No excuse for complacency as laminitis continues to be a problem
By ANDREW POYNTON FWCF
NO equine is immune to laminitis although native breeds appear to be more susceptible
– this may be because they easily overindulge and their nutritional requirements
are less than the thoroughbred competition
There is no excuse for complacency however as, for whatever reason, the prevalence
of laminitis does not appear to be
There are undoubtedly laminitic cases that frustrate vets, owners and farriers alike
that do not respond to treatment, thankfully these are in the minority, and the focus
here is on
the majority cases.
Acute laminitis is an emergency and, with the best will in the world when it happens,
it is very easy to be caught out.
When an acute attack of laminitis is suspected or diagnosed by a veterinary surgeon
it is wise to assume this is factual and to do everything the veterinary surgeon
Remove the horse from the cause – if known, stable on a supportive bed – possibly
with an area where it can also stand without the bedding on the rubber matting.
Wood shavings, sand or a soil base to stand on provides complete sole support but
whenever the patient shifts its weight or takes a step arterial blood is able to
within the foot.
The veterinary surgeon will advise on diet, medication and take on site xrays.
When an acute attack strikes, the peripheral arterial circulation which supplies
the lamella bed contain arteriovenous anastamosis (AVA), vessels that shunt blood
arteries to veins in order to bypass capillaries; their normal function has to do
with thermo-regulation, but laminitis corrupts this function resulting in ischemia
The laminae which suspend the weight of the horse within the hoof via the bone column
are compromised and within hours can break down causing devastation within the foot.
The pedal bone is liable to rotate forward or in a devastating attack completely
detach and sink within the hoof capsule; either way, part or all the sole and the
If the pedal bone (P3) partially detaches and rotates, its tip crushes against the
sole and may even perforate in medium size ponies and larger; in smaller ponies this
The larger the animal the more devastating the trauma can be.
‘When an acute attack of laminitis is suspected or diagnosed by a veterinary surgeon
it is wise to assume this is factual and to do everything the
veterinary surgeon suggests’
Before and after a hoof reconstruction
To bring relief at this acute stage, frog support can be applied and the sole raised
from the ground by means of a mould on support shoe which can be fitted without the
trauma of nailing at the earliest opportunity.
However, complete constant sole ‘support’ is liable to constrict circulation and
not provide pain relief.
So a shoe with a frog support or even initially some form of casting material to
support the frog can and will give support to the bone column via the digital cushion
which is a
This transfers load from the hoof wall to the centre of the bone column alleviating
laminal tearing, whilst still allowing for solar circulation.
Both the frog and the digital cushion above it are compressible, a perfect firm cast
beneath it provides a defined base of support.
This should be applied as soon as Before and after a hoof reconstruction possible,
before any P3 descent ideally – prevention is better than cure.
Ongoing treatment and recovery:
The P3 hoof alignment is of prime importance, so regular trimming at approximately
five to six weeks or as advised by your farrier should be maintained.
Once lamella breakdown has occurred, the hoof it is aligned with will not re-attach
but be lost, so the route to recovery is lengthened.
Recovery comes when new, attached horn grows down from the coronary corium realigned
with P3; so rather than one pair of shoes, it may be many months and more before
total recovery is realised – if at all. Once a horse has suffered from laminitis
at higher risk of a recurrence.
The transitionary period from losing a hoof to regenerating a new one is tricky,
but it now can be replaced with a synthetic hoof, as such, whilst the new one is
If a foot can regenerate new horn from the coronary border from heel to heel whilst
maintaining the comfort of the patient throughout, there is hope.
The farrier/vet and owners joint cooperation in the treatment and nursing of a recovering
laminitic is vital.
The shoeing treatment does not cure laminitis, but is frequently a vital component
to the complete recovery of many laminitics and provides immense relief for horses
that would otherwise be subjected to unnecessary and prolonged suffering.
The owner is the one who can have the greatest effect on the recovery and maintaining
Acute laminitis is an emergency and must be treated as such with veterinary and farrier
intervention sought as soon as possible.
It is important to stick to a clear regime, review the diet, visually assess the
patient daily both in physique and comfort and when the patient is able and recovered
enough, gentle exercise is conducive to enabling circulation and removal of toxins
in the hoof and using up energy.
However, not in the acute phase when the laminal attachment is tentative at best
– preserve, protect and support, but don’t go anywhere at that stage. Instead identify
the cause, remove it, treat the symptoms and anticipate recovery.
Minimising damage and aiding recovery:
With the advent of modern farriery techniques and materials there is much more that
can be done for
The farrier will work from the x-rays to trim the hooves to ideal proportions, minimising
excess leverage on the capsule.
This article first appeared in Horse Health Magazine, April/ May 2009