Horse Laminitis

Signs Of Laminitis And What You Need To Do

Signs Of Laminitis And What You Need To Do – Laminitis is known to affect many horses and ponies around the world and is feared by horse owners everywhere. From a high intake of soluble carbohydrates to hormonal diseases, there are a number of factors that can lead to laminitis in your horse or pony. The following information describes the signs of laminitis and the action you need to take to reduce the risk of your horse developing the disease. 

What Is Laminitis?

Signs Of Laminitis And What You Need To Do – Laminitis is caused when the laminae (the layer of tissue which helps to bond the hoof wall to the pedal bone) becomes inflamed. The hoof wall is unable to expand to accommodate any kind of swelling of the laminae and as a result, the pressure builds up which is very painful.

Horse Laminitis

What Causes Laminitis?

A common cause of laminitis is an overload of sugar and/or starch that is found in grass and cereals. This overload can lead to bacteria feeding on the sugar and starch which produces stronger acids creating an environment that causes other microbes in the gut to die off and release toxins that can enter the bloodstream. The full disease process is still not fully understood but the toxins affect the vascular system which results in a disruption to the blood supply to the laminae.

In addition, it is known that horses that are overweight are predisposed to laminitis especially if they have the disease known as Equine Metabolic Syndrome or EMS. It is used to describe individuals that are overweight with insulin dysregulation. Areas of fat stores become metabolically active, disrupting normal metabolic function and interfering with the function of chemical messengers in the body such as cytokines. Reducing the amount of fat the horse is carrying is key to reducing the risk of laminitis.

Horses with hormonal diseases, such as PPID previously known as Cushing’s Disease, can also be more susceptible to laminitis. PPID is associated with an abnormality in the pituitary gland that is found at the base of the horse’s brain. This affects the hormones circulating in the body and predisposes the horse to laminitis which can occur if an overload of sugar and starch occurs.  

Therefore, it’s important for horse owners to provide a balanced diet of low sugar and low starch horse feed and promote weight loss if the horse is overweight.

Symptoms Of Laminitis

The signs of laminitis depend on the type that the horse has; chronic or acute laminitis. If a horse has acute laminitis, then symptoms may appear suddenly and can be very severe. They will be reluctant to move and will have an increased digital pulse which is often described as pounding. While standing, the horse will lean back onto its heels to take the weight off the toes.

Chronic laminitics often have a change to the structure of their hooves with the toe growing long and collapsing the heel, unless a good farrier is implemented. A ledge or step may form at the top of the hoof wall so that the front line of the pastern and hoof is not continuous.

Reducing The Risk Of Laminitis

Dietary management is key to reducing the risk of laminitis, making it essential that you provide your horse with a suitable diet for their individual requirements.

Here are some ways to help to reduce the risk of your horse getting laminitis:

  • Follow the rules of feeding little and often. This is to mimic their natural feeding pattern, helping to keep the digestive system working correctly. 
  • Restrict your ponies’ grazing; grass is very high in sugar, so if your pony eats large amounts it can lead to laminitis. This is usually a bigger problem in Spring and Autumn.
  • Turning the horse out at night and keeping them in during the day can help to reduce the amount of storage sugars or fructan they consume.
  • Familiarise yourself with the horse’s digital pulse and learn what’s normal; this will allow you to detect any changes quickly and act accordingly.
  • Condition or Fat score your horse regularly – if their weight is creeping up take action immediately.
  • Make sure that your farrier trims your horses’ feet regularly; this will help the foot to be in the best condition possible.

Dealing With Laminitis

It’s imperative that you call the vet immediately if your horse shows any symptoms. With their help, you will be able to put a treatment plan together for you to follow which is likely to include:

  • Move your horse or pony to a stable or pen. Ensure that their bedding is deep to provide support for the feet.
  • Provide a balanced diet containing a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals to help your horse re-build damaged tissues.
  • Source a low sugar forage such as hay – this can be soaked to further reduce the sugar content.
  • Ensure that your horse always has access to fresh clean water.
  • If your horse is used to having a companion, try to bring them close so that your horse isn’t tempted to move to look for them.
  • Your vet might suggest taking x-rays of the feet to see if any rotation of the pedal bone has occurred.

Laminitis is a very painful disease, so it’s vital that you act fast to stop it causing further damage. If laminitis isn’t treated correctly or quickly, this can lead to permanent damage and sometimes euthanasia is the only option.

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