What Should I Do If My Horse Has Laminitis?

If you have read the previous blogs Laminitis and Founder In HorsesWhat Are the Most Common Signs Of Laminitis and What Causes Laminitis and you are concerned that your horse may be suffering from this condition then look into it straight away.  If you suspect that your horse or pony has laminitis treat it as an emergency and call your veterinarian immediately.  Laminitis is painful and definitely isn’t a ‘wait and see’ condition.  The sooner you contact your vet, the sooner treatment begins and the better the chance your horse has of recovering.  Initial treatment is critical and can dramatically reduce the likelihood of founder.  

  • Call your vet immediately and ask for advice.
  • Don’t exercise your horse or pony.  If the horse is at pasture remove him/her to a deeply bedded stable or yard.
  • Try, to the very best of your ability, to keep the horse out of pain.  Please keep in mind that it may be impossible to keep a horse that is suffering from laminitis completely pain free.  Pain management may involve drugs (prescribed by a veterinarian), soft bedding, low sugar diet and special shoes; work with your veterinarian, nutritionist and farrier to come up with a pain management plan that will suit your horse.
  • Some vets may recommend X-rays to monitor the status of the horse’s foot and find out how much (if any) rotation has occurred.  You may want to include your farrier in this process as specialised shoeing may be required to make sure the hoof is in the best position to facilitate recovery.
  • Try to minimise stress to the laminitic horse – this may include having a companion nearby or keeping it in a place where it feels comfortable.
  • Work with an equine nutritionist to help provide the horse with a balanced, low sugar/starch diet.  More on this in the next blog “What to feed horses with laminitis
  • Wait a month after the horse appears to be normal before resuming its regular work.  Laminitis can leave the hoof structurally weak and it will take time and a good diet to help repair this weakness.

Keep in mind that with laminitis you’re not just rehabilitating the hoof you are rehabilitating the entire horse.  If you are going to have a successful outcome of rehabilitating the laminitic horse you must address the primary problem if possible and perform regular hoof maintenance.  The horse will also require ongoing nutritional support to help limit future episodes.

Written by Shannon Godwin BAppSc GDTL

Hungerford, T. (1990). Diseases of Livestock. Roseville: McGraw-Hill Book Company Australia.

Kohnke, J., Kelleher, F., & Trevor-Jones, P. (1999). Feeding Horses in Australia. Sydney: RIRDC.

Laminitis. (2017, April 26). Retrieved from The Laminitis Site: https://www.thelaminitissite.org/laminitis.html

Richards, N. (2017, April 5). Feeding the Laminitic Horse. Retrieved from FeedXL: https://www.feedxl.com/newsletters/12-feeding-the-laminitic-horse.html