Getting to the Root of Laminitis

I have a 22 year old quarter horse that recently experienced his first bout of laminitis. What are some key diet points to consider as he recovers from this episode and prevent relapses? – via horsechannel.com

First of all, I’m sorry to hear that your horse and you had to go through this. Laminitis (inflammation of the lamina) can not only be painful but also potentially career-ending and even LIFE-ending. Hopefully I can provide some advice that helps him recover from this episode and not have to experience another.

My very first thought when I read that your horse is a senior (age 22) and just had his first bout of laminitis is: could he have Cushing’s Disease? Laminitis is one of the clinical signs associated with this medical condition in horses. Cushing’s (also known as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction or PPID) can be responsible for the onset of laminitis in an older horse that has never struggled with it before. I strongly encourage you to ask your veterinarian about testing your horse for Cushing’s. If he does test positive, there is an FDA-approved for use in horses treatment for this condition (Prascend) which may reduce his risk for another bout of laminitis in the future.

At the same time he is having bloodwork examined for Cushing’s, consider also having his insulin status assessed. An inability to regulate glucose or blood sugar (which can occur with or without the presence of Cushing’s) can also be responsible for laminitic episodes. Your vet can share with you the most current nutritional recommendations appropriate for horses with Cushing’s, insulin dysregulation, or both conditions, depending on what the bloodwork shows.

If neither Cushing’s nor an inability to regulate insulin is the culprit, you may want to consult with your vet about general diet and management practices that could be setting your horse up for laminitis such as lush pasture, sweet feeds, or other foods high in sugar. Consider increasing wellness visits from annually to twice a year, so that your vet gets to examine your horse more frequently. And don’t forget to work with your farrier to make sure your horse’s hooves are in the best shape possible. By getting on top of the situation early with quality preventive care, your horse has a great chance of recovering and remaining healthy!

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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One comment on “Getting to the Root of Laminitis
  1. Becky says:

    my westphalian cross thoroughbred mare now aged 22 is also showing more signs of chronic lameness that I wonder if related to low grade laminitis. I purchased her 17 years ago and was told that she had a history of tying up and could not tolerate stall living. She has therefore had limited stall time and has turnout mostly in a forested acreage w/turnout shed and a stall when truly inclement weather. Overtime I have treated her w/fetlock injections starting around age 16, mostly in the summer time and even once had a neurectomy at 19 on the usual hoof that she points out when most sore. It seems that during the winter months she is better but once spring comes the lameness issues begin. After reading this article I am concerned that this has been a nutritional issue all along. I currently grain her 2 cups twice a day with senior feed and in the winter supplement with a weight builder product. Any ideas? My vet seems mystified!

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