Laminitis in Horses: What Every Horse Owner Needs to Know, Part Two

Laminitis in Horses: What Every Horse Owner Needs to Know, Part Two

Laminitis is the painful inflammatory condition that attacks the integrity, strength and function of the horse’s hooves. In a worst case scenario, laminitis can become so debilitating that the only humane option is euthanasia.

Regard the suspicion that your horse is experiencing laminitis as an equine emergency and call your vet immediately. The earlier this condition is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.

Previously, in Part One of Laminitis in Horses: What Every Horse Owner Needs to Know, we covered: What is laminitis? What are the signs of laminitis? What causes laminitis? Now, in Part Two, we address: What precautions may prevent laminitis? What are the treatments for laminitis?

What precautions may prevent laminitis?

Preventing obesity is a major step in preventing laminitis. Maintaining a healthy weight through appropriate feeding and adequate exercise is within the horse owner’s control. Other factors such as metabolic conditions aren’t as easily managed.

To help your horse maintain a healthy weight, consider a slow feeder such as the Haygain Forager to feed as nature intended, in small amounts throughout the day instead of two or three larger feedings. Consult with your veterinarian or equine nutritionist about the appropriate type of hay and any grain, concentrates or supplements for your horse.

Easy keepers and horses with metabolic challenges need hay with the lowest non-structural carbohydrates, and that can be difficult to find. Soaking hay in water effectively reduces NSC (non-structural carbohydrates) and sugars, but research shows a 10-minute soak increases bacterial content by 150%. Steaming hay with a Haygain Hay Steamer has been shown to reduce bacteria (as well as mold, fungi and yeast) by 99%, so you are not challenging your horse’s digestive system with bacteria created by soaking.

Scientists have found that soaking hay for 9 hours, then steaming in a Haygain Hay Steamer for one hour, shows a 98% reduction in respirable particles, dramatic reduction in bacteria and mold, improves hygiene quality and palatability, retains nutrients, produces no effluent, and uses only about a gallon of water.

Blood flow in the horse’s hoof is essential to the proper function of the laminae. Because the frog of the hoof acts like a pump to send blood back up the leg to the heart, stable flooring that massages the frog with each step, such as the ComfortStall Flooring System, provides functional support to healthy horses. And for horses suffering from laminitis, the ability to lie down in comfort and rise again with ease is priceless.

For horses with underlying conditions such as Thyroid Dysfunction, Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), and others, treatment of the their conditions is essential to controlling natural obesity.

Exercise is as important as feed, and providing your horse with age-appropriate exercise is essential. Older horses in particular are more likely to enjoy a leisurely trail ride than the high-intensity workouts preferred by younger horses.

Whether you ride your horse or not, make sure your horse’s feet are properly trimmed, and if corrective shoes are part of his program, make sure your vet and farrier concur on which shoes are appropriate for your horse.

What are the treatments for laminitis?

Immediate treatment for an initial case of laminitis might include cold hosing or ice packs to try to bring down the inflammation in the horse’s feet … but that’s just while you’re waiting for the vet to arrive.

When the vet arrives, it is helpful to have on hand as much of your horse’s health history as possible, as well as the dates and other information about any potential causes of laminitis that you can think of. This will save time when it is most critical, and help your vet personalize the plan of care for your horse.

Medications that your vet may prescribe could include an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) to control the pain such as phenylbutazone or flunixin and opiates like morphine and pethidine. Acepromazine may be prescribed to increase blood supply to the feet, and for its sedative effect in helping quiet a horse in pain and confined to a stable.

Box rest is likely to be among the changes to your horse’s immediate situation, along with feeding changes. Hay that is lower in NSC (Non-Structural Carbohydrates) and low-starch, if any, supplemental feed are standard recommendations.

Foot support is essential, with a variety of frog-supporting pads, packing materials and corrective shoes now available. Collaboration between your vet and farrier is essential. A correct trim, with the toes not too long, and shoes that help facilitate break-over help the horse move less painfully.

Recovery from Laminitis

Remember that many factors that impact a diagnosis of laminitis are under your control, and that working with your vet and farrier is key to making the best decisions for your horse’s treatment and recovery.


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