With winter out the way and spring now sprung, summer is upon us, shining into stables and giving your paddocks a new lease of life. However, as every horse owner is aware this time of year is a challenge if your horse or pony is prone to laminitis.
Unfortunately laminitis can affect all breeds of horse, in actual fact it can affect every type of equidae. It can be extremely painful, which means it is imperative to know the causes, signs and best ways to treat it.
The inflammation of the laminae can be triggered by a number of things, including trauma to the hoof through working or jumping on hard ground, failure to cleanse placenta after foaling, Cushing’s disease or as a side effect of corticosteroid medication.
That said, the vast majority of cases are linked to over eating and obesity. Research shows that 80% of cases are preventable – so be alert of the first signs of laminitis. A quick response from you may avert a disaster.
Spotting laminitis as soon as possible is key to treating your horse or pony efficiently and effectively, so you really need to know them.
Watch out for signs of stiffness or looking slightly pottery along with signs of discomfort – perhaps shifting weight from limb to limb. Sweating and rapid breathing can also be signs of pain so also check for an increased digital pulse.
If you spot any of these signs in your horse or pony it’s crucial that you stable them immediately on a very deep bed, give plenty of high fibre forage, and call the vet.
There are then a number of treatments that your vet might suggest, all of which will need a lot of time and attention from you. It’s important to follow your vet’s recommendations thoroughly in order to restore your equine’s health.
Of course, prevention is preferable to treatment and there are a number of precautions you can take to try and keep laminitis at bay.
Weight control is crucial when it comes to preventing the disease as over eating and obesity are common factors, so try to control your horse or pony’s weight throughout the year. Restrict their intake of soluble carbohydrates, starches, sugars and fructans. Fructans are a type of sugar that passes in to the hind gut undigested which can lead to a starch overload and are particularly high in grass during the spring and autumn, and on frosty grass – hence the increased cases of laminitis during those months. Use a grazing muzzle to limit grass intake and avoid gorging and/or strip graze.
Control the risks. Throughout the year feed your horse and pony a diet that is high in fibre. Avoid cereal mixes with a high sugar and high carbohydrate content and starchy straights such as oats, maize and barley; also steer clear of molassed chaffs and sugary stable licks.
The most important thing of all is to remember you know your horse or pony better than anyone, so make sure you make the time to visit them every day so that you can spot any signs.
Carole White, Alan’s Ark