Guide to Treating Founder/Laminitis

Identifying and treating founder or horse laminitis is something that all horse owners need to know.  Founder or horse laminitis can affect horses of any age and you need to look for the signs of this.  Treating founder or horse laminitis is important because it causes pain to the horse and could result in major problems.

What Is Horse Laminitis

Before you can look at identifying and treating founder or laminitis, you need to understand what this is.  Laminitis is a disease which can cause lameness is horses and can affect horses of any size and age.  The disease will weaken the laminae which are what attaches the pedal bone to the inside of the hoof.  The bond is composed of a non-living layer and a sensitive living later like the nail and nail bed on the human hand.  When this layer disconnects, a detachment will occur.

Laminitis – The Early Signs

The early or acute stage of laminitis is when the hoof has not yet detached.  You can identify this stage by paying attention to the mood of your horse.  If the horse has less appetite or avoids exercise and is walking painfully, they may have laminitis.  You should look for changes in the way the horse walks such as not being able to easily turn particularly on hard surfaces.

It is possible that the horse will appear fine on soft surfaces.  Another early sign of laminitis in horses is when your horse shifts from foot to foot all the time.  Horses will shift normally, but if the horse is constantly shifting their weight there could be a problem.

Another sign to look for are changes to the hoof.  The hoof may start to grow differently with odd rings forming.  The white of the hoof may also grow out larger than normal.  Hooves that are flaking and crumbling around the edges should also be looked at.  When touching the hoof, in the early stages of laminitis they will be warm to the touch.  When in the early stages of laminitis your horse’s heart and respiratory rate will increase.

The Subacute Stage

After 3 days, your horse will enter the subacute stage where laminitis has formed by the hoof has not detached.  The symptoms of this stage are actually less noticeable than the early stage.  However, they will generally be the same as the acute stage.  You should continue to look for changes to walking and heart rates.

Treating Founder Or Laminitis

If you have noticed any of the symptoms of acute laminitis in your horse, you need to call your vet immediately.  Your vet will generally ask for information about the issue and you should provide them with all the symptoms that you have noticed.  You should also tell them what your horse’s heart and respiratory rates are.

When treating this disease, you must no force your horse to move or walk.  If your horse is a significant distance from their stable or paddock, you should transport them by trailer instead of making them walk.  Once in their stall, you should allow the horse to lay down (se video below) on a deep bed of shavings.  This will provide padding for your horse and offer some pain relief.

As you wait for the vet to arrive, you should take some measures to make their job easier and your horse more comfortable.  Cold therapy should be using where you ice down the hooves in the same manner as a human ankle or knee.  You must not leave the ice on the horse for more than 30 minutes.

If you have any horse painkillers, you should provide them to your horse.  They will not only help with the pain, but also help with the inflammation.  Of course, you should talk with your vet before you give your horse any form of medication.

Your vet will be able to diagnose the severity of the laminitis and will often take an x-ray to confirm the condition.  A regime of medication will generally be provided to increase the blood flow in the hooves which often helps the condition.  It is important that you keep to the medication that the vet provides and complete any actions that they recommend such as using an orthopedic farrier.