Laminitis: The dreaded ‘L’ word
After a long, wet winter many of us will be looking forward to turning our horses out and having more time to ride. However, Spring also comes with its challenges, including the threat of laminitis as the grass starts to come through.
Our focus is on keeping your horses and ponies comfy. Laminitis can be an incredibly painful condition so it’s important we continually find ways to relieve any pain, as well as make any preventative measures as comfortable as we can for our equines. You’ll find out more about the types of products that can help throughout this article.
What is laminitis?
Research into the condition is ongoing and the information around how it is caused and how best to treat it is always evolving. However what we do know is that laminitis affects the blood flow to the laminae, which is the inner sensitive layer of the hoof wall (the bit you can’t see). This causes inflammation and swelling in the tissues, which causes the pain. If left untreated, the cells become more and more damaged and the sensitive laminae start to die as they no longer receive adequate oxygen through the blood supply. This is why early detection and intervention are so important.
You may also hear the pedal bone mentioned when people talk about laminitis. This is the bone in the hoof that supports the weight of the horse. The laminae are responsible for supporting the pedal bone, so one won’t work without the other.
If laminitis is left to get worse, the pedal bone can lose all support from the damaged laminae and then sink and rotate down towards the sole of the foot, meaning no weight can be put on it.
The good news is that campaigns such as www.talkaboutlaminitis.co.uk are raising awareness of the condition and their website says that: “the last eight years have seen an unprecedented leap forward in our understanding of what causes laminitis, which has significantly improved the way that we are now able to manage this debilitating and painful condition in our horses and ponies.”
What causes laminitis?
There are many different causes of laminitis, which we are now aware of. It’s not just restricted to overweight horses and ponies on lush grass. Causes include:
- Hormonal diseases including Cushing’s and Equine Metabolic Syndrome. According to www.talkaboutlaminitis.co.uk it is now thought that 90% of laminitis cases have an underlying hormonal cause.
- An injury, such as a fracture or infected joint, that then causes the horse to bear more weight on another leg putting it more at risk of laminitis.
- High intake of sugars and starch. This is the most commonly known cause. If a horse consumes too much sugar, not all of it can be digested by the gut. Bacteria breaks down any undigested material, but as the bacteria dies off it releases toxins which pass through the gut wall and disrupt blood flow to areas such as the feet.
- Stress from travelling or a change in environment, for example, can bring on laminitis, particularly in overweight horses.
- Being overweight in itself is a risk because excess weight puts more strain on horses’ organs and limbs.
- Working a horse or pony on a hard surface for prolonged lengths of time can put excessive stress on the laminae in the hoof. This concussion can be very damaging.
What can we do to protect our horses and ponies against laminitis?
Fortunately, you can put some simple steps in place now to reduce the risk to your horse or pony.
Speak to a feed company about a suitable diet and restrict grass intake as the new spring grass starts to come through, and again in autumn. Try and exercise your horse or pony regularly to keep on top of their weight and respond quickly to any change in their behaviour or way of going. Checking their digital pulses daily is an easy way of noticing any changes before the effects start to be seen.
Many people don’t like to muzzle their horses because they struggle to find a product that is comfortable. We have handpicked the Flexible Filly Slow Feed Grazing Muzzle https://www.comfyhorse.co.uk/product/flexible-filly-slow-feed-grazing-muzzle/. It’s ideal for slowing down speedy eaters or limiting grazing and is unlike the typical heavy, hard, and ‘cage-like’ apparatus. It’s softer, lighter and less confining, constructed of a pliable material that reduces the chances of the muzzle getting snagged. It is also soft on equine teeth and lips.
How can we help laminitic horses and ponies?
If your horse has laminitis you can make simple but effective changes to his routine, such as using a generous shavings bed to provide limb support, speaking to your vet about a suitable diet and making sure he’s not stressed while on box rest.
Find out what makes him comfortable, such as a companion to stand in with him or a change of stable where he can see what’s going on throughout the day. Ongoing communication with your vet and farrier to help aid recovery is key.
We also have some really good products for added relief.
In early cases, it’s essential to make your horse or pony comfortable quickly while they’re being cared for by the vet – that’s where the Relief Boot https://www.comfyhorse.co.uk/product/laminitis-relief-boot/ comes in. It’s designed to alleviate the severe pain of laminitis, and its clever cushioning allows the horse on box rest to be led out or turned out for short periods, helping to lessen the boredom.
It’s made up of a therapeutic hoof pad that sits inside a poultice boot. The pads are made from a special high density, slow release memory foam that is temperature and pressure sensitive. They mould to the shape of the sole spreading the pressure evenly and relieving pain.
Our ThinLine hoof protection pads https://www.comfyhorse.co.uk/product/thinline-hoof-protection-pads/ are also perfect for keeping your horse’s feet comfy and can be placed inside hoof boots for extra cushioning and support.
If you find your horse is starting to feel the strain of box rest then the Incrediwear Equine Circulation Hoof Socks https://www.comfyhorse.co.uk/product/incrediwear-equine-circulation-hoof-socks/ are ideal to slip on to reduce inflammation. You can use them wet or dry and in the acute phases of Laminitis, ice therapy has shown to be beneficial. When used wet, the socks can help to reduce laminar inflammation through their ‘icing’ effects.
A final piece of Comfy Horse inspiration…
As we always say, a comfy horse is a happy horse and the Epiony Massage Mitt https://www.comfyhorse.co.uk/product/epiony-massage-mitt/ is the ideal tonic to many of the unwanted effects of laminitis. It relaxes tight and tense muscles, increases blood circulation and reduces stress. The nine 360 degree rotating steel balls conform to the contours of the body, ensuring comfort and relief.
Comfy Horse customer Emma said: “My mare loves this. She is currently on box rest and it was great to give her a massage.”
For our full range of products, go to www.comfyhorse.co.uk and search ‘laminitis’.