Posted: Thursday, 29 November 2018 @ 15:01
Laminitis is a condition in horses, which affects
the sensitive laminae of the hoof. It causes the laminae to weaken, become
inflamed (1) and in severe cases tear, this can
lead to the rotation or dropping of the pedal bone. Laminitis can be extremely
painful and contribute to lameness in horses. There are many reasons why
laminitis can occur, these include but aren’t limited to; obesity, diets high
in sugar and starch, the use of steroids, hormonal imbalance and mechanical
trauma or toxaemia.
Causes of Laminitis
Modern day management has resulted in horses being
kept on lush, rich pasture. Rich pastures have a high sugar content however
there are different types of sugar in grasses. Glucose and fructose are simple sugars
and digested in the stomach of the horse but fructans, another type of sugar
made of several fructose molecules bonded together, cannot be broken down by
digestive enzymes in the stomach and therefore passes into the hind gut.
Fructans alter the pH balance, causing the production of lactic acid to
increase and triggers an inflammatory response (2, 3). This is a common trigger of laminitis in horses. Spring
and Autumn see a seasonal spike in cases. Like Spring time laminitis where the
grass has been dormant during the cold winter months, then grows quickly in a short
period of time, Autumn causes similar problems. The warm days and cooler nights
are ideal conditions for grass to begin growing again after becoming dormant
during hot summer months. When the temperatures drop below 5 degrees the grass
stops growing so the sugars produced through the day build up. Ultimately
increasing the sugar content consumed by the horse through grazing.
In addition, feeding excessive amounts of
concentrate feeds, especially those high in sugar and starch can result in an
overload of soluble carbohydrate in the hind gut (3). This causes an imbalance in the microbial population, once again
resulting in the production of lactic acid. When the acidity of the hind gut
increases the walls become permeable, meaning nutrients leak out into the
bloodstream. It is thought that when these nutrients reach the laminae, they
can cause changes and damage resulting in laminitis.
Obesity is another factor, horses being fed
excessive amounts of feed and lacking exercise can quickly become overweight or
obese. Internal fat, particularly in the abdominal region is hormonally active (4), the excretions can cause an inflammatory response and can trigger
changes within the hooves, leading to laminitis. Obesity puts additional
pressure on the laminae of the hooves, this can also contribute to laminitis.
Laminitis is often a symptom of an underlying
health condition. Horse’s can have health problems without showing any signs.
The most common conditions are EMS (Equine Metabolic Syndrome) and Cushing’s
EMS can predispose horses to laminitis due to the
obesity and insulin resistance linked with the condition (7).
PPID is a hormonal disease caused by changes in the
pituitary gland. Horses with PPID don’t produce enough dopamine, in turn this
causes the pituitary gland to release excessive amounts of hormones. Hormones
are distributed around the body via the bloodstream, they are required to
maintain and control various bodily functions. PPID causes an exaggerated
insulin response, therefore when a horse with PPID eats feedstuffs with a high
sugar content, high levels of insulin are released into the bloodstream. This
insulin resistance is linked to laminitis (8).
Trauma, stress and illness can also contribute to
episodes of laminitis, the condition is not caused by one factor but by a
number of elements, which added together push the horse over the threshold. It
is important to remember laminitis is not always caused by an underlying
medical condition and veterinary advice should always be sought if your horse
is displaying laminitic symptoms.
Hoof Boots for Laminitic Horses
When a horse is presented with laminitis, the
common procedure is to limit feeding and put the animal on box rest. A thick
bed is used to help provide some support to the soles of the hooves, comfort
and relief. The horse would be kept on box rest until the lameness improves and
the horse is comfortable enough to be introduced to restricted turnout or light
The use of hoof boots will help keep a laminitic
horse comfortable during the healing process (5), boots
will help to provide sole support and dampen the forces on the hooves as the
horse moves around (6).
The horse won’t need to be on constant box rest and can be kept on controlled
turnout or be hand walked for short periods. Pads can be inserted inside the
boots to provide further sole support and comfort to the horse. Benefits of
using boots are; the horse can move around freely, increased blood circulation,
improve the rate of healing and help prevent other problems related to box rest
from arising, such as filled legs.
Comfort pads within hoof boots have been proven to
stimulate the internal structures of the hoof, promoting good blood flow and
the removal of toxins. All of which will improve the rate of healing. The use
of boots is one of the most effective methods of managing hoof and lower limb
Prevention is better than a cure, if your horse is susceptible to
laminitis here are some tips to help prevent an outbreak:
Avoid prolonged turnout on rich pasture. Fructan levels in the
grass vary throughout the day, they are at their highest at sunset.
Soak hay to reduce the nutritional value, especially the sugar and
- Pay attention to your horse’s weight, obese horses are at a higher risk.
Maintain good exercise regimes, horses in regular exercise are at a
much lower risk.
- Provide a high fibre diet, diets high in concentrates have a higher
sugar and starch content.
- Pay attention to the seasons. Particularly during Spring and Autumn.
If you suspect your horse is suffering from laminitis you should always contact your veterinarian for advice and appropriate treatment.
Our Top Picks for Therapeutic Hoof Boots
Equine Fusion Active
- Ideal boot for turnout these boots have been built to be robust and can also be used for riding (including jumping and cross country)
- Lightweight and flexible.
- Rubber soles are soft and comfortable, allowing the hoof to sink into them and providing a dampening effect to external pressures.
- Can add extra pads for further comfort.
- Standard sole and slim sole available.
- Designed specifically for laminitis and hoof injury.
- Extremely comfortable with replaceable Cloud Insert Pads.
- Well-padded and comes with a pair of pads.
- For use in stable and light, restricted turnout.
- Designed for hoof problems and injury.
- Extra support available with thera-rod system and can be changed easily at any time.
- Fully customizable for each individual horse.
- Comfortable with gel pads for protection to soles.
- Features a heel lock system to prevent twisting.
- For use in stable and light, restricted turnout.
- Therapy boot that offers comfort and support.
- Designed for hoof issues and injuries.
- Comes with 6mm comfort pads as standard, replacements and thicker 12mm pads available.
- For use in the stable and light, restricted turnout.