What is safe to feed a horse with a history of laminitis?

Laminitis can cause many uncomfortable and painful symptoms in horses. The first signs of laminitis are often subtle and can be easily missed. Luckily, horse owners are becoming more aware of these symptoms and what to look for daily in susceptible horses.

What is laminitis in horses?

Laminitis is when the lamina of in inner hoof wall becomes inflamed. The inflammation in the horses hoof wall happens due to metabolic changes that affect the lamina.

Are laminitis and founder the same?

While many believe that laminitis and the process of founder are the same problem, this is not always the case. Founder is the mechanical displacement of the coffin bone within the foot. It is possible for a horse to have laminitis without founder. 

What are the main causes?

There are three main causes when it comes to laminitis, some of which, act together to cause serious lameness.

First, the most common cause of laminitis is overeating. When too much grain is present in the diet, this results in high production levels of lactic acid in the horse’s intestinal tract. This acid damages the gut wall and allows bacteria to not only enter the blood, but cause endotoxemia (the presence of toxins in the blood). This affects the lamina by decreasing the blood flow to the horses foot. This will cause the hoof wall to die and allow even more bacteria into the blood stream of the horse. 

In addition to this, Colic in relation to eating too much grain can also cause laminitis. During a colic with torsion present (twist of the intestine), the gut wall becomes compromised and in some cases dead, allowing bacteria to yet again access the horses blood stream.

Both of these aspects, overeating and colic, have a direct correlation to causing laminitis in the horse, and left unrecognized can lead to serious cases of founder.

Second, leg problems through excessive, repetitive stress and conclusion can lead to decreasing the blood flow to the lamina. This action often damages the lamina, leading the horse to shift its weight to a “good leg” causing excess stress on the lower leg structure.

Lastly, dystocia or retained placenta in mares, is connected to laminitis. Stress, exhaustion and infections that stress the horse for extended periods of time can cause decreased blood flow to the lamina.

Equine Laminitis

What can I feed my horse to gain weight?

There are many additional feed options to help horses in need of extra weight gain or healthy weight management. However the most popular is to add top dressing oils to the horses grain. An oil like ExcelEQ Camelina Oil is a safe addition to a horse with chronic laminitis for prevention of further flair ups, or a horse experiencing current symptoms to offer more comfort.

How can I protect my horse’s gut wall?

A recent study conducted by Excel Supplements demonstrates gastric protection through the daily use of ExcelEQ ProElite. Read more about our full study here.

What are symptoms of onset laminitis?

  1. Horses shifting weight from side to side, from one hoof to the other
  2. Shifting weight onto its heels and off its toes
  3. Pacing in the stall
  4. Stiffness in gaits
  5. Reluctant to turn
  6. Raised digital pulse
  7. Depression at the apex of the coronary band

If any of these symptoms are noticed, it is imperative you contact your veterinarian.

What are the symptoms of founder?

After the onset signs of laminitis, this condition develops rapidly if not address immediately. Horses can begin to develop a bulging of the sole downwards toward the ground, losing the concave nature of the foot. The coffin bone will begin to rotate, which may be visible to a veterinarian by the use of a radiograph.

Within 4 to 5 days, it is possible that the hoof wall from the skin at the level of the coronary band can become separated. At this time, the coffin bone may have rotated enough to perforate the sole.

What to do if you horse shows symptoms

Immediately call your veterinarian as soon as your horse shows any signs of laminitis. Usually, the horse is treated first with drugs to decrease the inflammation. Next, special pads can be put on the sole to the horses foot to offer support and relieve pain.

If caught early enough, special shoes can be put on your horses feet to elevate the heel and take pressure off the deep digital flexor tendon which is responsible for the rotation of the coffin bone.

Water soaks can be used to increase the circulation to the lamina and cool the feet. Alternating the use of hot and cold water has been shown to effectively make the horse more comfortable.

Lastly, make sure the horses stall is heavily bedded to offer more cushion under the horses foot. Hard standing surfaces can cause extreme discomfort while your horse is experiencing a flare up of laminitis.

How to tell if a horse has chronic laminitis?

A chronic case of laminitis can be detected by changes in the hoof wall that can be seen without radiographs. Because regular disturbances of blood flow to the lamina can result in changed growth rate of the hoof wall, visual signs can be seen if a horse has chronic laminitis. For example, the horses heel will grow faster than the toe if chronic laminitis is present. Also, growth rings will appear to be farther apart at the heel. If you are purchasing a horse, be sure to take note of these changes before moving forward.

Can a horse fully recover after an episode?

While a horse can recover from mild cases of laminitis without complications, it’s important to move forward with caution in regards to their diet, workload, stable management, and exercise surfaces.

How can I prevent laminitis in my horse?

While there are no guarantees when it comes to horses, or any animal for that matter, there are always ways to practice educated prevention. Whether you have a horse with chronic laminitis or a new onset episode, there are more resources than ever before to help you through the symptoms.
First, educate yourself on the early signs of laminitis and what your horses “normal” is. Are they standing differently in their stall? Have they been pacing non stop when normally they are happily grazing? Understanding your horses normal demeanor and routine is the first step in identifying if they are experiencing pain.
Next, create a balanced diet based on your horses work load and adjust accordingly. Determining what your horse needs to be an ideal body score and preform its athletic duties is the key to preventing laminitis. Creating a balanced diet based on your horses work load will eliminate the “overeating” or “grain heavy” causes of this disease. Finding options to add to your horses daily feedings are a great way to insure they are keeping a healthy weight, top line, and great coat health.
Lastly, make sure you are working your prone horse on appropriate surfaces. Steer clear of working on hard surfaces and consider specialty shoeing to protect your horse in certain conditions. For example, if your horse has experienced chronic laminitis throughout its life, consider speaking with your veterinarian and farrier on the best shoeing practices to keep them comfortable.

What is safe to feed my horse prone to laminitis?

With horses that are prone to laminitis, recovering from a flair up, or have a prior history of laminitis are 100% safe to eat Excel. The natural anti-inflammatory properties within both ExcelEQ and ExcelEQ ProElite benefit horse’s post-laminitis episodes and even during the prevention stage. The balanced fatty acid profile helps these types of horses struggling with healthy weight management and leaves them with a shiny coat!
Want to learn even more? Visit our friends at American Association of Equine Practitioners to learn even more on this ever evolving topic of laminitis!
Parker, Rick. Equine Science (Third Edition). Clifton Park, Delmar Cengage Learning, 2008

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