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Pleun Broeren
28 februari 2023 Reading time 3 minutes


Laminitis is a very painful condition for a horse in which inflammation in the hoof, due to a serious metabolic disorder, causes problems. But how do you recognize a horse with laminitis? What are the causes of this disease and more importantly, how can you treat it?

What is laminitis?

Laminitis is an inflammation inside the hoof that causes the lamellae to become inflamed, which ensures that the hoof wall and the coffin bone remain strongly connected to each other. As a result, the connection between them can break and the coffin bone comes loose from the hoof wall, causing it to sag or rotate. The inflammation is accompanied by fever and swelling causing a lot of pain for the horse. Laminitis usually occurs (firstly) on the front hooves. A horse that has had laminitis once will always remain susceptible to this condition.

How can you recognize laminitis?

A trapped horse will try to relieve the affected hooves by placing the hind legs well under the body and moving the affected leg (or legs) forward. You will notice that your horse wants to move as little as possible because this is painful. Sometimes they even lie down for a long time to relieve the feet. Depending on the severity of the laminitis, the coffin bone can detach from the coffin, causing the coffin bone to lose support and tilt. The tip of the coffin bone then protrudes into the sole. In severe cases, you can even see the coffin bone coming through the sole.

Causes of laminitis

Laminitis can have various causes. We have listed the five most common ones for you:

1. Overweight

Horses and ponies that are overweight are more likely to have a disturbed sugar metabolism, or insulin dysregulation (formerly known as insulin resistance). Insulin dysregulation in horses causes many problems but one of the worst conditions that can arise is laminitis. To find out if your horse has insulin dysregulation, you can get a blood test from your vet. It is difficult to see from the outside.

2. Bowel Disorders

A common cause of intestinal disorders is when a horse ingests an excessive amount of energy-rich food. For example, by eating sugar-rich (spring) grass or a large amount of concentrate that is given in one go, such as eating the feed barrel, for example. This disrupts the intestinal flora in such a way that toxins are formed. If these get into the blood, laminitis can develop.

3. Uterine Inflammation

If a mare does not have the afterbirth within 6 hours after the birth of the foal, uterine inflammation can occur. If these toxins end up in the blood, the mare can become laminitic. So always keep an eye on this when the foal is born.

4. Sole Bruises

Poor care of the hooves can lead to, amongst other things, sole bruising and inflammation. Regular maintenance of the hooves and trimming and/or shoeing every 6-8 weeks, by a recognized farrier, is therefore recommended. Prolonged trotting on paved roads and/or long trailer transport can also cause acute laminitis.

5. Medicines

By administering certain medicines, toxic substances can enter the bloodstream, which can also cause laminitis. If your horse or pony is sensitive to laminitis, it is therefore smart to always read the package leaflet carefully before you give the medication or consult your vet.

6. Diseases

Horses and ponies with Cushing's disease/PPID are particularly susceptible to laminitis.

My horse has laminitis. What now?

When your horse is caught, it is best to do the following:

  • Consult your vet immediately.
  • Do not give concentrates and grazing anymore but only feed poor and stalky hay. Instead of concentrates, you can opt for a vitamin-mineral supplement, such as Pavo Vital or Pavo DailyFit biscuits. Mix the Pavo Vital with Pavo DailyPlus to stimulate chewing and prevent stomach ulcers. 
  • Put your horse on wet sand, or in mud, to continuously cool the hoof and distribute/relieve the pressure on the hoof.
  • To reduce pain and pressure, it is advisable to consult with your vet and farrier to see what other measures can be taken.

Preventing laminitis

With these tips you can prevent your horse or pony from getting laminitis as much as possible:

  • Ensure a gradual transition from stable to pasture. Start with a few minutes a day and make it a little longer each day.
  • Put your horse outside in the morning, when the fructan is still low, and keep an eye on the fructan index if necessary. Please note: it is dangerous for sensitive horses to be put out in the morning after night frost.
  • Avoid grazing on a bare meadow: short, stressed grass contains relatively much sugar.
  • In the morning, first give roughage in the stable or make a nice wet mix of Pavo SpeediBeet  or Pavo Fibrebeet. This ensures that your horse has a feeling of fullness so that he eats less grass in the first hours.
  • Adjust the amount of concentrate when your horse goes out into the pasture.
  • Strip meadows are a good solution for sensitive horses and ponies. You put a fence in the meadow that you keep moving up so that they can't eat unlimited grass.
  • In mares, pay attention to the timely delivery of the afterbirth (within 6 hours).
  • For horses prone to laminitis, it is wise to consider whether grain-free feeding is a better option. This way you limit the intake of sugar and starch.

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