Laminitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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It is essential to note that laminitis is a severe condition that, if not treated immediately, can cost your animal its life. Laminitis is a troubling disease that affects the feet of horses and every day.

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Veterinarians across the world have to make hard decisions between treating horses with laminitis or putting them down. Laminitis can also be referred to as road founder, founder, or grass founder.

While many cases are easily preventable, early detection is critical. Owners of horses have a vital role to play in keeping their animals safe and healthy by knowing more about the aggressive condition and its signs, causes, and treatments.

Owners can quickly minimize the chances of laminitis in their horses or find better ways to control the ensuing damage if that’s the case.


It is still unknown what damages the feet, but specific factors can lead to laminitis. The condition often occurs when there is a disturbance in the horse’s body.

Some of varying may include some of the following:

  • Digestive complications caused by grain overload or sudden changes in a horse’s diet
  • Abrupt access to too much lush forage before a horse is given time to adapt fully
  • Inadequate trimming and shoeing
  • Metabolic illness
  • Drug reaction
  • Severe colic, fever or other illnesses
  • Thawed or frozen grass
  • Retained placenta that is left in the mare after foaling
  • Stall bedding that has shavings from black walnut wood
  • Released toxins from the body of a horse
  • Foot diseases
  • Excess weight or activity on an injured leg
  • Leg concussion

It’s been noticed that feeding grass clippings to a horse can potentially affect their health. High doses or prolonged usage of corticosteroids can also lead to laminitis in some horses. Horses can also be injured from prolonging ride, especially on hard-surfaced roads.

Horses can spend a long time healing from pain caused by the separation of the hoof wall and the laminae. Although not in all cases, viruses and bacterial infection can lead to laminitis.

The chances of a horse getting further attacks after getting affected by laminitis are very high. This is why normal blood flow in the hooves should be maintained, as disruption can lead to laminitis.

Risk factors



Some factors that can increase a horse’s vulnerability to laminitis or elevate the intensity of the condition could include the following:

  • Excess weight
  • Heavy horse breeds like draft horses
  • Poor diet
  • Aged horses suffering from Cushing’s disease
  • Horses with prior cases of laminitis


There are levels of criticality in laminitis that could string from mild to severe. The early signs of laminitis could include coronary band and sole, sensitivity in the hoof wall, and an evident pulse in the arteries present in the hoof.

Affected horses may display signs of discomfort and shock with sweating, shaking, temperature, elevated pulse, and respiration.

An affected horse may stand and walk in an unbalanced gait. This may cause the horse to balance its weight to the back instead of the front quarters.

This a done to minimize the pressure on its front hooves. In other cases, it may choose not to stand at all if both the back and front hooves are affected.

Typically, a horse with laminitis would spend its time lying down. Owners may also notice their horse stretching backward as if to relieve the pressure exerted on its front hooves.

This position is referred to as “pointing.” Pain may cause the horse to continue pointing even after the earlier symptoms have subsided.

Horses affected by laminitis may have their hoof wall growing laminitic rings. In other cases, the growth may be separated from the internal hoof structures.

Growth of the hoof may become narrower as the heels begin to drop. In more severe cases, the bones inside the hoof may rotate so that they pierce the sole.

Depending on how severe the condition is, a horse can experience laminitis affecting all or any of its hooves. A radiograph can be taken to determine a diagnosis. However, early treatment is essential.


Acute symptoms of laminitis may include e following:

  • Heated feet
  • Lameness in the affected foot
  • Elevated digital pulse in the affected foot
  • Pain around the toe, mainly when pressure is applied
  • Hesitant or reluctant gait

Chronic symptoms of laminitis may include the following:

  • Stone bruises or bruised soles
  • Flat feet or dropped soles
  • Thick neck
  • Rings in the hoof that gets wider affecting the toe and heel
  • Dished hooves developed from unequal hoof growth



Immediate treatment is essential if owners suspect their horse is affected by the condition. Owners should avoid treating the horse alone and contact their veterinarian for a proper check-up.

It is vital to keep your horse as relax as possible before the vet arrives. You can keep the horse in a well-bedded stall or soft sand.

The vet may deliver mineral oil if the condition is caused by overeating grain. This is administered to help grain residue move quickly through the horse’s digestive system.

Cold packs may also be applied to the affected hooves. Painkillers like Butazone, NSAIDs, and Banamine may also be administered to the affected area.


Horse owners can slowly introduce fast-growing or spring pastures and avoid lush grass. Extra care should be taken with ponies or horses that easily gain weight.

Extra care should also be taken to secure the feed room so that horses won’t sneak in to eat them when they are out of their stall or pasture. You can discuss with your veterinarian on the best way to feed your horses.

Workload should be increased gradually if the horse is being treated for laminitis. Avoid excessive training or fast rides. Riding your horse on a hard surface can do more harm than good on your horse’s hoofs and joints.



Many horses that are affected by laminitis recover from the condition and lead long and healthy lives. Regrettably, some suffer irreparable damage that, unfortunately, becomes euthanized.

Your equine practitioner should be able to provide all the necessary information about the condition of your horse depending on radiography, and it’s the response to treatment.

Radiographs are done to show the extent to how the rotation of the coffin bone is and may also illustrate gas or abscesses that may affect the therapy of your horse. This helps horse owners make better decisions regarding the health of their horses.

Are you a horse owner? Have you had to deal with laminitis in your horse? If yes, what steps did you take in controlling the aggressive health condition? Kindly share it with us in the comments below.

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