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Equine Health Resource

Laminitis, Chronic

Synonyms: Endocrinopathic or Pasture-Associated Laminitis

Laminitis is a common and devastating disease of the feet wherein there is a breakdown of the live cell attachments between the hoof wall and the coffin bone (the laminae).

If the laminae are damaged, it allows the bone to move (sink, rotate) within the foot.

Laminitis is usually worse in the front feet. It appears as reluctance to move and lameness, with evidence of foot inflammation (digital pulse and heat). Chronic laminitis is defined as that period after 72 hours after the onset of known laminitis. Laminitis should also be considered chronic once there is diagnosable movement of the coffin bone within the hoof capsule.

Chronic laminitis is unfortunately very common in horses. In most cases, there are visible changes in the horse’s feet that are easily recognizable but may go unnoticed for a period of time.

Obvious characteristics of chronic laminitis include a concave front hoof wall, irregular rings or lines on the outer hoof wall, and a “dropped” sole, (loss of concavity to the sole). In most cases, there is variable lameness or apparent stiffness of movement.

Chronic laminitis is especially common in horses of the “insulin resistant” type, especially overfed ponies. It is also common in horses with Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS).

Prognosis & Relevant Factors

The prognosis depends on the amount of structural damage to the laminae, and whether or not treatment is effective.

Basic hoof conformation (prior to laminitis) and many other factors predispose a horse to either toleration of laminitis or deterioration in the face of laminitis. These factors include horse size to hoof size ratio, genetics, and intended use.

Unless the management and feeding is appropriate, chronic laminitis usually progresses to the point that the horse is euthanized.

I Might ObserveRelated Observations

Dished Front of Hoof Wall
Lameness, Chronic Front Limb
Widened White Line of the Hoof
Hooves Show Signs of Founder
Rough Hoof Wall, Lines or Rings on Hoof Wall
Seems Sore in Feet, Especially on Hard Ground or Gravel
Hesitant to Walk on Hard Surfaces
Overweight, Fat, or Obese
Reluctant to Move or Walk
Cresty Neck, Fat along Topline, or around Tailhead
Digital Pulse Can Be Felt in Foot
Resists Raising, Lifting, or Bending a Limb
Lameness, Generally
Saw-Horse Stance, Hind Limbs Under & Front Limbs Forward
Lying Down More Than Normal, or Getting Up & Down
Haircoat, Long & Curly or Wavy
Dropped Sole or Flat-Footed
Cannot Seem to Get Up, Lying Down, Seems Aware
Rigid, Stiff Limbs or Legs
Drags in Hand, Won't Lead Up
Lame with Snow, Ice or Mud Packed into Soles
Grunting or Groaning when Moving
Lameness, Chronic Hind Limb
Choppy or Short Gait, Short-Strided
Cannot Pick Up Foot
Shifting Weight from Limb to Limb, Treading
Resists Moving Forward Under Saddle, Lazy
White Line is Poor, Chalky or Black Material, Seedy Toe
Hay or Pot Belly, Pendulous Abdomen
Heat in Hoof Walls, Foot or Feet
Change in Appearance of Coronet Band
Hoof Wall Seems Dry & Brittle, Cracks Easily
Red Discoloration Visible on a Pale Hoof Wall
Hesitant to Walk Up or Down Hill
Hoof Wall Crack, Toe or Quarter, Vertical, with Lameness or Blood at Coronet
Hoof Wall Crack, Parallel to Ground, Horizontal, with Lameness
Lameness, Severe, Cannot Support Weight on Limb
Sole of Hoof, Red Discoloration Visible
Stiff Neck or Back, Resists Lateral Bending
High-Stepping Gait of One or Both Hind Limbs
Difficulty Advancing Front Limb or Leg
Long or Overgrown Hooves
Hoof Pulled Off, Loss of Entire Hoof Capsule
Repeatedly Loses Shoes

QUESTIONS TO ASK MY VET

  • How lame is the horse today?
  • How is current management and feeding contributing to ongoing problems?
  • How can management be changed to reduce progression of this condition?
  • PREVENTION

    Prevent or treat underlying disorders that lead to this condition. Limit access to green pasture with management and/or a grazing muzzle. Keep horses a modest weight.

    Recognize signs of EMS and PPID to avoid their worst consequence, laminitis.

    Once a horse has been diagnosed with chronic laminitis, attention to detail in feeding and management becomes critical.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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