If your horse has been diagnosed with laminitis, or you suspect laminitis, chances are you are trawling the internet to find out as much as you can about this crippling disease. Treatment is available and can be provided by your vet and your farrier. There is also a complementary treatment that has been shown to be effective known as photonic therapy.
What is Laminitis?
Laminitis is an extremely painful condition. It affects the laminae which is the soft tissue structure that attaches the coffin or pedal bone of the foot to the hoof wall. Inflammation or damage to the laminae leads to instability of the coffin bone and, if the condition is severe, it can lead to complete separation of and rotation of the pedal bone within the hoof wall.
Laminitis is also known as founder and is crippling to your horse. All four feet may be affected, although it is more frequently in the forelimbs. If you horse has had it before, he will be susceptible to it in the future. Horses with Cushing’s Disease are also at risk of having laminitis.
Laminitis can be managed and prevention for future bouts of the condition is important.
Signs of Laminitis
- Reluctance to move
- Rocking back and forth to get the weight off the affected limb/s
- Frequent lieing down
- The hoof wall and soft tissue around the tope of the hoof will often be warm to the touch
- Rapid pulse (when taken at the back of the fetlock)
If your horse has had laminitis for some time, structural changes to the hoof may have occurred, such as
- Rings on the surface of affected hooves
- Hoof wall has a slipper shape with long toes
- Bulge in the sole, where the pedal bone has rotated in the hoof
- Restricted movement in the front legs more weight placed on the back legs (known as the laminitic stance)
Common causes include:
- Trauma from unshod feet or over-enthusiastic hoof trimming
You should call your vet immediately you suspect laminitis so that treatment can start before structural changes occur. X-rays will determine the severity of the condition and will in turn indicate the appropriate treatment. If infection has set in, aggressive treatment will be required.
The vet can also provide you with information for the farrier, as the hooves may need to be trimmed.
Treatment and Management
Successful outcomes will depend on an early diagnosis and effective treatment of the condition. You should work closely with your vet and your farrier for the best results.
- Dietary management – limiting the amount of feed and being careful about the kind of feed that is provided (feed high in soluble carbohydrates are not suitable for laminitic horses)
- Antibiotics for any infection and anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling
- Hoof care – trimming the hoof according to the degree of rotation of the pedal bone (you will need an experienced and reputable farrier)
A complementary form of treatment that is known to be effective is photonic therapy. Photonic therapy is the scientific application of light,to particular areas of the skin. The skin stimulation affects the autonomic nervous system as well as the spinal nerve transmission. The produced results include pain relief, increased immune response and improved healing. To find out more about photonic therapy visit www.photonic-therapy.net.
Horses with laminitis should have sand or deep shavings to stand on so that they can dig their heels into a more comfortable position. If using sand, use a hoof pick twice a day to remove any sand that may pack into the sole.
Ongoing dietary management and hoof trimming is key to avoiding a recurrence of the condition.
You vet will be able to advise on the most appropriate diet for his age, condition and work/exercise rate. You should restrict access to lush pasture.
Ensure that your horse receives regular visits and care from the farrier and remember that every horse should spend at least 6 weeks every year without shoes.