Warning signs of laminitis

Warning signs of laminitis

After the recent weather we have seen an increase in the number of laminitis cases due to high non-structural carbohydrate content of the pasture.

Early signs of laminitis
Is your horse slightly lame or shifting weight? Do they resent having their feet lifted, are they shifting weight to their hind quarters in a ‘sawhorse’ stance, or preferring to lay down? Are their hooves hot and do they have bounding digital pulses?

These signs point to acute laminitis, which needs to be addressed by your vet as soon as possible.

What is laminitis

The hoof capsule and the lowest bone (P3, pedal bone) of the horse foot are bound together by interdigitating laminae or tiny finger like projections. Laminitis is the inflammation of the laminae and separation of this support structure that suspends the bone in the hoof capsule. This inflammation is very painful and should be managed before long term damage occurs. When the tight connection is disrupted the pull of the flexor tendons on P3 causes the bone to become unstable and eventually rotate.

What causes laminitis?

While the exact process is not completely understood there are many known causes of laminitis:
 1. Endocrine or metabolic diseaseIt is thought that endocrine disorders such as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID, more commonly known as equine Cushing’s disease) and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) underlying in up to 90% of laminitis cases.
2. Inflammation or sepsis of the bodyLaminitis can occur secondary to a disease process elsewhere in the body such as gastrointestinal disease or pneumonia.
3. Trauma or injury Laminitis may result from excessive weight bearing on one leg due to injury of the other leg.
4. Corticosteroid administration Administering corticosteroids may cause or worsen laminitis in susceptible horses.
5. Nutritional Grain overload or access to pastures with high non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) result in consumption of a large amount of fermentable sugar leading to hindgut overload and absorption of substances that trigger damage to the delicate hoof laminae. The NSC also results in elevated blood glucose and insulin levels which also damages the laminae (EMS).This is the category of laminitis that is currently of concern.


• Address the underlying cause
• Reduce mechanical damage                                                                                                             o Stall confinement                                                                                                                               o Deep soft bedding – sand, sawdust                                                                                                  o  +/- fit specialised supportive shoes                                                                                                   o Sole/frog support

Prevention is key!

Knowing the predisposing factors and early warning signs of the disease will help prevent the occurrence of laminitis and progression to more severe disease.If your horse has one of the above risk factors, you should be vigilant for the early warning signs of laminitis and alter your management to prevent it from occurring.
- Speak to your vet about treating for the underlying cause
- Reduce access to grains and pasture during high risk times
- Consider using starvation paddocks or grazing muzzles through peak risk period
- Soak hay or test for NSC content
- Ongoing hoof care with corrective farriery as required
- Maintain an appropriate body condition score and weight
- Use ice boots
- Remove shoes, apply frog support and offer soft bedding