Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Laminitis, Acute

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 or rotate) within the foot. Laminitis is usually worse in the front feet.

It appears as reluctance to move or severe lameness, with evidence of foot inflammation (usually digital pulse and heat).

Acute laminitis is sudden onset of laminitis, caused by a variety of triggers including carbohydrate (grain) overload, various illnesses, excessive trauma to the feet and chronic overload of a weight bearing limb (in the case of a severe lameness on the opposite limb.)

Consider that acute laminitis refers to the first days of the process. Thereafter, the condition is considered chronic.

The key is to prevent laminitis if possible. If this is not possible then at least your vet must recognize it and treat it early. Recognize how common laminitis is and be on the lookout for it. Know that failure to properly diagnose and treat laminitis can quickly be the end of a horse. This is why you involve your vet early in the disease process.


  • What caused this to happen?
  • How severe is the problem in my horse?
  • How much rotation is present based on the radiographs?
  • What are the available treatments?
  • What is the prognosis for the horse for what I want to do?
  • What management plan will I need to implement to ensure my horse does not have recurrence or progression?

    Avoid grain overload scenarios. Keep horses a modest weight and avoid obesity. Recognize signs of EMS and PPID to avoid their worst consequence, laminitis. If there is a question as to whether a horse has endocrine disease, have your vet do the necessary testing and discuss a management plan.
    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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