What is laminitis?

Laminitis is an extremely painful condition of the feet. It is also known as ʻfounderʼ.  The sensitive tissues of the foot become inflamed. This disrupts their structure and in severe cases can lead to the pedal bone rotating and sinking through the sole to become exposed. Laminitis most commonly affects the front feet but can occur in all four feet. This is not just a spring condition of overweight ponies.

What to look out for

As this is such a painful condition, it is helpful to be able to recognise the signs.  Laminitis can be either acute (sudden and severe) or chronic ( gradual onset)

Acute form – you will notice :
The horse or pony is reluctant to move forwards and may appear stiff unable to walk on hard uneven surface, or turn in a tight circle Stand with the front feet stretched forward and their weight shifted to the back legs Heat in the foot with a bounding pulse which you can feel above the heel bulbs

Chronic form

Signs as above but milder

Seen in horses or ponies that have had a prior acute episode of laminitis you may observe rings around the hoof.

If you suspect your horse or pony has laminitis, contact your vet immediately.
Your horse or pony will have a much better chance of recovery if it is treated promptly.

If possible move it to a stable with a deep bed of shavings / straw to help support the foot.

Remove all feed and leave only water. When the vet arrives they will assess the horse or pony and decide if this is an acute or chronic episode and also its severity. Treatment involves box rest and pain relief. Your vet will arrange some type of support for your horseʼs feet and will discuss your horse’s/ponyʼs diet for the duration of treatment.

Which horses / ponies get laminitis?

Although traditionally laminitis is considered a disorder of overweight ponies, it is definitely not exclusive to this group.

Obesity in any horse or pony can predispose to laminitis A large one off intake of feed containing a high carbohydrate load can precipitate a case of laminitis. Gorging on fresh grass Certain diseases are linked with laminitis , such as Cushingʼs and Equine Metabolic Syndrome Laminitis can follow a toxic episode eg. retained placenta or colic

What happens after my horse / pony has been diagnosed with laminitis?

Once a horse/ pony has had one episode of laminitis, it is more susceptible to another episode so from now on you will need to be extra vigilant regarding feed, exercise and weight. We may advise Xrays so we can assess the position of the pedal bone and consider special shoeing options which may help. Prevention is better than cure. Permanent changes to your daily management will help to minimise the risk of another episode.

  • A diet with minimal carbohydrates but providing balanced nutrition
  • Restrict the area your horse/ pony grazes
  • Restrict exercise on hard surfaces
  • Strict attention to routine foot care
  • Regular use of a weigh tape to monitor your horseʼs / ponyʼs weight