What is Laminitis? July 22 2014

Laminitis is one of those conditions that strike horror in the hearts of horse and pony owners.

It is an inflammatory condition, affecting the tissues which bond the hoof wall to the pedal bone in a horse's (or pony's) hoof. It's a very painful disorder and one which can affect any horse, of any age.

Laminitis is what is described as multi-factorial, in that there are a number of things which happen that can then build up to the point at which the horse has equine laminitis. For example, the horse may have trotted too fast down a rough stony track and caused mechanical damage – this in itself will not cause laminitis but will raise the threshold towards the condition happening. Likewise, he may be genetically predisposed towards insulin resistance and thus the threshold will be raised further. Then he has access to grass with high sugar levels and he goes down with laminitis. 

Research has shown that we must be careful not to feed horses, that have or are prone or are recovering from laminitis, a diet that could lead to a carbohydrate overload in the hindgut - one which has too much starch - or sugar, such as feeding molasses. At one time, molasses used to be thought ok for a horse prone to laminitis as it was considered that as molasses had a high glycaemic index, that it was virtually all digested in the small intestine and did not reach the hindgut; research now indicates that sugar levels in the diet need to be minimised in order to avoid a rise in insulin levels. It is therefore important also that if your horse has laminitis caused by a non-nutritional factor, such as Cushing’s disease or traumatic injury, then you must not make the condition worse by not adjusting the diet – your horse needs to be fed a low sugar, low starch, high fibre diet with a controlled calorie intake, as overweight horses can increase the pressure on the affected area.

If your horse develops laminitis, then the first action to take would be to remove your horse from the tipping over the threshold – bring him in from grass, stable him on a deep bed of shavings, provide ample fresh water. Call the vet, of course, and the farrier when appropriate. Do not remove the shoes unless the vet advises. Your farrier might be advised by the vet to replace them with, for example, heart bar shoes. Ask an expert nutritionist what to feed your horse – sugars should be reduced, including fructans, as should starch but you need to provide ample fibre; never starve him, as this could be fatal.

Here at Mane Supplies, we have a wide range of products that will help you to deal with the problem of laminitis, including: