Equine Laminitis: What Every Horse Owner Should Know

Laminitis is a condition that can affect the health and integrity of the hoof, and it typically affects horses and donkeys. In this post, our Columbia veterinarians explain equine laminitis, including its symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Laminitis in Horses

Laminitis is a common and painful condition in primarily horses, donkeys and cows. This condition causes the tissue that bonds the hoof to the leg to inflame and cause great discomfort. The development of laminitis can cause the hoof to twist underneath the weight of the horse, leading to misalignment and potentially penetration of the hoof bone into the foot.

An astounding 7% of equine deaths are caused by laminitis, which is why it is important for horse owners to be able to recognize the symptoms of this condition immediately. Prompt treatment and veterinary care is vital when it comes to laminitis.

Signs & Symptoms of Laminitis in Horses

The most common signs and symptoms of laminitis in horses include:

  • Lameness
  • Leaning onto the backs of the heels to take the weight off the painful toe area
  • Wider turns and more inaccurate trotting
  • Shifting weight between feet when resting
  • Pain with the use of hoof testers at the point of the frog on the foot
  • Increased digital pulses
  • Inflammation or lesion around the top of the hoof

Lameness and weight shifting in particular are earlier signs of laminitis in horses. It is important never to overlook these signs as prompt treatment is key when it comes to this devastating condition.

If you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms in your horse, you should seek veterinary care immediately.

Causes of Laminitis in Horses

There are 3 main causes of laminitis in horses:

1. Underlying diseases which also cause inflammation

Colic, pneumonia, and diarrhea are all examples of conditions that can cause inflammation of the tissue surrounding the hoof. When another condition causes this swelling and goes untreated, continued running and weight on the swollen area can lead to lesions and the full development of laminitis.

2. Hormone imbalance or disease

Cushing's disease can cause endocrine imbalance, which leads to insulin imbalance and possible disorder. Hormone imbalance and disorder can contribute to laminitis blossoming in horses.

3. Overworking

Consistent overbearing weight on the horse for several months or years in a row can cause laminitis. If the horse does not have rest for its hooves, irritation can arise and develop into a more serious case of laminitis.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding animals or professional advice regarding equine regulations. For the diagnosis of your animal's condition and help to navigate rules governing the care and transportation of equine animals, please make an appointment with your vet.

Have you noticed symptoms of laminitis in your horse? If so, don't hesitate to contact our Columbia veterinarians today!