Remember Barbaro? He was a favorite to win a Triple Crown in 2006. He had an impressive win in the Kentucky Derby, only to shatter his right hind leg during a false start in the Preakness. When laminitis contributed to Barbaro’s death at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center in 2007, the dreaded disease – an often-fatal complication of catastrophic limb injury – commanded enormous public attention.
The horse world is fully cognizant of the importance of owners in battling this disease. At the 2013 International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot, held Nov. 1-3 in West Palm Beach, Florida, researchers discussed recent studies aimed to better diagnose, manage, and prevent laminitis cases.
Also known as founder, laminitis is a common and very painful condition affecting the feet of horses. Folds of the tissue connecting the pedal bone to the hoof are called laminae and when inflammation occurs, laminitis results.
Laminitis is painful for your horse and he will show obvious signs of discomfort. For example, he may shift his weight from foot to foot or refuse to get up from a laying down position. He may hesitate before walking or trotting and if he does, he might show signs of stiffness. Laminitis can also be accompanied by a fever and the infected foot, usually in the front, could be hot to the touch.
Like the race horse Barbaro, laminitis can be a complication from another serious injury. Other causes of this disease can be linked to diet, like consuming too much grain, grass or even Black Walnut shavings. Cushing’s disease could cause laminitis, as could excessive contact of the foot with hard surfaces.
Treating laminitis is difficult and must be done on a case to case basis. Often, your vet and farrier will consult each other to ensure the proper treatment is used. This could include removing the cause of the laminitis, treating the infected area, stabilizing the bones in the infected foot with a specialized pad, controlling the diet and exercise regime of the infected horse, and in some cases, administering drugs.
Management is the key to preventing laminitis; keep track of what your horse is eating. Grooming your horse regularly will enable you to keep their coat and hooves in good condition, as well as monitor their health. It’s easy and should only take about 30 minutes. Follow our simple step-by-step guide!