Equine Laminitis part 3 (of 3) : Diagnosis, Treatment, Management and Prevention

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This post is the last in this Laminitis series and looks at diagnosis, treatment, management and prevention of Laminitis

Diagnosing Laminitis

Laminitis is usually diagnosed using the clinical signs however x-rays may be taken to confirm whether there has been and rotation of the pedal (coffin) bone. Blood tests may also be undertaken to assess whether there is any underlying endocrine disease (1).

If you suspect your horse may have Laminitis, it is important to contact your vet as soon as possible (2) as laminitis should always be considered an emergency.

Treatment and Management of Laminitis

Horses will need to be treated by the vet as soon s possible. Pain relief is likely to be requried.

Horses should not be forced to walk if they are resistant as they are likely in a lot of pain and you may further damage the laminae (4).

Vets often will prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) e.g. Bute and potentially opiates e.g. Morphine. (1)

It is essential to work with your farrier/trimmer in order to support the foot and limit the rotation of the pedal bone. Corrective and supportive farriery/trimming should form a staple part of your management (5)

Soft/deep bedding will help to soften things for your horse, box rest may be highly beneficial (5)

Ice may help to cool the feet initially but do not continue this long term as this can cause problems (3)

Dietary changes are a must, poor quality hay and no (or minimal) concentrates are more beneficial. High roughage based foods which work the hindgut but are not high in water soluble carbohydrates. Do not ‘starve’ your pony unless under veterinary guidance as this can cause additional problems due to the predisposition of hyperlipaemia in obese ponies (3).

Treatment of any underlying endocrine disorder is fundamental

In serious cases of laminitis prognosis may be poor and euthanasia may be suggested by your vet in order to prevent further suffering (4)

Ensure your horse is in the least stressful position possible as stress can exacerbate the symptoms of laminitis, therefore ensure your horse is in an environment they are comfortable with and that they have company during their confinement. (2,3).

Preventing Laminitis

Prevention is always better than cure especially as laminitis can cause extreme pain, lameness, permanent damage to the hooves and can increase the risk of future episodes (1)

  • Regularly cooling your horse’s feet to help reduce inflammation in laminitis associated with inflammation.
  • Treatment of any underlying endocrine disorders and reducing water soluble carbohydrate sources.
  • The use of frog/sole supports in horses predisposed to laminitis associated with mechanical overload.
  • Regular exercise, gradual fitness programmes, consistency is the key, this helps with insulin regulation (4)
  • Maintain your horse’s weight at a sensible level (you will want to keep a regular eye on their weight using a weigh machine or weight tape and carry out regular hands-on body condition scoring).
  • Regularly check your horse’s feet for heat and their digital pulses
  • Watch your horse’s food intake. Recommendations are approximately 2% of the horse’s bodyweight per 24 hours. (never go below 1.5%)
  • Get your foodstuffs analysed (forage under 10-12% sugar content is safer)
  • Avoid rye grass hay or haylage as these increase the risk of laminitis
  • Restrict grass intake (this may be by strip grazing, wearing a grazing muzzle, using a track system etc.)
  • Don’t over-rug your horse during winter – allow them to shift some weight by working to keep warm.
  • Keep your shoeing/trimming appointments regular and under 8 week intervals.
  • Limit fast work on hard ground
  • Sometimes turning a horse out at night and bringing it in during the day can help as there are less water soluble carbohydrates in the grass at night.
  • Use a laminitis app to help you determine whether it is safe to turn your horse out.
  • If your horse has colic, is showing signs of severe diarrhoea or you mare has recently given birth and you are concerned she has retained her placenta – call the vet immediately (12 hours is too long) (2).
  • Watch out for the subtle signs of laminitis, catch it early!

Reference 1: https://www.rvc.ac.uk/equine-vet/information-and-advice/fact-files/laminitis#panel-causes

Reference 2: https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-is-laminitis-and-how-can-it-be-prevented-or-treated/

Reference 3: https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/laminitis-horses

Reference 4: https://www.bhs.org.uk/advice-and-information/horse-health-and-sickness/laminitis

Reference 5: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/equine/common-conditions/laminitis/caringforlaminitiscases/

Published by Herdwick & Goose Limited

Founder and Programme Director of Animal Osteopathy International (Herdwick & Goose Limited)

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