Conditions or ailments that are the cause of a problem that you see - your observation.

Your vet may diagnose

Laminitis, Support-Limb


Laminitis is a common and devastating disease of the feet wherein there is a breakdown of the live cell attachments (the laminae) between the hoof wall and the coffin bone. If the laminae are damaged severely, it allows the coffin bone to move (sink or rotate) within the foot.

Laminitis is divided into several forms. In the classic, acute form, horses are reluctant to move and have severe inflammation (digital pulse and heat) and pain in the feet. Usually the condition is worse in the front feet.

Support limb laminitis is the development of laminitis in the "healthy" foot that has been forced to bear excessive weight due lack of weight bearing in the opposite, injured or treated limb. It most commonly occurs when the opposite, injured limb is in a full cast or is otherwise non weight bearing for a long period of time.

Normal blood flow and function of the foot requires weight bearing alternating with relief of weight bearing. In a horse that constantly loads the hoof, there may be reduced blood flow and reduction of oxygenation and nutrition of the live cells of the laminae, resulting in stress and failure. The equine hoof is designed to be in motion and not to bear weight continuously without movement and without relief.

my vet's role


The prognosis depends on many factors, including how quickly weight bearing can be re-established on the injured limb and weight can be taken off the support limb.

Larger, heavier horses are more inclined to have this problem. Horses that are have body-wide illness are more likely to develop support-limb laminitis.

my role


I might observe

You might make these observations when a horse has this condition.

Very Common
Less Common
more observations

Questions To Ask Your Vet:
  • How can support limb laminitis be prevented in my horse?
  • What can be done to reduce pain sufficiently in the injured limb to allow reestablishment of weight bearing?

Prevention most importantly requires the rapid achievement of weight bearing by the injured limb, to allow unloading of the support limb and reestablishment of normal function and blood flow. Thus, excellent treatment of the primary problem is the key to preventing support limb laminitis. Unfortunately, depending on the disease process being treated, rapid weight bearing on the injured limb may not be possible.

The second part of prevention is addressing the support limb. Many practitioners use support bandages and a variety of support pads applied to the ground surface of the hoof. None of these have been shown to be a consistent solution. Cryotherapy of the support limb may help as may a variety of other treatments.

Deep bedding, adequate pain-management may also help.

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP