What is it?
Laminitis may also be called "Founder". By Definition Laminitis is "Inflammation of the sensitive laminae within a horses foot". The sensitive laminae are a leaf like structure lying between bone horn. Their function is to supply nutrition to the horn of the horses hoof to bind the bone horn together.
Laminitis is often considered to be an affliction of overfed under worked ponies, but this is not necessarily the case. The basic cause is a substantial change to the blood supply of the sensitive laminae; in most cases this is due to the presence of toxins in the bloodstream.
What causes it?
Various agents can cause a change in laminae blood flow, examples as follows:
What are the symptoms?
The severity of Laminitis can vary considerably but typical symptoms are:
What can happen if left untreated?
Laminitis is a serious condition that if not recognised treated, can present a risk to the horses life.
Acute forms of the disease may develop quickly. A fever of 105° F may develop, the horse is obviously in great pain, a strong pulse may be seen in the arteries of the lower leg. Bloody secretions may appear from the coronet band. Death will normally occur within 1- 2 days.
Chronic forms develop somewhat more slowly. Ringing / banding of the hoof is evident. Over a period of days the horse may shed the horn from its feet, exposing the sensitive laminae. Associated with this, there is a high risk of infection of the laminae; a secondary problem that may lead to the death of the horse. A final problem may be in the rotation of the pedal bone. The pedal bone is the very end bone of the horses leg, situated at the centre of the hoof. Rotation of the pedal bone may force it to break through the base of the foot, though this is only in severe cases.
Whats the treatment?
Seek professional assistance. The keys to successfully treating laminitis are:
Notes on Diet
Do not starve the horse if you do the horse will break down its own fats, thereby overloading the liver and actually adding to the problem.
Remove as much concentrate from the horses diet as is feasible hay water maintenance ration is ideal.
Lucerne / alfalfa a point of debate. Some say it is too rich should not be fed. Others say that it is ideal since it provides good protein along with fibre. My personal opinion is that it is useful if it is already in the horses diet. But I would not start feeding lucerne to a laminitic horse that was not used to it.
Notes on Exercise
Gentle walking exercise, preferably on ground with some give, is recommended, to help return a normal blood supply to the laminae. However it is vital that all exercise is ceased, if there is significant movement of the Pedal Bone. Your Vet Farrier will advise you on this.
Outlook for the Patient?
If the condition was noted quickly and treatment carried out; then there is every hope that the horse will make a full recovery. Avoidance of Pedal bone involvement is very important, the horse will grow a new hoof but not so bone.
It is worth noting that having had one bout of laminitis, some horses appear to become more susceptible to further bouts; therefore care vigilance are very important.
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