What is laminitis?
Laminitis is a painful condition of the horse’s foot. It literally means inflammation of the laminae which are part of the attachment between the hoof and the bones of the foot. In laminitis the laminae are damaged causing the bones in the foot to become detached from the hoof, which can lead to rotation and sinking of the pedal bone.
What causes laminitis?
Despite extensive research the exact cause of laminitis is still not well understood. But a number of high risk situations have been identified. The best way to prevent laminitis is to avoid these situations:
- Overeating foods rich in carbohydrate i.e. cereals, coarse mixes, rapidly growing or fertilised grass.
- Cushing’s Disease.
- Weight-bearing laminitis. When the horse is severely lame on one leg and has to put all his weight on the other.
- When horses are subjected to fast or prolonged work on hard surfaces.
- In rare cases worming, vaccination, traveling or separation from a “friend” can trigger an attack of laminitis.
- Systemic bacterial infection eg after foaling or during an episode of colic.
Obesity and laminitis
Obesity is a major risk factor in the development of laminitis. Not only does a heavier horse mean more weight on the laminae but also fat has a direct hormonal effect, increasing the risk of recurrent laminitis (this is part of Equine Metabolic Syndrome).
Cushing’s and laminitis
Cushing’s is a disease of older horses and ponies caused by a natural change in hormone balance. The main sign to look out for is your horse failing to shed its winter coat. The coat becomes thick and matted, and your horse may eat and drink more whilst losing weight. If you suspect Cushing’s notify Oaklands Veterinary Centre, who will send a vet to perform some simple tests and advise you on managing the condition.
Signs of laminitis
- Heat in the foot and a strong pulse – your vet can show you how to feel for this.
- Anxiety and visible trembling.
- Walking very tenderly, as if walking on egg shells.
- Repeated “easing” of affected feet.
- Prolonged lying down.
What to do if you suspect laminitis
Call Oaklands Equine Hospital immediately on 01642 760313
Bring the horse in from the field (only move your horse if it is willing to walk). Cold hose or ice the feet. Place your horse in a stable with a deep (preferably shavings) bed and provide water, but remove all food.
How to prevent laminitis
Monitor your horse’s weight – weigh tapes are available from Oaklands Equine Hospital and our vets will happily advise you on the ideal weight for your horse. Alternatively ask for advice on body condition scoring your horse or visit the link below.
Be warned, a horse in ‘show condition’ might be considered over weight, and at increased risk of metabolic syndrome and laminitis. A controlled program of weight loss should be started. This will be beneficial for the overall health of your horse. Over feeding is un-necessary and will negatively affect your horse’s health.
Avoid lush grass, and carbohydrate rich feeds. Look for the Laminitis Trust logo on feed bags and feed according to the advice given and the recommendations of your vet.
Consider using a muzzle to limit grazing – starvation paddocks can be useful but beware even short grass can have high levels of sugar.
Be vigilant. Look for the signs of laminitis and call Oaklands if you become concerned.
For more information on laminitis prevention visit: www.laminitis.org
Or to find out about body condition scoring: www.newc.co.uk/advice/bodyscore.php