How to help your horse or pony with laminitis


Laminitis: how to help your horse or pony get back on track

Quick intervention is a must.

  • VALERIE DE CLERCK

    DOCTOR OF VETERINARY MEDICINE

  • 20 APRIL 2022

When your horse is laminitic, he or she suffers from a painful inflammation of the tissue between the hoof wall and the coffin bone. The disease can be life-threatening for your four-legged friend—so quick intervention is a must. This is how you help a horse with laminitis.


Person holding the feet of a horse CURAFYT

LAMINITIS CAN BE LIFE-THREATENING, SO INVOLVE YOUR VETERINARIAN RIGHT AWAY!

1. Involve your veterinarian right away 


First up on the agenda: getting the pain under control. Laminitis is very painful for a horse, which makes it a medical emergency. Your veterinarian will take x-rays to assess the position of the coffin bone (the third phalanx) and estimate the severity. If your horse is over twelve years old, it is best to request a blood test as well—just so you can rule out PPID.


2. Put your horse on soft soil 


To create soft ground, it’s best to use sawdust, wet sand or wood shavings. If you put your horse on sand, make sure that he or she does not eat the sand—sand colic on top of laminitis is not the way to go. Support the hooves with special hoof boots, and don’t try to move your horse too much as long as walking independently is hard.


3. Cool your horse’s feet


Lowering the temperature is how you reduce inflammation and swelling of the tissue in the hooves (the ‘laminae’, as the layers of tissue are called). Put some ice cubes in a plastic bag and hang them around your horse’s feet. If you don't have ice cubes, spray the hooves with cold water. 


4. Avoid sugar 


Take your horse away from grass pasture (with extra support for the hooves), eliminate grain from the feed and switch to a low-sugar diet. This is different from fasting, though. When horses or ponies suddenly get no food, their body will use their own fat tissue as a source of energy. That’s bad news, because when those fats are released, they end up in the bloodstream and that will result in a fatty liver. 


So keep feeding hay, but make sure the hay is low in sugars as well. If you want to lower the sugar content in the hay, soak it in water. Are you dealing with a gluttonous horse? Give him or her the hay in a hay net or slowfeeder.


5. Useful herbs and minerals


Pamper your horse with the right herbs and minerals. Choose a herbal mixture that acts on the various aspects of laminitis: support of the liver, blood circulation in the hooves, protection of the stomach and intestines, a balanced fat and sugar metabolism... Here are a few useful minerals and herbs for afflicted horses:


  • Magnesium works wonders for stiff muscles and supports the sugar metabolism by making your horse’s cells more receptive to insulin.
  • Chlorella is known for its detoxifying effect on the liver. This superfood also improves your horse’s blood sugar level.
  • Equisetum is rich in silicon, an important building block for healthy hoof tissue. 
  • Liquorice protects your horse’s stomach and regulates the metabolism of cortisol in the body. 
  • Chrysanthellum americanum and silybum marianum (and no, these are not magic words from Harry Potter) support the liver.
  • MSM has an anti-inflammatory effect and is rich in sulphur, an important building block for healthy hooves. 
  • Pinus pinaster and arginine promote blood circulation in the hooves. 
  • Berberis vulgaris improves the metabolism of fats in the body.


Overwhelming list? Don’t panic. Metabolic Care, a dietary supplement combining all of the above herbs, will do the trick as well.


6. Hoof care


A must in the case of laminitis: protect the hooves and adjust your horse’s position. In the first phase, it is important to prevent the tilting of the coffin bone. This will relieve the pain on the hoof wall. After that, the farrier tries to approach the natural situation of the hoof as closely as possible by trimming it. Are you looking for a farrier with a great deal of experience with horses that suffer from laminitis? One name: Remco Sikkel.


7. Adapted movement 


Sufficient exercise is important in the full recovery of laminitis, but never in the acute phase. At that stage, movement will increase the chance of tilting the coffin bone, which is often too painful for your horse. Step one: getting the pain and swelling under control. Step two: move.


It goes without saying: laminitis is no picnic for your four-legged friend. So it is better to prevent than to cure. This is what you can do. And if you do have to deal with an afflicted horse or pony sooner or later, apply the tips above. Then you will keep the consequences well under control.


pony grazing in the field

ALWAYS KEEP FEEDING HAY, BUT MAKE SURE THE HAY IS LOW IN SUGARS.

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