Laminitis is a condition that can affect the health and integrity of the hoof, and it typically affects horses and donkeys. In this post, our Union City veterinarians explain equine laminitis, including its symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Laminitis in Horses

Laminitis is a painful condition that primarily affects horses, donkeys, and cows. This condition causes inflammation of the tissue that connects the hoof to the leg, causing significant discomfort. Laminitis can cause the hoof to twist beneath the weight of the horse, causing misalignment and possibly penetration of the hoof bone into the foot.

An astounding 7% of equine deaths are caused by laminitis, which is why it is important for horse owners to be able to recognize the symptoms of this condition immediately. Prompt treatment and veterinary care is vital when it comes to laminitis.

Signs & Symptoms of Laminitis in Horses

The most common signs and symptoms of laminitis in horses include:

  • Lameness
  • Leaning onto the backs of the heels to take the weight off the painful toe area
  • Wider turns and more inaccurate trotting
  • Shifting weight between feet when resting
  • Pain with the use of hoof testers at the point of the frog on the foot
  • Increased digital pulses
  • Inflammation or lesion around the top of the hoof

Lameness and weight shifting in particular are earlier signs of laminitis in horses. It is important never to overlook these signs as prompt treatment is key when it comes to this devastating condition.

If you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms in your horse, you should seek equine veterinary care immediately.

Causes of Laminitis in Horses

There are 3 main causes of laminitis in horses:

1. Underlying diseases which also cause inflammation

Conditions such as colic, pneumonia, and diarrhea can all cause inflammation of the tissue surrounding the hoof. When another condition causes this swelling and goes untreated, continued running and weight on the swollen area can lead to lesions and the full development of laminitis.

2. Hormone imbalance or disease

Cushing's disease can result in endocrine imbalance, which can lead to insulin imbalance and disorder. Hormone imbalance and disorder can contribute to the development of laminitis in horses.

3. Overworking

Consistently putting too much weight on the horse for months or years at a time can lead to laminitis. If the horse's hooves do not get enough rest, irritation can develop, leading to a more serious case of laminitis.

Treatment for Laminitis in Horses

Laminitis is an emergency, so you should seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

To control the pain, a variety of medications, including NSAIDs like phenylbutazone or flunixin and opiates like morphine and pethidine, are used. Acepromazine, which has traditionally been used to increase blood supply, is thought to be beneficial due to its sedative properties. In cases of inflammation, using ice for a short period of time may be beneficial.

In order to limit pedal bone movement and reduce pain, foot support is essential in treatment. Deep beds, frog supports like Lily Pads or TLC frog supports, or frog and sole combined supports like dental impression material or Styrofoam pads can all help. These techniques aid in reducing horse pain and improving overall performance.

If the laminitis is the result of an underlying condition, then that condition should be treated accordingly.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding animals or professional advice regarding equine regulations. For the diagnosis of your animal's condition and help to navigate rules governing the care and transportation of equine animals, please make an appointment with your vet.

Have you noticed symptoms of laminitis in your horse? If so, don't hesitate to contact our Union City veterinarians today!