Recognizing Laminitis Early

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Every Horse Owner Should Recognize The Signs Of Laminitis

Laminitis is a very painful condition which occurs in horses. It is caused when the laminae which are what connects the horse’s coffin bone in the hoof to the hoof wall separates or is damaged. When this happens, the coffin bone can rotate and in the worst cases, completely penetrate the sole of the hoof. The horse hoof could be structurally damaged which can result in permanent lameness. If the coffin bone can’t be treated, the horse may have to be euthanized.

Fortunately, careful owners can detect the signs of laminitis early on, helping prevent damage to the hoof. Many consider laminitis to be a disease that causes lameness. In reality, it starts at a very microscopic level and may exist for a while before the horse will exhibit lameness.

This is why it’s important for owners or handlers to watch for any change in a horse’s health or behavior. There are certain early warning signs that every horse owner should recognize. If you see any of these, call your veterinarian immediately.

Check this animation of the hoof structure below for more accurate information.


An Extremely Hot Hoof That Lasts For Hours

While the hoofs of healthy horses can occasionally be hot, this usually doesn’t last too long. Horses will often experience an inflow of blood to their hooves and temporarily experience a rise in the hoof’s temperature. This shouldn’t last more than a couple of hours. If it’s extremely hot outside, your horse’s hooves may feel hot if the horse has been standing for a while in the sunshine.

If the horse’s hooves are extremely hot for an extended period of time, or the outdoor temperature is below 77 degrees F, it could mean laminitis. When this happens, a horse can quickly become lame. Lameness can start within 8 to 12 hours following excessive heat in the hooves.

A Bounding Or Strong Digital Pulse

When you are checking your horse before riding, always slide your hand down the leg and feel for the pulse in the digital artery. This artery is located in the groove that runs between the suspensory ligament and the flexor tendons. You should be able to feel the pulse at the back of the fetlock. The pulse should be very hard to locate and feel faint if you can feel it at all. If you feel a strong pulse that is continuously strong or even seems to beat, this could be a sign of laminitis.

An Increased Heart Rate

It is important that you, as the horse owner know what your horse’s heartbeat typically feels like. You need to know this so that you will notice if your horse’s heart is beating faster than normal. Most horses will have a heartbeat of about 30 to 40 beats per minute when they are resting. If your horse is suffering from laminitis, its heartbeat will most likely rise right before the horse goes lame. Even a mild increase in your horse’s heartbeat can mean trouble.

Unusual Rings Or A Distorted Hoof Shapehorse hoofs

Healthy hooves will display wide, smooth and evenly spaced growth rings on the front of the hoof wall. Hooves will grow more slowly in the hoof quarters and more quickly in the front part. When a horse has laminitis, the hoof’s growth pattern will usually change. The growth on the hoof is quicker on the heel than on the toe and the growth rings are wider at the heel.

The hoof will tend to curve upward when a horse has laminitis and this altered growth pattern will result in abnormal rings on the wall surface of the hoof. Many experts believe this abnormal hoof growth will start before the horse shows any symptoms of pain.

Bleeding Or Stretched Laminae

When the laminae are damaged or begin to stretch, they tear away from the wall of the hoof. A gap will appear along the white line where the hoof and the sole meet. When this white line widens, it is called “seedy toe”. It is apparent when you look at a laminitic horse’s hoof trimmings. If there are also signs of blood, this can also mean laminitis.

Since laminitis in horses begins at a microscopic level, your horse may have laminitis for a while before they turn lame. Keeping a close eye on your horse can help you notice the signs of this condition before it goes too far.