Paying close attention to the early signs of laminitis is crucial. What could start of as nothing may incapacitate your horse both suddenly and gradually. With the condition being painful (and if not treated ideally), horses may even require euthanasia.
That is why early detection and intervention are vital. In the first part of this piece, we will talk about the symptoms that encapsulate the debilitating illness, furthermore, going into preventive measures and treatment. We will also tackle what you need to do when laminitis calls for an emergency.
What to Expect
In the early stages of the development of Laminitis, there may be a significant reduction in your horse’s activity. You may also see your horse leaning back to reduce weight from their front hooves. Another thing you might notice is the horse’s avoidance of rocky trails that used to not bother them beforehand. Your farrier might express the changes he/she has seen, and when such happens, make sure to discuss their recommendations in trimming or shoeing. It is advised that you contact your veterinarian as early as possible as well.
Radiographs, blood tests (that are aimed to monitor hormonal levels). The veterinarian may also test the pain levels of the horse’s hooves. It is customary but even more important to discuss the overall physical condition and weight of the horse—extra exercise is accentuated for horses that are overweight (if possible, that is), and a reduction in treats and feed.
While the causes of laminitis aren’t completely known, obesity and access to high amounts of carbohydrates (hay, lush pastures) most commonly lead to the illness if stably managed. System infection that leads to blood poisoning, trauma to the hoove/s are noted causes.
The awareness in the risk factors and causes of laminitis is just as important as the combined cooperation of the farrier, veterinarian and owner in achieving optimal and effective treatment that can save the affected horse’s life.
What to Do
Listen attentively and jot down notes when the vet gives instructions on the phone. While taking notes is important, it is also essential to ask questions—do you remove the hay? Is fasting needed (since some medical tests requiring fasting)? After calling your vet, have the horse gently transferred to a place where it can be safely examined by the vet, preferably a small pen or stall.
Immersing the horse’s feet into a bucket of ice might be advised. Taking pictures of your horse might also come in handy towards the vet’s assessment. Prepare medical records, more importantly if your horse has laminitis in their medical history. The veterinarian might suggest a trim or a pulling in your horse’s shoe, so make sure your farrier is close by.
Answers might be far-fetched until the results for tests and radiography are retrieved. The careful review of medical history of the horse is important, so make sure you discuss it clearly.
An Emergency or Not?
It was stressed by the Animal Health Foundation that laminitis calls for an emergency and hence needs to be treated as early as possible. Grave laminitis may occur so abruptly—one day your horse is fine and the next they would be reluctant to move. Any sudden changes should be considered an emergency. Don’t be afraid to call the veterinarian right away. It’s better to be safer than sorry.
Listen to your horse—the hoove/s might feel warmer than usual. If there is a pulsating feeling upon palpation of the space between the fetlock and the hoof, it is most likely a case of laminitis. Make sure your vet knows these signs you’ve taken note of.
Developments in Laminitis
A new test was developed by the Animal Health Foundation wherein insulin levels of the horse is assessed (oral sugar test). The veterinarian may instruct you to give your horse a dose of Karo sugar before performing a blood test since it will help in the measurement of the insulin’s reaction towards sugar. Take note of the weight of the horse, calculate the right dosage and utilize a syringe in dosing your horse.
A new 3D shoeing process forges an adhesive surrounding the hoof for support, aiding in the growth of sole depth for horses affected by laminitis. Vibration plates, nets that help make slower feeding possible, and ice boots have also been developed through the years.
Most news articles regarding laminitis tackle preventive measures and medical interventions that are aimed at pain control.
Education and awareness regarding laminitis, its risk factors, causes, early signs, symptoms and the interventions needed, is key. Owners must constantly and carefully monitor their horse’s overall health status and hormonal level while having the hooves regularly assessed.