Hello and welcome back. Thank you for joining us! Today we are going to discuss laminitis.
We already covered laminitis previously, but, this was before we had our website up and running.
Today, I am going to share pieces of that first article that was not released and take our look at laminitis a couple of steps even further!
Laminitis is a very common condition that affects many horses throughout their life.
Understanding what laminitis is, its signs and symptoms, and knowing what to do and how to keep your horse comfortable and healthy is essential to corrective treatment and treatment success in general!
The first question of the day is… What IS laminitis exactly?
“Laminitis occurs when the finger-like projections of the lamellar layer, which support the pedal bone of the foot within the hoof capsule, become weakened by losing their normal shape. This results in instability of the pedal bone within the foot, potential inflammation, and signs of pain and lameness.”- Horsewelfare.org
Laminitis is an extremely painful and recurrent condition that affects our horse’s feet.
laminitis is a recurrent condition in horses that affects the laminae tissue of the horse’s foot.
Laminitis is commonly referred to as founder.
Laminitis is when the tissue in the horse’s foot becomes extremely inflamed and can even lead to the pedal bone rotating or sinking within the horse’s foot.
The pedal bone will even become attached to the hoof wall itself and in very extreme cases, this will result in the bone coming through the sole of the horse’s foot. This can be extremely painful, or even fatal.
What is laminae tissue?
Laminae are the tissues within the horse’s foot that are shaped similarly to our fingers. There are two separate types of laminae tissue.
- The sensitive dermal laminae (Picture of sensitive laminae)
- The insensitive epidermal laminae (Picture explaining sensitive versus insensitive laminae)
Both of these laminae types work together to support and attach the hoof wall on the horse’s foot. Within every equine foot, there are roughly 600 plus primary laminae. These laminae reduce shock and stress during impact, they also aid the horse in weight-bearing functions.
There are three main types of situations in which laminitis will present itself.
- Endocrine hormone disease aka Cushing’s or metabolic laminitis
- Mechanical overload aka supporting limb laminitis
- Inflammatory laminitis
Endocrine hormone disease/ metabolic laminitis
Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) and equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) are both causes of laminitis. Both PPID and EMS are conditions where the horse presents with high insulin levels and an inability to control carbohydrates and sugars.
“The pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, plays a key role in regulating the body’s hormones. Many metabolic and reproductive functions, as well as blood pressure and electrolyte balance are affected. Horses develop an enlargement and benign tumors in a section of the pituitary gland known as the pars intermedia. While these tumors do not spread and rarely become large enough to cause neurological disease, they overproduce hormones that create an abnormal metabolic state.
One of the main hormones that increases is adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This can cause many problems, including delayed shedding (ranging from a few long hairs to a distinctly long and wavy coat), muscle wasting (especially over the topline), weight loss, increased thirst and urination, either sweating or an abnormally dry coat, behavior changes, reproductive abnormalities, and frequent infections due to immune system suppression.”- Cvm.Msu.Edu
Mechanical overload/ supporting limb laminitis
Supporting limb laminitis is among the rarest of the three types of laminitis.
Basically, what happens when mechanical overload laminitis occurs is that one limb takes a great amount of weight in ratio with the other limb.
A famous example of overload/ supporting limb laminitis would be the great racehorse Barbaro. (I’m sure many of you remember the race that led to his fracture and ultimate death due to severe supporting limb laminitis while his fracture was healing.)
The Royal Veterinary College says this about mechanical overload laminitis: “In mechanical overload laminitis, it is thought that there is inadequate blood supply to the lamellar tissue associated with excessive and continuous weight-bearing.”
Speaking of the great racehorse Barbaro again, just like in Barbaro’s case many of these mechanical overload laminitis cases begin in the stall during a period of rest (usually for rehab purposes.)
While stall rest is important for horses who are recovering and need to take the weight off of one limb, there is always a risk for mechanical overload laminitis with the off-balance of weight bearing in the limbs.
A great contributing factor can also be weight and age. Horses who are older, and obese, have a much higher risk of acquiring any type of laminitis.
The most common cause of inflammatory laminitis is due to an overload of grains.
This can happen very easily, especially among well-meaning horse owners attempting to put weight on horses or keep weight on them.
When a horse has an overload of grain, they are unable to digest and utilize it properly.
The rest of the grain they consume will end up sitting in the hindgut, fermenting.
Fermentation within the equine hindgut will ultimately cause damage to the horse’s GI system as it changes the microbiome that is naturally living in the gastrointestinal tract to aid in digestion and nutrient absorption.
Horses are primarily meant to be grazing or eating hay for the majority of their day.
Adding in too many grains, additives, and extras without consulting an equine nutritionist can greatly increase your horse’s risk of laminitis.
Is Laminitis life-threatening?
Laminitis, generally speaking, is not a common cause of death unless it is a very serious case.
Unless the pedal bone penetrates the sole or a horse is not responding well to treatment, a horse can still live a fairly healthy and happy life.
Management of chronic symptoms will help keep your horse happy and doing well.
I think the other thing that needs to be considered when thinking about if laminitis is life-threatening or not, would also be the type of laminitis your horse has.
Some forms and stages of laminitis are much trickier to treat and be effective in doing so, whereas other forms or stages may respond exceedingly well.
What are the signs and symptoms of laminitis?
The symptoms of laminitis will vary greatly depending on the horse and the severity of the disease.
Some horses will present with barely noticeable symptoms and may prove hard to diagnose by symptoms alone whereas other horses will present with extreme symptoms and a physical examination will be all it takes in order to make the initial diagnosis.
Symptoms of laminitis
- Lameness that will commonly affect two or more of the lower limbs.
- Some horses will present with the common hoof ring growths, but this is generally when the foundering is severe and persistent. Mildly laminitic horses may not ever grow obscure rings around the hooves.
- A horse constantly shifting their weight back or being reluctant to put weight on the toe of its hoof.
- Lameness seems to get worse on hard surfaces and during tight turns.
- The development of a noticeable digital pulse.
- Persistently switching resting feet. They will usually do so as if they are sore, and can be easily noticed apart from the regular weight resting.
- If your farrier or vet tests your horse’s feet with a hoof tester, they might notice that the frog and sole are sensitive.
How can you diagnose laminitis?
Most diagnoses’ of laminitis can be made with the symptoms your horse presents, but at times your vet and farrier may need to do further testing and diagnostics in order to come to the right or accurate conclusion.
If further diagnostics need to be made your vet and farrier will more than likely take X-rays in order to see what is happening internally in your horse’s foot and confirm whether the pedal bone is sinking, rotating, or what may be going on. If your vet and farrier believe that the laminitis may be due to an endocrine disorder, they may perform blood tests along with an X-ray for confirmation.
An early diagnosis of laminitis will always be easier to treat than a horse who has been left undiagnosed for an extended period of time.
What are the treatment options for horses with laminitis? How do I care for a laminitic horse?
Managing and treating laminitis is a multifaceted treatment program. You will need to control the horse’s pain, address the root cause of the laminitis, and deal with additional issues or symptoms.
Combatting your horses’ laminitic pain
You will have a few options to help relieve your horse’s laminitic pain.
These will include medications prescribed by your vet, and therapeutic measures prescribed by your farrier, and you can use general anti-inflammatory drugs like bute, flunixin, morphine, and pethidine.
Acepromazine has also been used for a long time in order to increase the circulation and blood supply to laminitic horses’ feet.
If you are dealing with an inflammatory-related version of laminitis using ice packs or cold water on your horse’s feet can reduce swelling and inflammation.
As horse owners, we usually have a full medicine and first aid cabinet ready for use, but before you run off to the meds it is best to seek the advice of your vet and farrier prior to administering anything.
Supporting the horse’s foot
One of the most crucial aspects of caring for a horse with laminitis is providing the right support for their feet, specifically for their pedal bone.
You will want to work with both your farrier and vet to figure out the best way to avoid the movement of the pedal bone. This will help greatly reduce the pain your horse deals with.
How to support the pedal bone and create a foot-friendly atmosphere to help your horse stay comfortable
Helping your horse stay happy and comfortable should be your number one goal if you have a horse diagnosed with laminitis. There are quite a few ways to help your horse become more comfortable. Here is a short list of ideas to try:
- Keep your horse stalled in a deeply bedded, clean stall.
- Use frog support pads. Make sure you talk with your farrier prior to using these to ensure they are the best option for your horse.
- Implement and stick with strict dietary regulations for your horse.
- Stall rest
- If your horse has PPID, a drug called Prascend has been shown to provide drastic changes in some horses. I personally have administered Prascend and seen a horse with PPID begin to flourish again.
Feeding a laminitic horse
How you feed a laminitic horse is extremely important.
Their diet needs to be composed of lower-quality hay that isn’t nutrient-dense.
You will aim to feed them around 1.5% of their weight in this poor-quality hay each day.
It may be best for your horse to have a nibble net or hay rack to slow down their eating if they tend to eat quickly. Soaking your horse’s hay is a great way to get rid of any extra carbohydrates in the grass.
Supplementing a laminitic horse
Any and all additional feeds or supplementation should always be thoroughly discussed with your vet and equine nutritionist. It may even be an excellent idea to run these things by your farrier as well.
Once the horse’s laminitis is under control, there is a potential option to add additional feed supplementations back into their diet.
Again, you will need to run all of your feed planning ideas with your horse’s care specialists before adding anything to their diet.
For horses who have foundered, and even more so if their founder is metabolically related, you will want to be extra cautious about what you feed them.
Things you should AVOID feeding laminitic horses
The biggest thing to start looking out for in horse feeds when considering the needs of the laminitic horse is to not feed them anything that has a lot of carbs or sugars in it. Most ready-to-eat supplemental feeds contain a lot of both sugars and carbs.
If you are having difficulties when it comes to feeding your laminitic horse, my best suggestion would be to reach out to either Stride Animal Health, Blue Bonnet Feeds, or Dr. Mark Depaolo of Equine Concepts.
Getting a nutritional consult for your laminitic horse may be the best option to figure out what to feed them and what to avoid.
Dr. Mark Depaolo of Equine Concepts offers a hair analysis test to check what your horse needs and what they don’t. This was a beneficial step in helping one of my horses through the years with laminitis.
How long until my horse recovers from laminitis?
Recovery time can greatly vary depending on the unique horse and the severity of the laminitis.
Some horses can recover really quickly, in a matter of weeks whereas some horses can take months or even have a reoccurring life-long condition that will need to be managed.
This is a great question for your vet and farrier so they can give you an accurate idea of duration and management. Laminitis is a condition that often comes back once a horse has had it.
Most of the time laminitis can be cured, but it is important to understand that your horse will always be at an extremely high risk of getting it again.
What your vet and farrier can do about laminitis
In this section, I am going to outline what your vet and farrier will do upon arrival.
Treatment for laminitis is always going to be based on your specific horse, and as we learned earlier there are three different causes for laminitis and each needs to be dealt with differently.
The first thing you can expect from your vet upon arrival will be them looking your horse over, potentially doing blood work, and doing what they can to restrict the movement of your horse for the time being.
They may also administer a pain reliever like butte. Your vet and farrier may even come out simultaneously, but this can’t always happen.
Your farrier will take a look at the horse’s feet and speak with your vet. They will more than likely implement therapeutic shoeing and use frog or sole supports for your horse.
These can come in the form of a special pad placed under the shoe or a boot that you put on your horse’s feet.
Your vet or farrier may also do X-rays to see what is happening inside your horse’s foot. Your vet will also diagnose any hormone or metabolic-related issues occurring with the laminitis.
Your vet and farrier will work in unison to figure out what kind of diet and exercise will be appropriate for your horse during the initial healing phase of your laminitic horse.
Laminitis is technically not a condition in itself, but a symptom of usually an underlying metabolic condition.
Laminitis can be a tricky and heartbreaking condition to deal with, but we hope that this article has been helpful and informative.
There are a few additional studies/research-related links within the article I encourage you to check out if you are interested in learning more about laminitis. If you are currently dealing with a laminitic horse I encourage you to reach out to the feed and supplementation links I put into the article and they may help your horse recover faster and have a better understanding of what is happening in their body.
We do not earn any compensation from these links, they are just our personal suggestions. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to reach out to us. We are not veterinarians but have performed lots of research and have first-hand experience dealing with many of the situations and topics we discuss. Have a great day and thank you for tuning into another article!
Bible Verse Of The Day
Since it is the season to celebrate our Lord and Savior’s birth I thought what better what to do than by reading a piece of Matthew 1 that speaks to Jesus’ Holy Divinity. With so many people wondering who the messiah is or who can save this world, the answer is Jesus. He is the only way, the only truth, and the only light. The story of Jesus’ birth and growth into his ministry as an adult is one filled with the amazing promises of God’s love and protection. God protected Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus through situations that presented danger to Jesus in ways that (as a parent) I can barely even wrap my mind around having to deal with. By faith, God called them to each place they went as Jesus was growing and brought them safely each time.
As we celebrate this joy-filled time with our families, let’s remember that very first Christmas some 2,000-plus years ago and what it means for those of us who have put our trust, faith, and hope entirely in Him.
God bless you all and enjoy this Christmas season! Until next time.
The Birth of Jesus Christ
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”