EQUUS - - Eq Medicalfro­nt -

The first flush of spring pas­ture growth means an in­creased risk of lamini­tis, the painful in­flam­ma­tion of the soft tis­sue of the hooves that can lead to per­ma­nent dis­abil­ity or eu­thana­sia. Some horses are more prone to pas­ture-associated lamini­tis, also called en­docrino­pathic lamini­tis. In those with a his­tory of the con­di­tion, equine meta­bolic syn­drome (EMS) or pi­tu­itary pars in­ter­me­dia dys­func­tion (PPID), even small amounts of sug­ars or starches from new pas­ture grass can trig­ger lamini­tis. Horses can also de­velop chronic sub­clin­i­cal lamini­tis that makes them foot­sore rather than overtly lame, even as ir­re­versible dam­age oc­curs in­side their hooves. Take these steps to pro­tect your horse from lamini­tis:

As­sess the lamini­tis risk of each horse in your herd. Talk to your ve­teri­nar­ian be­fore the spring grass starts com­ing in if you are un­sure about a horse’s sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to lamini­tis. Then tai­lor your man­age­ment to his needs. You may, for ex­am­ple, use a graz­ing muz­zle ( see below) to re­duce a horse’s grass in­take or, if his risk is high, you may de­cide to keep him on a dry lot un­til pas­ture growth slows or stops.

Use a graz­ing muz­zle on at-risk horses. Not only can too much spring grass in­crease the risk of lamini­tis, but it can also lead to colic, di­ar­rhea and obe­sity. A va­ri­ety of graz­ing muz­zles are avail­able, most of which can be ad­justed to con­trol the amount of grass a horse con­sumes. It may re­quire a bit of trial and er­ror to find a style that fits your horse and your bud­get, but when you find one that works, con­sider pur­chas­ing two: If one is lost in the pas­ture, you’ll have a backup. You don’t want an at-risk horse to spend even a sin­gle day with un­fet­tered ac­cess to spring pas­ture. While your horse may look sad or frus­trated when you keep him from graz­ing, don’t let your emo­tions put him at risk for se­ri­ous health prob­lems.

Look out for the ear­li­est signs of lamini­tis. The sooner an episode is de­tected, the bet­ter a horse’s chance of sur­vival. In the first stages of lamini­tis a horse may have strong, “bound­ing” pulses in both front fet­locks so check these daily in those at risk. Also, pay close at­ten­tion to how at-risk horses move: Long be­fore the dra­matic “rocked back” pos­ture and re­luc­tance to move at all, a horse with lamini­tis may ap­pear a lit­tle foot­sore or hes­i­tant on hard or un­even foot­ing.

If you sus­pect your horse may be devel­op­ing lamini­tis, call your ve­teri­nar­ian im­me­di­ately and take ac­tion. Re­search has shown that dra­mat­i­cally cool­ing hooves can slow or halt dam­age to the lam­i­nae, but only if started in the first hours of the process. Spe­cial icing boots can lower the tem­per­a­ture of the feet suf­fi­ciently, but stand­ing the horse in a bucket of ice wa­ter is also ef­fec­tive, if more la­bor in­ten­sive. Time is of the essence. Don’t “wait and see” if the horse will move bet­ter to­mor­row, or even later that af­ter­noon.

POR­TION CON­TROL: Most graz­ing muz­zles can be ad­justed to limit the amount of grass a horse con­sumes.

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