What is Laminitis

Affecting any horse or pony, of any age or gender, laminitis is a painful and crippling disease that can peak all year round and can cause owners and their horses or ponies a lot of distress.

With many contributing factors causing laminitis the correct understanding, feed, field/stable management and exercise can make all the difference to prevent.

What is Laminitis?

Laminitis is caused by an inflammation of the laminae (tissues) in the lower legs/inner hoof area while the blood flow is affected resulting in swelling and severe discomfort. Reduced oxygen levels and blood supply can result in the sensitive laminae deteriorating and eventually dying.

In the hoof, the laminae’s main job is to support the pedal bone which in turn supports the horse or pony’s weight. In serious cases, the laminae can’t support the pedal bone resulting in a drop and twist, yet if the pedal bone sinks too much it can break through the sole of the hoof. In most cases, this may be too late but with some, this can be reversed but is expensive and a lot of recovery time is needed.

Causes of Laminitis

Laminitis can be caused by varying factors which can also make it easier to prompt a bout of the disease, in some instances this can increase if your horse or pony is carrying extra weight or has had laminitis previously.

  • Increased intake of sugars and starch – these can easily be found in compound feed mixes and grazing.
  • Stress – A different daily routine, excess travelling or a new environment can have adverse effects on your horse and pony and bring on laminitis, especially if he or she is overweight.
  • Serious infection – if your horse or pony has experienced a harsh bacterial infection, this can set off laminitis.
  • Overfeeding the overweight – this is usually the most common as a lot of horse owners are more likely to overfeed their horses or pony.
  • Concussion – this can be a frequent cause as hacking or riding on hard ground is commonplace.
  • Cushing’s disease – related to an abnormality in the pituitary gland, which is located at the bottom of the horse’s brain

Symptoms of Laminitis

  1. No noticeable pain – this is when most damage is done to the structure of the hoof and is the first sign of problems arising from laminitis. Such changes include wall cracks, bruising/blood in white line or wall or abnormal hood growth.
  2. Moderate pain – the horse will start to show signs of discomfort during exercise or walking. Your horse or pony will begin to have lean on his hocks taking the pressure off his front legs, shifting weight from one foot to another to get comfy and will shorten strides.
  3. Severe pain – this is a severe case of laminitis and the most painful. Dramatic changes come in the form of complete refusal or unwilling to move, will be leaning on the hocks to take pressure off front legs, strong digital pulse in the leg, and a high heart and respiratory rate.

Treatment of Laminitis

If your horse or pony displays any of the signs listed above you can call the vet immediately who will be able to advise you on the best course to take. The correct treatment and a follow-on plan should be completed carefully to prevent the conditioning worsening and reduce lasting damage.

Laminitis can be a deadly disease but with the correct advice and prevention this can be avoided.

If you would like to read more information about preventing and the possible treatment of Laminitis, then you can take a look at the websites listed.


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