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  • Advice on laminitis in horses

Traditionally thought of as a disease of spring, and the “second flush” of grass in late Autumn, however we are increasingly seeing more and more cases throughout the whole of the year, from the height of summer, to the deepest depths of a snowy winter.

Although laminitis remains one of the lesser understood equine diseases in terms of what causes it, and how it is caused, it is extremely important to be able to recognise any early signs and treat them as soon as possible. It is extremely difficult to get your head around the idea that your horse could potentially lose its life due to laminitis, but in a case in which we are unable to control the considerable pain they are experiencing, this can often be the unfortunate and devastating outcome.

The signs:

Increased pulses to your horses feet – often difficult to find if you are inexperienced, however if you are able to feel them, then this is a good indication of inflammation within the feet.

Difficulty walking, especially when turning – the most common call we get from owners with a laminitic pony is “he is lame in all 4 feet”.

They often look like they are walking on broken glass, with a very tentative and careful placement of the foot, with short striding and extreme difficulty when turning.

Lying down more frequently than normal – the pain the horse is experiencing in its feet will cause him or her to lie down more often than normal.

Pain at the region of the toe – this is not something you will be able to test as an owner, but is something that your vet will be able to detect with a pair of hoof testers.

What to do:

If you notice any of the above signs, or if you are concerned at all about your horse suffering from laminitis, then please call your local branch of Milbourn Equine ASAP for a vet to come and examine your horse. Prompt veterinary treatment is essential in managing acute laminitis and helping to work towards a positive outcome. Basic first aid will involve bringing your horse into a stable on a very deep non-edible bedding (i.e. shavings/paper etc, NOT STRAW), and feeding them soaked hay to reduce the calorific intake.

When your vet is able to examine your horse, they will be able to advise on an appropriate course of action, which will often include a combination of some, or all of the following: pain relief, foot supports, remedial farriery, dietary modification, blood testing for cushings and equine metabolic disease, foot x-rays and mild sedation as necessary.