NO FOOT NO HORSE – Recognising the Signs of Laminitis

What is laminitis?
Laminitis is inflammation of the sensitive laminae which connect the pedal bone to the inside of the hoof wall. The laminae are two sets of very small leaf-like structures which lock together like Velcro to support the entire weight of the horse. In laminitis this Velcro fails, allowing the pedal bone to rotate downwards within the hoof capsule and in severe cases penetrate through the sole.

What causes laminitis?
There are several known causes of laminitis; the most common is excessive food intake, usually grain or lush grass. Other causes include toxins which may be released into the blood when horses are sick, excessive weight bearing (e.g. a horse with severe lameness in another limb) and, much less commonly, some hormonal conditions (e.g. Cushing’s syndrome).

What are the signs?
Affected horses may be reluctant or even unable to move. Severe cases may adopt an unusual stance leaning back to try and take weight off the painful toe region. Increased digital pulses and heat in the feet may be felt. In less severe or chronic cases a short, ‘pottery’ gait is seen with horses often finding it very painful to turn in tight circles. Horses with chronic laminitis may also have dished hooves due to unequal rates of hoof growth.

How is laminitis diagnosed?
If you suspect your horse may have laminitis, call SHEC 02 4861 7983 or your local vet straight away.

The veterinarian will be able to diagnose laminitis based on the history and a full clinical examination. In some cases, radiographs may be taken to assess the changes within the foot, most notably whether there is any rotation or sinking of the pedal bone within the hoof.

How is laminitis treated?
Emergency treatment consists of pain relief, cold treatment and foot support to make the horse more comfortable. Affected horses should be confined to a box with deep bedding. Diet control is a crucial factor in managing laminitis, preventing access to grass and removing grain from the diet. The vet will also work in conjunction with your farrier to trim and shoe in order provide sufficient support to the feet. The outcome depends on the duration and severity of the condition but generally once a horse or pony has had laminitis it will require careful management to prevent further episodes. For further information please call the office and ask to speak to one of our friendly veterinarians.

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