How To Manage and Treat Laminitis in Horses

laminitis in horse

Horses are among the most famous livestock. They have been used extensively for farming and transportation for centuries. This hardworking and reliable breed needs crucial care from its owner to ensure proper health and functioning. Not only it requires a nutritious diet, but it also needs prevention from numerous diseases and health concerns. Laminitis is one of the severest medical concerns horses undergo, which not only undermines their overall health but halts their performance as well. Let us understand laminitis first. It is an inflammatory condition of the tissues (laminae) bonding the hoof wall to pedal bone in the hoof. It is often recurrent for individual horses. Due to this, the animal can’t function properly. But don’t worry. After going through this article, you will know how to counter this severe disease.

To know more about different health problems in senior horses, check this article “Senior Horse Health Problems – Potential Risks, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment“.

Cure for Laminitis in Horses

Even google search engine acquaints that laminitis is incurable, but that is untrue. Numerous medications are available to cure this painful throbbing.

Vets may give non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as phenylbutazone or flunixin. Opiates like morphine and pethidine are also advised.

Acepromazine has also been traditionally used to increase the blood supply to the feet. Its beneficial effect is probably more related to its sedative properties, making it a painkiller for the horse. In the case of laminitis caused by inflammation, the use of ice to cool the feet can be helpful.

Anti-inflammatory medications are recommended during the cure of laminitis to decrease inflammation and reduce laminar damage. Flunixin meglumine can be administered at 0.5–1.1 mg/kg intravenously or by mouth every 12 hours. A dose of 0.25 mg/kg flunixin meglumine administered intravenously every 8 hours interrupts eicosanoid production associated with end toxemia and minimizes adverse effects. Other cures include COX-1 inhibition, which provides greater efficacy than COX-2 inhibition by reducing the platelet-activated release of inflammatory and vasoactive products.

Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is an anti-inflammatory drug and weak scavenger of hydroxyl radicals. Because minimal oxygen free radical generation has been documented in either insulin resistance or sepsis, DMSO has a minimal effect on the clinical outcomes of laminitis in these cases. DMSO is sometimes administered for other anti-inflammatory effects at 0.1–1.0 g/kg intravenously, diluted in a polyconic fluid to a concentration of 10% every 8–24 hours. All these anti-inflammatory medicines provide vital support in curing laminitis. Pentoxifylline is a methylxanthine phosphodiesterase inhibitor with anti-inflammatory effects and immune regulatory properties. Pentoxifylline also improves blood flow through actions on the red blood cell membrane. It improves red blood cell deformability in horses with variable effects on blood flow.

Treatment for Mild Laminitis in Horses

Priority in the initial treatment of laminitis is to support the pedal bone so that rotation or sinking can be prevented. Removal of shoes to allow better support applied to the sole is the next step. The horse then needs to be stabled on deep sand or shavings (not black walnut) bed so that the bedding packs up under the foot to provide further support and cushioning.

The next step is to counter the immense pain. Painkillers such as Phenylbutazone (Bute) are prescribed to make the horse more comfortable and to reduce foot inflammation. Acepromazine is also commonly used to improve the blood supply to the laminae.

To inspect the problem thoroughly, Radiographs are necessary to fully assess the position of the pedal bone and the changes occurring within the hoof capsule. Images reveal the severity of laminitis, which influences the treatment plan and gives a more accurate and long term prognosis.

The farrier can also use the radiographs to trim the foot more accurately and to position the shoes to provide optimal support. Once we are certain about the problem, finding a suitable and efficient treatment becomes easier.

Heart bar shoes are often applied to support the pedal bone and stabilize the hoof capsule when acute inflammation subsides. Metal shoes are usually employed, but in severe cases, plastic shoes are a better alternative as the glue on them is softer for the infected foot. Cure of laminitis is a slow process, and the feet will need careful and regular attention.

Horse Stem Cell Therapy holds a promising chance for equine laminitis treatment. For instance, the results of a three-year survey of cases and results, presented at the 2014 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, have shown some remarkable results. It says, for all horses that received a Stem Cell Therapy for equine laminitis treatment; Medrego Equicell allogeneic Stem Cell Therapy successfully treated more than 450 horses in Europe and the Middle East.

Treating with mineral oil via a nasogastric tube to purge the horse’s digestive tract, is an effective treatment, especially if the horse has overeaten.

Your veterinarian may be able to advise you on new treatments, including standing your horse in ice water to prevent the onset of laminitis.

Lastly, there should be proper administration on other drugs, such as antibiotics to fight infection, anti-endotoxins to reduce bacterial toxicity and anticoagulants, and vasodilators to reduce blood pressure.

Management for Laminitis in Horses

Proper management of horses with laminitis is very crucial. A modified diet that provides adequate nutrition based on high-quality forage, digestible fiber (beet pulp), and oil, should be planned. Excessive carbohydrates, all grain-based feeds, and pasture should be avoided and feed only grass hay until advised by your veterinarian.

Administering fluids if the horse is ill or dehydrated is another burden on the caretaker’s shoulder while opening and draining any abscesses that may develop.

Then comes Routine hoof care, which includes regular trimming and, in some cases, therapeutic shoeing (discussed in detail in treatment). A nutritional supplement formulated to promote hoof health (biotin supplements are popular for promoting hoof growth) should be a part of this care.

Implementation of a good health-maintenance schedule, including parasite control, and vaccinations, to reduce the horse’s susceptibility to illness or disease is another responsibility of the caretaker. Strict control should be kept to avoid lush grazing pastures, especially between late morning and late afternoon hours, since plant sugar content is the highest during these times. Restrict pasture intake during spring or anytime when the pasture greens up.

To know more about different health problems in horses, check this article “Health Problems in Horses – The Most Comprehensive Account of the Major Health Issues in Horses“.