|Every day veterinarians across the country see hundreds of cases of laminitis, a painful disease which affects the horse’s feet. What’s especially alarming is that some cases are preventable. In fact, it may be that we are killing our horses with kindness.Consider that a common cause of laminitis is overfeeding, a management factor that is normally within our control.|
By learning more about laminitis, its causes, signs and treatments, you may be able to minimize the risks of laminitis in your horse, or control the long-term damage if it does occur.
Laminitis results from the disruption (constant, intermittent, or short-term) of blood flow to the sensitive and insensitive laminae. These laminae structures within the foot secure the coffin bone (the wedge-shaped bone within the foot) to the hoof wall. Inflammation often permanently weakens the laminae and interferes with the wall/bone bond.
In severe cases, the bone and the hoof wall can separate. In these situations, the coffin bone may rotate within the foot, be displaced downward (“sink”) and eventually penetrate the sole. Laminitis can affect one or all feet, but is most often seen in the front feet concurrently.The terms “laminitis” and “founder” are used interchangeably. However, founder usually refers to a chronic (long-term) condition associated with rotation of the coffin bone. Whereas, acute laminitis refers to symptoms associated with a sudden initial attack, including pain and inflammation of the laminae.
While the exact mechanisms by which the feet are damaged remain a mystery, certain precipitating events can produce laminitis. Although laminitis occurs in the feet, the underlying cause is often a disturbance elsewhere in the horse’s body. The causes vary and may include the following:
Factors that seem to increase a horse’s susceptibility to laminitis or increase the severity of the condition when it does occur include the following:
Front Limb: cross section skeletal, ligaments, tendons
Signs of acute laminitis include the following:
Signs of chronic laminitis may include the following:
The sooner treatment begins, the better the chance for recovery. Treatment will depend on specific circumstances but may include the following:
Many horses that develop laminitis make uneventful recoveries and go on to lead long, useful lives. Unfortunately, others suffer such severe, irreparable damage that they are, for humane reasons, euthanized.
Your equine practitioner can provide you with information about your horse’s condition based on radiographs (x-rays) and the animal’s response to treatment. Radiographs will show how much rotation of the coffin bone has occurred. This will help you make a decision in the best interest of the horse and help the farrier with the therapeutic shoeing.
Importantly, once a horse has had laminitis, it may be likely to recur. In fact, a number of cases become chronic because the coffin bone has rotated within the foot and because the laminae never regain their original strength. There may also be interference with normal blood flow to the feet, as well as metabolic changes within the horse. Extra care is recommended for any horse that has had laminitis, including:
The best way to deal with laminitis is preventing the causes under your control. Keep all grain stored securely out of the reach of horses. Introduce your horse to lush pasture gradually. Be aware that when a horse is ill, under stress or overweight, it is especially at risk. Consult your equine practitioner to formulate a good dietary plan. Provide good, routine health and hoof care. If you suspect laminitis, consider it a medical emergency:
This brochure was developed by the American Association of equine practitioners through a grant from Bayer Corporation.
- Sarah D.
Sarah D. In April 2019, our OTTB suffered two bowed tendons to her left front leg. We brought her to Davie County Large Animal Hospital immediately and she was seen by Dr. Castro. His calm demeanor and detailed explanation of what he was doing and ultimately diagnosing helped keep my 14 year old daughter at ease. After staying overnight, Ellee was released... read more2/27/2020
- Susan G.
A huge Thank You to Dr. Jose Castro at Davie County Large Animal Clinic, his technicians and the entire staff. My cutting horse spiked a high fever with an infection of unknown origin. Dr. Castro and staff saw us after hours and started treating her immediately. He sent blood tests off repeatedly until we had a name for what we... read more1/31/2020
- Nathalie W.
Dr. Castro, just to share good news with you: Yesterday we qualified with Allaski for the Endurance World Championship 2020. We did the 160 km with an average speed of 15,31 Km/h. You are part of that great result, thank you so much for it!1/10/2020
- Bob T.
We are so pleased to have Dr Castro and the entire team at DCLAH available for this part of North Carolina. We have a number of high performance athletes for three day eventing and Dr. Castro offers us many options that previously we would have had to drive to Raleigh to receive. Additionally, we have had some unique challenges with... read more1/03/2020
- Andrea B.
I brought Chance to DCLAH to have his eye removed after numerous months of trying to heal his recurring eye infections. Dr. Castro and his team met me upon arrival and walked me through the process and what to expect before, during and after surgery. From the minute I arrived, I knew my horse and I were in competent and... read more1/03/2020
- Dale L.
I just wanted to say “thank you” again to Dr. Castro and his entire wonderful team for the care that was taken of Ivy during her recent hospitalization. I appreciate everything each of you did to keep her comfortable and restore her to good health. I also want you to know how much the kindness and timely communication about her... read more1/03/2020
- Joan H.
We are so thankful that our mule is back to himself. It has been one month today since we started this long journey. Glad it’s over!! We are thankful & blessed that we brought him to you all for treatment. Thank you to Dr. Castro, Dr. Waldman and the DCLAH team for the wonderful job you did on his eye... read more1/03/2020
- Melody J.
Dr. Peacock has been helping us with our donkey who was forked on a tractor, she has saved his life! Thank you so much Dr. Peacock. God bless you and all at the Davie County Large Animal Hospital, y'all are so awesome!1/03/2020
- Caity G.
I got up Friday morning with a sick potbellied pig. After being turned down by every Vet in the county a friend recommended Davie County Large Animal. I live in Rockingham county so I thought this would be a stretch. Dr Adam Sisk was very eager to help was was out in just a few hours after the call. He... read more1/02/2020
- Joni C.
I would love to thank Dr. Sisk for the wonderful care he gave my special boy, Galaxy, and for being there until we laid him to rest after a long bout of laminitis. Thank you for your dedication to help him and all the visits and calls from a concerned and mostly frantic mother. A special thank you to Heidi... read more1/02/2020
- Kathleen D.
Dr. Sisk is one of the best vets (if not the best) I've ever used for my horses. There is truly nothing this man can't do! From basic immunizations, to surgery, he is your man! Plus, I absolutely love the way his gentle humor can diffuse a very stressful situation <3. He is professional, fast to respond, steady/calm as can... read more1/02/2020