Do Not Spring Into Laminitis in Horses

"Spring is a notorious time for horses and ponies to get laminitis or founder. The quick growth of grass in spring and higher levels of sugars in grass means that horses are in danger of developing the very dangerous condition called laminitis or founder.

Laminitis is simply inflammation of the laminae that hold the pedal or coffin bone to the hoof wall. The pedal bone is the lowest bone in the leg of a horse and sits inside the hoof.

Swelling of the sensitive laminae causes the deep digital flexor tendon to pull on the back of the pedal bone and pull it away from the hoof wall. This pulling causes ""rotation"" of the pedal bone. This could be very painful and could even lead to the pedal bone falling through the underside of the foot, that generally results in the horse having to be euthanized.

So, why does a flush of spring grass lead to laminitis? The increase of the sugar content in the feed causes an overgrowth of a certain bacteria in the hindgut of the horse. As these bacteria inevitably die they release a toxin known as an endotoxin that is absorbed into the blood stream. These toxins reach the blood vessels in the foot and cause a decrease in the flow of blood to the laminae in the foot causing the laminae to release the grip on the pedal bone.

Prevention is much better than cure, as far as laminitis is concerned. Thus, how to avoid laminitis? This is a multiple stage method, and some horses and ponies would require more of these measures than others.

First, take the horse away from the high risk pasture. Put the horse in a poor quality paddock or lock it up off the problem pasture.

Secondly, soak hay to reduce the sugar content. Soaking hay in luke-warm water for 1 hour would reduce sugars by almost thirty percent.

Thirdly, feed additives can be very beneficial. Foundergard is a horse feed supplement that has an anti-bacterial impact and stops the proliferation of the bacteria that release the toxin that causes laminitis. Foundergard is indicated in horses and ponies that have a history of laminitis.

Another feed additive is Kohnke's Own, Trim. Kohnke's OwnTrim is a horse feed supplement that alters sugar metabolism and is particularly helpful for those cresty, overweight ponies. Both Trim and Foundergard can be combined to assist improve protection.

If your horse or pony has difficulty walking or standing with its hind legs underneath it more than normal, then your horse might be struggling with laminitis. If you suspect this contact your veterinary doctor immediately, it can be a matter of life or death! There are various other things your veterinary doctor could do to treat laminitis.

This article is designed as a guide only and doesn't go into the in depth management of laminitis. I suggest seeking professional help in the management of laminitis is good."

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