10 Early Warning Signs of Laminitis (Pt 2)​

Horses rely on movement to get blood flow and the nutrients within to hoof tissues, says van Eps. But if a horse is injured in one leg, he might bear weight for too long on the opposite limb, causing a phenomenon called “supporting-limb” laminitis.   “Consider putting these horses in a sling so they can take weight off that foot,” suggests Walsh. With your veterinarian’s direction you can also try to get horses with leg injuries out of the stall to move around. “Even if the horse is hopping, it’s producing enough movement to prevent laminitis from occurring.” On the flipside, a horse that picks his feet up too often might also be showing early signs of laminitis, van Eps says. “Horses normally shift their (weight between) feet about two or three times per minute,” he says. “We noticed an increase of three to five times that weight-shifting when they were developing laminitis.”  If the feet get painful enough, the horse will begin to change his stance, shifting his weight back to his haunches, along with stretching his legs out in front of him in the classic laminitis pose. 

10 Early Warning Signs of Laminitis​

It’s a painful condition that veterinarians, farriers, and horse owners have been racking their brains about for decades. Laminitis—the separation or failure of laminae, which connect the hoof wall to the coffin bone within—can cause permanent structural changes in a horse’s foot, leading to repeated bouts of disease and lasting lameness. In severe cases the pedal (coffin) bone in the hoof rotates downward, potentially even puncturing the sole and prompting the decision o euthanize. But get this: Watchful handlers can actually detect signs of laminitis in its early stages and intervene before the condition becomes debilitating. “Everyone talks about laminitis being a lameness issue, but we know that horses start to get damage at a microscopic level before they show any lameness,” says Andrew van Eps, BVSc, PhD, MACVSc, Dipl. ACVIM, senior lecturer and specialist in equine medicine at The University of Queensland Equine Hospital, in Gatton, Australia.  Therefore, keeping an eye out for minute changes in your horse’s health is key to maximizing his likelihood of recovery, says Tom Ryan, FWCF, a researcher and farrier based in Bedfordshire, U.K. “You have to be proactively thinking ahead,” he says.  To help you catch this devastating hoof disease while your horse still has a chance to avoid suffering its consequences, our sources have helped us come up with a list of 10 early warning signs. Regardless of the type of case (-supporting-limb, systemic inflammatory response syndrome, or endocrine disease-related), these red flags could indicate laminitis is setting in—even before you see any signs of lameness. So alert your veterinarian as soon as possible if you detect one or more of the following:

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