What is Laminitis ?

Laminitis is an inflammation of the laminae of the foot. The laminae is the layer between the hoof wall and the pedal bone. Severe pain results from the inflammation caused by the pressure on the sensitive laminae. Changes in the third phalanx such as rotation and osteitis (inflammation of the bone) are common sequelae.

The common causes of Laminitis:

  • Grazing on lush pastures, commonly in fat ponies during spring
  • Grain engorgement
  • Post foaling infections
  • Systemic bacterial infections such as pneumonia
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Traumatic or exercising on very hard ground
  • Idiopathic (no known cause).


Clinical signs of Laminitis

  • The forelimbs are more frequently affected than hind limbs
  • Reluctance to move, typical “sawhorse” stance with the forelimbs placed well out in front of the body
  • Increased heat and digital pulse in the feet.


Treatment of Laminitis

Laminitis is a serious condition that needs prompt veterinary treatment. Horses may have repeated bouts of laminitis if underlying causes are not corrected.

  • Treat underlying infection if present
  • Acutely, the horse should receive anti-inflammatories +/- aspirin. He can also be sedated to improve circulation and reduce the stress
  • Maintain the fibre intake by feeding last year’s hay or any of the approved feeds that are high in fibre and low in starch
  • Avoid concentrate foods and molasses
  • Use a muzzle so your horse can’t overeat
  • Control your horse’s weight
  • Regally use a farrier for corrective trimming and foot care. Occasionally special shoes will be required.

Management of pasture:

It has been shown that laminitis can be triggered by horses grazing on grass high in sugars and Fructans.
Some advice:
Graze when Fructans are low e.g. late evening/early morning and be careful on Spring and Autumn grass
Graze on grass in shady areas
Avoid grazing “stressed” grass: paddocks that have been grazed too much or undergone a drought
Avoid overuse of nitrogen fertilisers
Maintain pasture so stem length is minimal (where Fructans are stored) by cutting the pasture or grazing sheep on it.

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