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What every horse owner should know about Laminitis

Posted on Saturday, October 31st, 2009 at 6:33 pm

What Every Horse Owner Should Know About Laminitis ….

I was recently asked by a client who was fearful her horse might be close to foundering to describe a little more detail on Laminitis.founderhorse

I am going to dedicate this blog to Laminitis as I believe it is a good topic for all horse owners to be familiar with.

Understanding Laminitis is essential for all horse owners as ALL horses can potentially get laminitis, and the affects can be catastrophic and fatal. Laminitis can affect any horse, of any age or breed, at any time of the year. It can be triggered by a variety of metabolic or physical causes. The best way to combat laminitis is to know about it and to prevent it occurring wherever possible.

Laminitis is defined as a condition of the foot, where the sensitive laminae of the foot becomes painful and inflamed. The end result of laminitis, commonly defined as Founder, is defined as either a rotation of the coffin bone downward or a general sinking of the coffin bone downward. A horse may not necessarily suffer founder as a result of an acute laminitis attack, although steps must be taken to ensure this does not occur.

With recognition of the symptoms and causes of both laminitis and founder combined with prompt action when you suspect either the devastating effects of these horrible conditions can be minimized.

Some of the possible signs your horse may exhibit are a stiff gait and stunted movement with difficulty walking, in particular when asked to turn. A typical laminitic stance shows your horse rocking back onto their heels in order to take weight off the toe region of the hoof. The severity can vary according to each particular case and although laminitis most commonly effects the two forefeet, the problem can occur in all four feet of the horse.

Your horse may show an obvious reluctance to pick up their feet or may be frequently lying down and not wanting to get up. A frequent weight swapping from one fore-foot to the other can also be a sign. However the main things to look for are a strong “bounding” pulse in the feet (felt behind the heel area), indicating inflammation and increased blood flow to the area. The hoof and sole will be hot and painful. Your horse may show an elevated respiratory rate with pain and sweating. Early signs of laminitis can be an increased fatty distension of the chest and neck and a sensitivity test can be done using hoof testers on the sole of the hoof.

3853042253_69154dd8c5Sub clinical laminitis is the early stage of laminitis where structural changes have occurred within the hoof, without the horse being obviously lame or short in the stride. Sub clinical laminitic horses may show signs of prominent growth rings on the hoof wall (founder rings) with potentially dished hoof wall and flared out long toes (often with low compacted heals). Low grade seedy toe and abscesses, a crumbly white line or flaky soles and broken hoof edges can also be signs. As well as soreness in the feet, a shortened gait that doesn’t improve with exercise and worsens with fast and hard work, or a horse’s gait showing an exaggerated landing on the heel in motion can also be signs of sub clinical laminitis.

During an acute (sudden) attack of laminitis your horse may show diarrhoea or constipation with anxiety and visible trembling of small muscles from severe pain. Swelling at the coronet above the hoof may be present with a heavy sweat and unwillingness to move.

Laminitis is rarely caused by just one factor. In most cases the horse or pony has several predisposing causes which when combined cause laminitis.

Some of the known causes of laminitis are obesity, a gut intolerance or overload of the digestive system, bacterial infection, systemic disease (involving toxemia), Cushings Disease and Equine Metabolic Syndrome, as well as inadequately maintained Hoof care and concussive injuries.images-1

There are many things we can do to prevent Laminitis and equipping oneself with knowledge is the first step.

For more information, feel free to visit: where you will find a lot more information on how to treat and prevent this debilitating condition.

3 responses to “What every horse owner should know about Laminitis”

  1. Linda Duxfield says:

    Can you say more about the Equine metabolic syndrome? My horse is a suspect case and want to know how you test for it? As he is already laminitic vet does not want to do normal test for cushings as believe it will make his laminitis worse (already very lame since November and not responding to anything!)

  2. Zoe says:

    Hi Linda

    I am sorry to hear about your 15 year old arab who you suspect may have Equine Metabolic Syndrome and is suffering from an episode of laminitis. Some of the signs you can look for with EMS are Cushing’s like signs such as abnormal fat deposits in areas such as the neck, shoulders, loins, tailhead, and above the eyes. Some horses will also show excessive drinking and urination and blood tests can be taken to assess insulin resistance/blood glucose levels. This has not always proved accurate and there are many factors that can influence insulin levels.

    Chronic, recurrent laminitis, particularly mild cases, is common in horses with EMS. Typical signs of recurrent laminitis include the characteristic rings on the hoof wall, separation of the white line, and an abnormal position of the coffin (pedal) bone within the hoof that can be seen with radiography (X ray). Are these signs in keeping with your horse?

    Horses at risk for EMS may not have symptoms. They may not be fat, especially those getting regular exercise. The first signs may be “seedy toe” (an abnormal white line) or hoof growth pattern and there may be abnormalities on x-rays also.

    Equine Metabolic syndrome results from three main causes: genetics, lack of exercise and fat accumulation. I would suggest you follow the dietary steps outlined in my book for treating Laminitis. Have you provided your horse with the herb and homeopathic treatment plans I have outlined in the book. What have you done thus far?

    Finally, I will connect you with a chinese medicine equine herbalist who has had a lot of success with a herbal formula he uses for Laminitis and EMS. Go to for details.

    Look forward to hearing how you go with it all and wishing your horse a restful recovery.



  3. Bobs says:

    please can you tell me how long it tajes fir laminitis to develop? I have moved to a new yard with lush grass which my pony is not used to. I have tried to get him in twice today but he not interested, as my plan is to keep him in as much as possible during the day then out at night. I am going out of my mind worrying he may be high risk. I am planning to buy a muzzle for him. Thanks

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