Laminitis is a painful condition, characterised by inflammation of the laminae of the foot (hoof). This inflammation and subsequent damage can lead to extreme and crippling pain for a horse or pony. Contact a vet immediately if you see any possible signs of laminitis. Whatever the cause of laminitis, the care and management afterwards follow the same principles.
Laminitis can strike horses and ponies at any point, however, there are periods throughout the year when the risk is heightened, including spring, summer and autumn.
Horses and ponies that have suffered from the condition before need careful management to minimise the risk of recurrence. Here are some of the key things you need to know when caring for a horse or pony that is prone to laminitis.
There are plenty of horse feeds on the market designed specifically for horses and ponies prone to laminitis. The best feeds will be low-sugar and starch, and high in fibre. Some contain added vitamins and minerals but will need to be fed at recommended amounts to ensure the diet is balanced. If this is too much for your horse use a straight, high-fibre feed and add a supplement or balancer.
Specialist feeds will be seen with the laminitis trust feed mark, these are feeds approved by the trust following rigorous scrutiny.
Any changes to your horse’s diet should be made slowly. Speak to a nutritionist, helpline and/or your vet to work out what the best route of action would be for your horse.
Keep the horse off the grass
Stabling the horse and preventing them from having access to grass is the only to ensure you have complete control over what they are eating. This may be necessary in the short term to achieve weight loss, assuming they are overweight, and then longer term you can gradually reintroduce some time in the paddock.
Early morning is thought to be a good time to restrict grazing, a popular management practice is during the spring and summer to turn out at night and bring in early morning.
Regular hoof trimming
Recent research identified periods of more than 8 weeks between trimming as a risk factor for laminitis. Whilst this is a correlation, not a causation, it is important that your farrier visits regularly to ensure the conformation of the hooves is not increasing the risk of laminitis.
A good farrier may be the first person to pick up the onset or recurrence of laminitis in your horse.
Once the horse is sound and you have been given the go-ahead to exercise again, it is vital to do so. Not only does it burn calories to aid weight management but exercise is also thought to improve insulin sensitivity.
Other hormonal issues eg PPID (Cushings)
PPID, formerly known as Cushing’s Syndrome, increases the risk of laminitis. If your horse is older or showing any signs of PPID such as a curly coat or drinking more, consult your vet as some medication may be required to manage the problem.
If you are unsure if your horse is suffering from laminitis or are simply looking for advice for dealing with this horrible disease, speak to your vet or a nutritionist for further help. Caring for a horse prone to laminitis is not easy, however, there is an abundance of professional help at your fingertips, from articles like this to specialist support, you and your horse don’t have to suffer on your own.
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