is a serious condition: your vet must be notified, especially of any changes in condition. We always recommend you let your vet know what alternatives you are considering giving alongside vet medication, especially if your horse or pony is already on a circulatory one.
Some causes of laminitis remain a mystery, but may include Cushing’s syndrome, equine metabolic syndrome, hormonal problems, concussion or trauma related or toxic poisoning. However, the most well-known is diet related (carbohydrate overload). The cause should be identified so that re-occurrences can be avoided and diet and management routines may need to be looked into.Laminitis can affect all four feet although more commonly just the front, and refers to an inflammation of the laminae. These are vital structures that interlock the hoof and pedal (coffin) bone, providing an intricate suspension system cushioning the hoof as it hits the ground. If the laminae become inflamed, there is effectively a lack of a good blood supply to the foot, the suspension mechanism fails, the attachment to the pedal bone weakens and the pedal bone can rotate downwards, placing pressure on the sole and causing great pain. In worst cases, the pedal bone could protrude.
Rotation (foundering) itself causes more problems: the blood supply to the laminae is compromised due to the tearing/shearing, the hoof wall may be impaired by a lack of nutrients getting through and there can be secondary bacterial infection including seedy toe or abscesses.
Signs to look for include pain, changes in gait, reluctance to move/bear weight on affected feet (a specific laminitis stance is sometimes seen). A “bounding” digital pulse, increases in body temperature, respiration and general pulse can be other indicators. Your vet must be contacted. During treatment, ask your vet about turnout: a difficult area as box rest is generally required, but circulation is then compromised.
Research into both the causes of laminitis and its treatment is always ongoing and certainly there is a strong link between digestion and laminitis. Some current research is pointing towards a greater need for vitamin/mineral supplementation for those already suffering from laminitis and a lack is even being linked towards the onset of some forms. During times of illness, the body requires a greater number of nutrients to enable repair, and with laminitis, this is often just the time when feed is restricted. It is also suggested that if the “integrity” of the gut/intestinal tract is compromised, the horse or pony may have difficulty in absorbing nutrients properly and gut bacteria are essential to not only good digestion but also the immune system. Any disruption to this delicate balance may cause serious problems.
So as you can see, there are many areas to consider when your horse or pony has laminitis including cause, initial treatment, management and feeding both during and after an attack: obviously, your vet is very important during this time, but so too is a good farrier.
You can prevent laminitis by avoiding high-risk situations. The following is a list of "causes" or circumstances which we know commonly precede the onset of laminitis.
⦁ Overeating on foods rich in carbohydrate or rapidly fermentable fibre i.e. cereals, coarse mixes, rapidly growing or fertilised grass
⦁ Any illness which involves a toxaemia. This may be a bacterial infection or following the ingestion of plant or chemical toxins.
⦁ Cushing's disease. This is a condition which follows an abnormality affecting the pituitary gland in the horse's head. It results in the horse failing to shed its winter coat. The coat becomes long and matted and eventually curly. The horse drinks and eats increased amounts of food while sweating excessively and losing weight. All Cushing's cases suffer laminitis.
⦁ Weight-bearing laminitis. When the horse is severely lame on one leg and has to put all his weight on the contra-lateral limb they often suffer from the founder in the weight-bearing limb. This is particularly common on hind feet.
⦁ Concussive laminitis (road founder). When horses are subjected to fast or prolonged work on hard surfaces they may develop laminitis as a result of trauma to the laminae, particularly if their horn quality is poor.
⦁ Hormonal problems. Animals which are "good doers" may be hypothyroid or have an abnormal peripheral cortisol enzyme system. The latter condition, recently described has been called obesity-related laminitis or peripheral Cushing's disease. Others develop laminitis when they are in season.
⦁ Cold weather. A few horses show laminitis during cold weather, fitting warm leg wraps during cold snaps prevents the problem in most cases.
⦁ Stress. Worming, vaccination, travelling or separation from a "friend" can trigger an attack of laminitis.
⦁ Drug-induced laminitis.Although
some wormers can precipitate laminitis, the most common group of drugs which cause laminitis are the corticosteroids. Even injecting short-acting corticosteroids into joints can cause severe laminitis.
Overeating / Obesity are the most common high-risk situations which lead to laminitis. The secret to avoiding laminitis in this situation is not to turn the horse out whilst he is fatter than condition scores 3. This means he should not have a fat depot along his crest or at the tail head, around the sheath or udder or over the loins. You should be able to feel his ribs easily by running your hand along his side yet you should not be able to see his ribs.
Limiting the grass intake can be accomplished by using a grazing mask or muzzle or by restricting the area available for grazing.
For more information here is a link to the Laminitis Trust http://www.laminitis.org/
Feed Supplements for Laminitis
You, as horse owners, will be all too aware of the plethora or nutritional supplements marketed at the ownersoflaminitics. At the Laminitis Trust, we are concerned that people buying these supplements may expect them to provide benefits beyond what is rational.
Firstly, laminitis supplements, are not drugs and thus do not come under the regulations of the Medicines Act. They are considered to be feed additives and are loosely regulated under the Feeding Stuffs Regulations. As such they are not allowed to make claims to prevent, treat or cure disease. Because of this none have any specific research backing behind them indicating that the products have been proven to affect horses and ponies with laminitis either beneficially or detrimentally.Research, means work which was of sufficient quality to have been accepted for publication in a scrutineered scientific journal.
The Trust has been concerned for many years that horse owners do not understand the above situation and are encouraged to buy these products believing them to be effective at either preventing or alleviating the signs and symptoms of equine laminitis.
Unless owners are aware that the only effective way to prevent and treat laminitis is as outlined under the various sections on this website they often seem to use laminitis supplements as an easy alternative. Laminitis prevention and treatment involves time and effort and cannot be accomplished by buying a pot of supplement alone.
With particular reference to laminitis, a supplement having the following properties may be of great value;
⦁ Chose a certified non-GM supplement which provides nutrients which help against insulin resistance and will improve horn quality.
⦁ Magnesium, Chromium, Vanadium and Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF) are important nutrients against insulin resistance, which the supplement should contain in balanced amounts.
⦁ Antioxidants are important as are the two rate limiting amino acids lysine and threonine, in certified amounts.
⦁ Arginine is the amino acid precursor of nitric oxide, one of the most potent vasodilators the horse's body produces, so that, and omega 3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties are important.
⦁ Some laminitis cases suffer from Cushing's disease so chose a supplement which contains balanced amounts of L-tyrosine and phenylalanine, the amino acids which are metabolised by the horse into Dopamine, serotonin and melatonin, the important hormones and neurotransmitters which are vital in adequate concentrations in Cushing's Disease cases.
⦁ Non-GM sources of phospholipids, over 3 grammes calcium, and 1gm magnesium, sulphur containing amino acids cysteine and methionine, zinc, Vitamin A and biotin (20mg/day) are important to optimise horn quality.
⦁ Many supplements do not contain what they say on their own labels. So consider choosing one manufactured under an accreditation scheme such as those policed by the Vegetarian Society or UFAS.
⦁ The hoof horn of horses and ponies suffering or having suffered, from laminitis and founder, becomes damaged due to a variety of factors, including serum leakage. These animals, therefore, need the exact balance of nutrients necessary for new horn formation at optimal speed and of optimal quality. A hoof supplement with proven results of efficacy, preferably having undergone a study at a recognised University is preferable.
⦁ An effective supplement will provide a broad spectrum of nutrients, usually over 50, from natural sources, not just a few nutrients such as biotin, methionine or zinc.