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).
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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.
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