What is laminitis? How to treat and manage

Horses Hoof with Laminitis

Laminitis is a painful and potentially debilitating condition that affects the hooves of horses. It is characterized by the inflammation and damage to the laminae, which are the sensitive tissues that connect the hoof wall to the coffin bone (the bone within the hoof). Laminitis can affect one or more hooves and can range in severity from mild to severe.

Causes of laminitis can vary and include:

Overconsumption of rich pasture grass, high-carbohydrate feeds, or sudden dietary changes can trigger laminitis. Current recommendations state that combined sugar and starch should be less than 10% in feed. If you feed your horses hay, soaking hay in water can reduce sugar content. See our recommended feeds.

Overweight horses are more prone to developing laminitis due to the increased strain on their hooves.

Endocrine disorders
Horses with conditions such as Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID/Cushing’s disease) are at higher risk.

Mechanical stress
Excessive workload, trauma to the hooves, or improper hoof care can contribute to laminitis.

Systemic illness
Horses suffering from certain illnesses like colic, sepsis, or supporting-limb laminitis (where laminitis occurs in the opposite leg due to compensatory weight bearing) may develop laminitis.

Treating and managing laminitis requires a multi-faceted approach and should involve a veterinarian and a qualified farrier. Here are some key steps:

Immediate action
If you suspect laminitis, contact a veterinarian immediately. They will assess the severity and prescribe appropriate treatment. In the meantime, provide a soft and comfortable stable with deep bedding to alleviate pressure on the hooves.

Pain management
Veterinarians may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or other pain medications to alleviate discomfort.

Hoof care
A skilled farrier or veterinarian experienced in hoof care should trim the hooves to relieve pressure and realign the hoof structures. This may involve trimming the toe, providing support through special shoeing techniques, or applying therapeutic pads.

Dietary management
Adjust the horse’s diet to reduce the risk factors. This typically involves limiting access to high-carbohydrate feeds, grazing on lush pastures, or feeding hay with low sugar and starch content. Controlled exercise may also be recommended to aid weight management.

Medications and supplements
In some cases, veterinarians may prescribe medications or supplements to address underlying conditions such as EMS or PPID.

Monitoring and follow-up
Regular veterinary and farrier visits are crucial to monitor the horse’s progress, adjust treatments if necessary, and ensure appropriate hoof maintenance.

Prevention is key when it comes to laminitis. Maintaining a balanced diet, managing weight, and providing proper hoof care are important preventive measures. Regular exercise, avoiding sudden dietary changes, and addressing underlying health issues can also reduce the risk. If you have concerns about laminitis, consult with a veterinarian and farrier who can provide guidance tailored to your horse’s specific needs.

If you have any questions or would like advice on feed contact us and on serious cases, we will direct you to a feed nutritionalist. 

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