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Equine Laminitis: What Every Horse Owner Should Know About Lameness

Lameness is a serious condition that can affect all types of equine animals, greatly impacting their quality of life. Here, our Ocala veterinarians share some vital information about equine laminitis and the importance of diagnosing and treating horse lameness quickly.

Laminitis in Horses

Horses, cows, and donkeys are all animals that can experience the serious complications that come from lameness. This condition causes inflammation of the tissue that connects the hoof to the leg, causing significant discomfort. Laminitis can cause the hoof to twist beneath the weight of the horse, causing misalignment and possibly penetration of the hoof bone into the foot.

An astounding 7% of equine deaths are caused by laminitis, which is why horse owners need to be able to recognize the symptoms of this condition immediately. Any animal experiencing lameness must receive diagnosis and treatment as quickly as possible.

Signs of Lameness in Horses

The common signs that are noted with equine laminitis are:

  • 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. Our vets offer equine lameness exams to help diagnose this serious condition allowing for prompt treatment.

Typical Causes of Equine Laminitis

There are three main causes of lameness in horses. They are:

1. Disease & Inflammation

Conditions such as colic, pneumonia, and diarrhea can all 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 Imbalances

Cushing's disease can result in endocrine imbalance, which can lead to insulin imbalance and disorder. Hormone imbalance and disorder can contribute to the development of laminitis in horses.

3. Excessive Exercise / Overworking

Consistently putting too much weight on the horse for months or years at a time can lead to laminitis. If the horse's hooves do not get enough rest, irritation can develop, leading to a more serious case of laminitis.

Treating Lameness in Horses

A lame horse requires treatment right away as laminitis is considered a veterinary emergency. The equine vet will perform a lameness exam on your horse to confirm the condition.

To control the pain, a variety of medications, including NSAIDs like phenylbutazone or flunixin and opiates like morphine and pethidine, are used. Acepromazine, which has traditionally been used to increase blood supply, is thought to be beneficial due to its sedative properties. In cases of inflammation, using ice for a short period may be beneficial.

To limit pedal bone movement and reduce pain, foot support is essential in treatment. Deep beds, frog supports like Lily Pads or TLC frog supports, or frog and sole combined supports like dental impression material or Styrofoam pads can all help. These techniques aid in reducing horse pain and improving overall performance.

Lameness evaluations for horses are also vital for determining any underlying condition. This will allow the condition to be treated accordingly.

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 Ocala veterinarians today!

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Florida Equine Veterinary Associates is passionate about the health of sport and performance horses. Get in touch today to book your equine athelete's first appointment.

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