No one wants to find their horse suffering in acute pain. We dread laminitis and we fear the very word. If your reality seems dark and your equine has been diagnosed with laminitis, you are in the right place to receive information and help.
Laminitis and founder can be lifelong conditions that require dietary and environmental monitoring. Often these episodes are followed by recurring abscesses, pain and further deterioration but with proper long-term care, these episodes can be largely controlled or eliminated.
Laminitis refers to inflammation of the laminae tissue inside the hoof capsule. Founder is what occurs when this inflammation creates enough damage that the coffin bone and the hoof capsule separate allowing the bone to rotate or sink. Laminitis can occur without any rotation or sinking of the coffin bone.
There are two main types of equine founder: Metabolic and Mechanical. The two types can occur for different reasons and can happen consecutively.
Metabolic founder refers to a systemic metabolic condition which causes damage to the feet as part of a disease process. Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) and Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction or Cushing's Disease (PPID) are the main causes of laminitic and metabolic founder.
Mechanical laminitis and founder occur as a direct result of biomechanical force applied to the hooves. Poor hoof balance, shoeing and trimming can cause biomechanical pain and dysfunction. Often "road founder" is suspected when a horse develops pain and lameness after hard schooling or competition.
Immediate 911 care for the laminitic or foundered horse is absolutely critical. This includes cold hosing the front feet to reduce heat and swelling inside the hoof capsules, Bute or Banamine administered under the supervison of a veterinarian, immediate solar support using deep cushioned bedding, styrofoam or pads taped to the feet, or hoof boots with deep pads inside. The horse should only be fed low starch, high fiber forages and removed from grassy turnout at least until well stabilized.
It's always the best plan to enlist the help of a good veterinarian if your horse is lame. Your vet can provide radiographs (X-rays) that show the coffin bone, solar depth, horn lamellar zone, and any possible abscess tracts. With this information it is possible to determine how to trim the feet for the best result.
If your horse is suspected to have Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), then bloodwork will be very helpful. Blood glucose and insulin levels help determine how tightly the diet must be regulated. Horses with EMS are characterized by their overweight condition, cresty neck and fat pads.
Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID) is also known as Cushing's Disease and often causes recurring laminitis and founder. Testing the ACTH hormone level with a bloodtest is crucial. Typically we have thought of Cushing's horses as having thick curly coats that do not shed but around 25% of affected horses have no haircoat symptoms. Medication can be prescribed that helps regulate ACTH hormone and prevent further laminitic episodes.
The short answer is...NO!! Horses rarely "need" shoes. Humans might want shoes on horses for traction, soundness, or to prevent excess wear. But there are often alternatives, especially when a horse has been laminitic or has foundered.
There definitely is merit to treatment protocols that use a positive pressure heartbar shoe placed with the aid of radiographs. This method has saved the lives of many founder cases and returned them to soundness. However, based on over a decade of experience, I can definitively say that barefoot rehabilitation is not only possible, but is extremely effective in most cases.
It is worth reading the books and articles written by Dr. Bowker, Jamie Jackson, KC LaPierre and Pete Ramey. Their decades of research, experience and success rehabilitating foundered horses without shoes is enlightening.
Hoof boots can be an excellent alternative to conventional horseshoes. Boots come in many different brands, sizes and styles. They are flexible, support the entire sole, can be removed easily for treating abscesses and are cost effective. It is easy to change out padding inside the boots as the needs of the horse change. Boots eliminate the pain of setting nails in the already painful feet, and don't cary the costs associated with glue ons shoes.
Many laminitic and foundered horses return to a career if the hooves, diet and environment can be maintained properly. These horses tend to have more sensitive feet and often require hoof boots, casting wraps or products such as Keratex or Durasole hoof hardeners.
Gentle, steady exercise increases the vascularity of the equine hoof and encourages healing. An integral part of rehabilitation is understanding that pressure is the stimulus for growth. Standing in a stall is usually detrimental to healing. Movement on proper footing such as sand or deep pea gravel encourages rapid hoof growth, proper sole depth, healthy frog tissue and digital cushion development.
The horse should only be worked or ridden when the feet are fully stable, new connective laminae has grown, and the horse is no longer showing pain.
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Copyright © 2021 - All Photos and Content are Owned by High Performance Hoof Care, LLC. The information on this site is strictly for informational purposes and not meant to represent or replace the advice of a licensed veterinarian. None of the information here is intended as a diagnosis or treatment plan.
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