Laminitis is very complex and confusing – lets break it down into manageable bites… with each letter



Laminae –     The Laminae is the tissue that connects the pedal bone in the foot with the wall of the hoof.  It is often described as being a Velcro type tissue.  When a horse develops laminitis the laminae becomes inflamed and then separates.  The horse then bears it’s weight on it’s foot and this causes the pedal bone to drop.  In severe cases the damage to the foot can be so bad the bone can come through the bottom of the hoof – sadly the only option in these situation is euthanasia.


Acute stage – The acute stage is when owners start to see the signs of laminitis.  Many owners are unaware that their horse would have been in the development phase for up to 40 hours before the acute stage.


Management – If you suspect that your horse has laminitis then contact your vet.

In the mean time make sure your horse is as comfortable as possible;

  • Box Rest
  • Deep shavings bed
  • Ensure the horse has access to water and soaked hay
  • Restrict walking / movement


Information – More research is being carried out on laminitis than any other lameness.  However this shows that there are more than one cause (Overload, Inflammatory and Metabolic) and it is multifactorial thus making it  very complicated.  If you think of a field full of rich grass with both a thoroughbred and an overweight native pony in that field, the odds are that it will be the pony that gets laminitis and not the thoroughbred.


Numbers – The numbers and figures for laminitis tell us a lot of information.  Pet Plan Equine paid out £370,000 in claims for laminitis in 2014 but surprisingly the majority of claims were made in August and not spring.  This highlights the importance of being aware of laminitis all year.


Immediate action – If you suspect your horse has laminitis then contact your vet immediately.  The sooner the horse can be treated by the vet the more likely the horse will return to work.


Treatment – The first concern will be comfort and so your vet may prescribe pain relief.  If your horse is unsettled, then a mild sedative may be prescribed to encourage your horse to rest and stay calm.  Your vet may take x-rays to see if the pedal bone has moved.  These can help your farrier and vet to decide the best options for trimming and shoeing.  The diet will also need to be addressed and this will be an ongoing process.  Nutrition and laminitis go hand in hand.  The key is balance– feeds should be suitable for laminitics and must be low in sugar and starch but high in fibre.  Cereals and molasses should be avoided.  Although the diet is based on fibre this needs to be balanced with vitamins and minerals either through a balancer or supplement.  Research has shown that horses with laminitis have high levels of free radicals thus making it important to supplement the diet with antioxidants.   Honeychop has natural herbs with high levels of antioxidants in their Lite and Healthy and the Natural Choice Alfalfa – making them the perfect fibre choice for laminitics. Treatment of laminitis can be a long ongoing process whereby experts, including your vet, farrier and equine nutritionist, can help work together to support your horse.


Insulin – It is thought that 90% of laminitis cases have an underlying hormonal disorder.  Insulin is a central factor in this disease.  Experiments have shown that 48 hours of high levels of insulin triggers laminitis.  Another research paper showed that overweight ponies released more insulin on a basic diet then the average horse.  This supports the fact that the majority of cases are overweight ponies.


Signs of laminitis – In very severe cases the symptoms can be confused with colic – the horse will be sweating, very uncomfortable and will lie down and be unable to stand  however, in the majority of cases the symptoms will be subtle;

  • The animal will be ‘footy’
  • Hooves may feel hot and if pressure is applied to the sole it can be painful
  • May be shifting weight from foot to foot
  • Try and stand with the weight on the heels and take pressure off the toes.
  • The digital artery which runs over the fetlock may be prominent

If you have concerns then please contact your vet – do not leave it for the morning.

If you want any more information on laminitis have a look at our fact sheet