Laminitis in horses

What causes laminitis, how to recognise it and what to do if your horse shows signs of laminitis.

What causes laminitis, how to recognise it and what to do if your horse shows signs of laminitis.

What is laminitis? 

Laminitis is an extremely painful condition of the feet in which there is inflammation and weakening of the sensitive tissues (laminae or lamellae) that bond the pedal bone (the main bone within the hoof) to the hoof wall and it can affect any horse, pony, donkey or their hybrids.  

A diagram showing the internal structure of a healthy hoof compared to a laminitic hoof

Risk factors can include: 

  • Diets high in sugar 
  • Lack of movement 
  • Hormonal disorders such as equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) 
  • Weight gain 

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The weight of the horse pushing down on these weakened tissues can cause the pedal bone to separate from the hoof wall and rotate or drop towards the sole. In severe cases the pedal bone may penetrate through the sole of the foot. It is an emergency, and you must contact your vet immediately if you think your horse might be suffering from laminitis. 

Prevention of laminitis is essential whenever possible as once a horse has suffered from it they are at increased risk of developing it again. 

Laminitis guide

The guide further explores:

  • The structures of the hoof and how they change in laminitic horses
  • Causes and risk factors
  • When to call your vet
  • Management of laminitic horses

In 2010 World Horse Welfare, alongside Dodson & Horrell, the Royal Veterinary College, the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the University of Liverpool held a series of lectures on the dangers of laminitis. 

You can view some of these lectures in the playlist above. The topics covered in these videos are: 

  • The horse’s foot and how it can go wrong 
  • Recognising the early signs of laminitis 
  • Managing your laminitic horse and minimising their pain 
  • Using ultrasound to show the difference between fat and muscle and how to fat score a horse. 

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