hooves. When the laminae are subjected to stress in this manner, it is possible that laminitis will develop.

Symptoms of Laminitis

Symptoms of acute laminitis in animals often manifest themselves quite abruptly and are extremely painful. The horse will exhibit signs of incapacity or reluctance to walk or move, and it may even lie down, demonstrating an unwillingness to return back to standing position. While going around in a circle or on a hard surface, the horse will become visually lame and will have an elevated digital pulse in the foot. It is possible for a horse to lean back on its hind feet when standing in order to relieve pressure on its front feet when it is standing.

Additionally, symptoms that are somewhat similar to colic might be observed.

Chronic laminitis

A horse suffering from chronic laminitis will have evidence of persistent symptoms, which are usually the consequence of a recurrence from prior assaults on the hoof. It is common for the horse’s hoof to have the appearance of growth rings around the hoof wall, which suggests that the horse has had laminitis in the recent past. It is important to note that they are not to be confused with hoof rings, which can occur as a result of nutritional changes or stress. It is common for the heel to develop quicker than the toe, and the white line in the hoof will have enlarged as a result.

Treatment of Laminitis

If your horse or pony exhibits any of these symptoms, it is critical that you contact a veterinarian immediately and adhere to the treatment plan as closely as possible. The correct therapy must be delivered as soon as possible in order to prevent any long-term damage to the foot and to provide relief from the associated discomfort. It is recommended that you relocate the horse or pony to a smaller pen/stable and bed the area down with a deep bed of shavings, cardboard, or sand to keep the horse or pony comfortable.

  1. It is critical to remove all feed, especially molasses licks, from the area, but it is also crucial to give fresh, clean water.
  2. The veterinarian will be able to provide recommendations for a proper diet.
  3. Due to the fact that stress may be a contributing cause to laminitis, it is critical that your horse be put in an environment where it feels safe and secure.
  4. Despite the fact that it may initially make the animal more comfortable, continuous exposure to the cold will exacerbate the disease.

A farrier may also be required to visit under the supervision of a veterinarian in order to rectify the rotation and ensure that the feet are in the best possible condition to aid in recuperation.

Prevention of Laminitis

Horse owners should keep a close eye on their horses’ nutritional needs. Advice on the best items to feed particular horses may be obtained by calling the helplines of feed companies. Keep in mind that horse owners should feed their horses in line with their horse’s workload and breed. If your pony or horse is on a diet, you should feed them around 1.25-1.5 percent of their body weight in food, which includes any grass or hay they consume. Feeding little amounts of food frequently is recommended.

It will help fulfill the horse’s chewing instinct and keep him from becoming bored.

Instead, they should be fed high-fibre items with low carbohydrate and sugar content.

It is possible to supplement the horse’s food with a probiotic supplement in order to keep the hindgut healthy.

Ponies are able to subsist on very little food.

Turning a horse out at night and bringing it back in during the day might sometimes be beneficial since there are less fructans in the grass at night.

Cooperate with the landowner to reduce the amount of sweet ryegrass and clover in the sward and allow for the growth of more traditional grasses and plants.

This will help to reduce tension, keep them engaged, and allow them to engage in typical behaviors while still being subjected to restrictions.

Always turn horses out with at least one other horse to keep them company.

To keep your horse’s feet healthy, have a farrier attend to them every four to five weeks, depending on the horse.

Feed supplements can be given to horses to encourage healthy hoof growth.

Make frequent checks for hardening of the horse’s crest; if it appears to be getting harder, remove the horse from the grass until the hardening has subsided.

Make certain that the horse or pony gets wormed on a regular basis according to a veterinarian-approved schedule.

Laminitis is a painful and severe condition that affects the feet. Preventative medicine is always preferable than curative medicine. It is possible that if it is not treated swiftly and appropriately, it will cause irreversible harm and may need euthanasia.

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