LAMINITIS ACTION PLAN
The moment your horse begins to show signs of this devastating hoof disease, take quick action to slow its progress and reduce the extent of the damage.
Laminitis---the inflammation of the sensitive laminae inside the hoof wall---is a frightening disorder. Excruciatingly painful, laminitis can weaken the laminae and allow the coffin bone inside the hoof to sink and/or rotate downward, causing permanent deformity. In severe cases, euthanasia may be the only humane option, and survivors may never be sound again.
Any horse can develop acute laminitis, caused by an overload of carbohydrates, severe gastrointestinal illness or mechanical stresses. More common, however, is the chronic form, a milder condition triggered by hormonal imbalances associated with equine0 metabolic syndrome (EMS), pituitary0 pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID, also called Cushing’s disease) or other disorders.
The earliest signs of laminitis may be alarmingly obvious or they may be subtle--but once you spot them, you need to act immediately. Here’s what to do:
Call the veterinarian; say you have an emergency and explain the situation.
Put the horse’s feet in ice. Icing the feet is the one treatment that has been proven to halt the progress of laminitis under laboratory conditions. The earlier, the better. When researchers in Australia starting icing a horse’s feet immediately after administering oligofructose0 to induce the disease, they were able to prevent laminitis from developing. Icing may be useful if a horse has broken into a grain bin and you strongly suspect laminitis may follow. And this therapy can also greatly reduce the severity of the disease even if the treatment does not start until after signs of foot pain appear.
Stand the horse in a tub with cold water and ice deep enough to submerge the leg up to the middle of the cannon bone, and replenish the ice as needed until the veterinarian arrives.
Take the horse’s temperature. Laminitis may accompany other illnesses. Of course, you’d probably already know if your horse were seriously ill, but an elevated temperature might indicate underlying problems you hadn’t noticed. Report your findings to your veterinarian.
When he arrives, the veterinarian will offer guidance based on your horse’s condition and circumstances. As you wait, you may want to enlist a friend who can lend a hand and help gather any supplies your veterinarian might need.
IN THE MEANTIME
Locate an area with soft footing. As your horse begins recovery from laminitis, you will want to provide him with a stall with very deep bedding (at least eight inches) or a small pen with deep, soft footing, such as sand. The soft material will pack up inside the hoof, supporting the coffin bone, which may prevent or reduce rotation while also easing the horse’s pain.