I couldn't write a web site on horses feet without writing something on laminitis. I just intend here to give information on spotting when you may or may not have a horse with laminitis. I will write more, perhaps an article or two on what the causes are and how to manage laminitis at some point.


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Laminitis is very complex and can range from mild sub clinical, to being so bad that the horse has to be put to sleep.

There is more that one trigger for laminitis - diet, metabolic conditions, stress, poisoning, illness any one or combination of these could be the trigger that starts the ball rolling.

I like to think that there are three different kinds of laminitis. However they can all overlap each other so these distinctions are only there to help me explain what is happening and how to spot when you may have trouble.



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Mechanical Laminitis

The picture opposite shows an upright foot. Note the yellow wedge that  separates the hoof wall from the pedal bone this a lamellar wedge. Lamella is produced where the dermal and epidermal laminae have been slowly dislocated. Whenever you see a deviation in the angle of the hoof wall, lamella will have been produced to fill the gap. However this only happens if the dislocation has happened slowly.     

This is a form of mechanical laminitis that is very common, however it is quite often ignored. The diagram shows an upright or boxy foot. However any type of foot that is not trimmed regularly can suffer from mechanical dislocation of the hoof wall when it is allowed to grow too long. This type of laminitis can, quite often, be found on shod feet as the shoe unnaturally loads the hoof wall



Dietary laminitis

Simply put dietary laminitis is when excess sugar uptake affects the bonds that hold the hoof wall in place. This may happen over time. Each episode can be seen as small rings on the surface of the hoof wall. These small rings, that are only just visible, show that your horse has or had very mild sub clinical laminitis. These often occur when moving on to fresh pasture and in themselves aren’t anything to worry about. If however you get any kind of foot pain, not moving or reluctant to move, then the laminitis could be getting worse and action should be taken. If the rings are pronounced, becoming ridges that are easy to see and feel, then the laminitis is progressing and action must be taken. Often at this stage the hoof wall starts to distort. There is a real danger that if the condition is not brought under control quickly, the orientation of the pedal bone may be affected. Laminitis is often  accompanied by rapid hoof wall growth which can add to the amount of hoof wall distortion.



Metabolic Laminitis

Horses with metabolic conditions can get everything from the rapid toxic or shock type laminitis that can present as the devastating, to the low level chronic laminitis that never really goes.    Sometimes the scarring to the laminae can become significant, and never properly regenerate leading to a hoof wall that is permanently misshapen.     


The following two pictures are of a right fore foot taken approximately six months apart. The pony had a metabolic disorder that meant he had constant low level laminitis. The top picture was taken on my second visit. You can clearly see the distortion in the hoof wall and the pronounced rings, note how the foot is shooting forward. You can also see the amount of wall I had removed from the toe 


In the bottom picture you can see that the rings are less pronounced and the hoof wall is a little better, however the laminae were too badly scarred to regenerate and the foot never really recovered beyond this point although he was far more comfortable.