How to reduce the risk of spring time laminitis! Caring for horses in the spring comes with one big challenge - the lush pastures. While horses love them, spring time pastures are often associated with laminitis. As the days lengthen, the sun tells grasses and plants to rev up photosynthesis. This increases the starches, sugars, and fructans of grasses. The cool nights of spring also increase the starches, sugars, and fructans. These ingredients make spring grass delicious, and laminitis inducing. There’s a wide array of scientific research that links large amounts of sugar intake to laminitis risk. As the sugars enter the large colon, they are feasted up by your horse’s microbial population, which changes the pH of the large colon. The change in pH causes the intestinal wall to permeate and leak digestive toxins, which migrate to the hoof. There is also loads of scientific evidence that links increased insulin levels to laminitis, as the insulin interferes with the soft tissue in the hoof, making it more likely to develop into laminitis. So what can you do? Have your Vet give your horse a complete physical, including bloodwork. There are specific tests available to monitor insulin levels as well as the other factors that make up the different types of metabolic conditions. Knowing if your horse has a metabolic issue can help you create a diet that is safe. Monitor the weight of your horse. Use a tape - your eyes are deceiving! Horses that gain weight put more stress on their legs and hooves, and have an increased chance of metabolic issues. Keep exercising your horse! This is crucial for his health, and can help you keep your horse healthy. And it’s fun! Monitor your horse’s digital pulse daily. It takes seconds to do, and can alert you to a problem in the hoof long before lameness sets in. You can learn how to do this with the handy video, below! Talk to your Vet about a magnesium supplement, which might help with insulin levels. Of course your horse’s entire diet needs to be evaluated, as you don’t want to add too much. Use dry lots or sacrifice areas instead of turning out into grass. If you must turn out on grass, use muzzles. There are dozens of styles, each with varying degrees of eating freedom. Make sure your horse can drink with one on. Be smart about turn out to the grass - avoid high sugar times, like after a cool evening or in the heat of the afternoon. Make your turn out gradual. Your Vet can help you decide how many minutes a day to increase the turn out. There have been studies done with horses on a predictable turn out schedule, many of them know how long they will be out and therefore vacuum up as much grass as possible. Observe your horse and add a muzzle if he’s one of the vacuum types. Call your Vet at the first sign of any trouble! This includes an increased digital pulse, heat in the hooves, difficulty turning, unwillingness to walk (especially on hard ground) and any other signs your horse is not his usual self. If you do end up with a case of laminitis, you can use the Laminitis Kit to keep your horse's hooves cold - reducing inflammation and providing some pain relief. Learn more about the laminitis kit here!
Laminitis Risk, Identifying Laminitis, and Finding the Cause How does the horse owner know a horse is developing laminitis? It’s critical to also understand the risk factors involved here, and laminitis has quite a few. Metabolic issues such as Cushing’s Disease or Insulin Resistance play a role. So does your horse’s job - does he have repetitive motion on a hard surface? What about your horse’s medical history - has he had laminitis in the past? There are other risk factors as well, including your horse’s weight, breed, gender. Overweight horses are more at risk, as are geldings and ponies. There’s also the cases of the horse developing laminitis from a fever or secondary to some disease, even secondary to colic. Then you need to keep your eyes peeled for the signs of laminitis - including lameness, an increased digital pulse, reluctance to walk or turn, the parked out stance, and even what appears to be mild colic. Once your Veterinarian is involved, which should happen right away, then you can go about finding the underlying cause of laminitis in order to prevent further episodes and stop laminitis from being chronic. The Ice Horse team interviewed leading laminitis expert Dr. James Orsini from the New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania, this is what he shared with us!
The Four Main Categories of Laminitis in the Horse Laminitis isn’t the same for all horses, and a lot of that has to do with the reason that laminitis has occurred. What we do know is that there are lots of reasons for laminitis to affect a horse, and those reasons can be boiled down to four categories. An inflammatory disease process. Systemic illnesses create a sudden laminitis as the horse’s body goes into a state of systemic inflammation. This can happen after a colic, a case of pneumonia, a retained placenta, and the like. Metabolic disorders. The horse with PPID (Cushing’s Disease), Insulin Resistance, and other metabolic conditions is at a higher risk of laminitis than other horses. Age is not a factor here, but commonly diet and exercise are. A severe lameness, infection, or fracture in one limb can cause supporting limb laminitis. A horse will favor the injured leg, transferring weight and stress to the healthy limb which ultimately leads to laminitis in the healthy leg. Repetitive trauma, such as road founder, is also a cause of laminitis. In cases like this, a single incident can be the culprit, or it can develop over time from the repetition of work. Hard surfaces are often involved. Ice Horse is fortunate to be able to have Dr. James Orsini from the New Bolton Center, a leading laminitis expert, on our panel of distinguished professional experts. The video below offers his explanation of the types of laminitis in horses. Enjoy!
Laminitis is the most dreaded of all horse conditions - intense pain and often long lasting and tragic results. While we do know a lot about the causes of laminitis and ways to help the laminitis horse, there are also these amazing little tidbits of laminitis information that might just help your horse avoid laminitis all together. Black walnut trees contain toxins that cause laminitis. A horse standing on black walnut shavings absorbs the toxins rapidly through the hoof wall. Butternut trees are also a laminitis inducing tree. Your horse’s resting hear rate will increase ever so slightly by about 5 beats per minute. This happens a few days before lameness sets in. We all know that horse hooves will heat up when the laminitis starts to set in, but did you know that the hooves actually spend a few hours being ICY COLD before the heat sets in? Many horse owner never experience this as it’s short lived. You can significantly slow or stop the chemical triggers that cause laminitis. Icing your horse’s laminitis hooves for 24-48 or longer hours physically slows the rate at which the chain reaction of chemicals tells your horse’s feet to inflame. Some protocols are suggesting ice therapy for up to 72 hours. Yes, these are 24-72 hours consistently. Your horse’s hoof shape reflects laminitis. A horse with laminitis grows more heel than front. Perhaps a good reasons to photograph your horse’s feet every time the Farrier is there. Chronic abscesses are a real possibility for the horse that has experienced laminitis. A good way to monitor for a brewing abscess is to know your horse’s baseline digital pulse and monitor it daily. Checking the hooves for heat daily also helps, but is a bit more subjective than the pulse. Laminitis is the inflammation of the internal hoof structures. Founder is when the sinking, rotation, or other change to the position of the bones inside the hoof. Both are horribly painful. Daily attention to your horse’s legs, hooves, and overall health go a long way to preventing laminitis.
Laminitis can happen at any time - although most cases happen in the spring and fall. Some studies have even found that laminitis happens more in the fall. Here are five things to remember about laminitis, your horse, and the changing seasons. 1. As days get shorter, your horse’s body tells him to do a few things. Grow a winter coat, start packing on some pounds, and increase levels of Adrenocorticotropic Hormone, also known as ACTH. ACTH level can be easily measured with blood tests, and the results give your Vet a picture of your horse’s metabolic health. The normal and metabolically healthy horse will have increased levels of ACTH in the fall. The horse with a compromised metabolism will have dramatically increased levels of ACTH in the fall. This is dangerous, as the ACTH tells your horse to produce more insulin, which compromises the integrity of the hoof’s laminae and can make a bout of laminitis much more likely. 2. Temperature differences can lead to increased stress on pasture grass. When grasses are stressed, they will start to hoard “sugars” in an effort to survive. In the fall, cool nights and warm days signal the grass to start hoarding “sugars”. A good rule of thumb is to avoid grazing when the overnight temps are below 40 or so. Wait until afternoon. However, you also may have a fall heat wave, which can also stress the grass in the afternoon. Be prepared to adjust accordingly. Check your horse's hooves for heat daily, if not more. 3. Be aware of the ground’s hardness. Periods of drought or an early freeze can leave the earth hard and unforgiving. As your horse moves around on the hard ground, he might be more likely to get a stone bruise. Hard ground is also more concussive, which creates some problems. Avoid riding on hard surfaces and make sure your horse has somewhere comfortable to stand. A mat or bedding in an outdoor shelter are good ideas. 4. Know that damage from laminitis can take a few hours. Yes, hours. The moment that you even begin to think something is wrong, call the Vet and get your horse into some ice. You may just think he’s walking a little slower, or he doesn’t want to turn so easily, or his digital pulse is a bit stronger. Don’t hesitate. Ice has many benefits to the horse with laminitis. 5. Keep exercising your horse! The horse in a regular exercise program is less likely to develop laminitis. Your Veterinarian and trainer can help you design an exercise program for your horse’s medical and physical needs. It’s up to you to not skip days because the weather seems too cold or you have too much homework. (But really, make sure the homework gets done.) It’s often fun and a great way to really bond with your horse riding in all sorts of weather and temperatures. Keep a watchful eye and monitor those hooves all the time! Ice Horse Laminitis Kit If you do end up with a case of laminitis, you can use the Laminitis Kit to keep your horse's hooves cold - reducing inflammation and providing some pain relief. Learn more about the laminitis kit here!
What’s the big deal about icing horse hooves? If you have ever seen a horse with laminitis, you understand the agony and suffering that goes on. It’s horrible. Doing everything you can to prevent such a situation will help your horse have a better life! But laminitis is not the only circumstance in which case your horse’s hooves can use some ice therapy. It's a good idea to combine lower leg ice therapy with hoof ice therapy. Many things can influence the likelihood that laminitis can develop, so ice your horse’s hooves proactively if your horse has or does any of these things: Fever. The inflammation that occurs in your horse’s body during a fever can spread rapidly into the hooves via the enzymes that are involved in the inflammation. Diarrhea. Same scenario here. Diarrhea can upset your horse’s entire system and lead to dehydration, organ failure, and laminitis. Act fast. Working on hard ground. Frozen ground, hard ground, rocky ground, a surface that is new for your horse… you get the idea. Concussion of the hoof can create pain, inflammation, and worse in the hoof. It may be a bruise, it may be laminitis, but it can be helped with proactive icing of the hoof. Injuries. It might be that your horse is cast, has been on a trailer for days, was kicked or stepped on, has a soft tissue injury in the hoof…etc. This can create a scenario for pain and damage to occur to the hoof. While it seems like a tough structure, the hoof can be injured. Injury to the opposite leg. Lameness or injury that causes your horse to be non weight bearing (three legged) shifts dangerous amounts of weight to the un-injured leg. Laminitis is common in these situations. A prime example of this is the horse that steps on a nail or screw--the infection in the hoof is beyond painful, causing non weight bearing in the other healthy hoof. This is a definite time to call the Veterinarian! Binge eating. So your horse got into the feed room, or he managed to get out of his grazing muzzle and nom down on some grass. This sends a cascade of events through his gut and into his hooves that can lead to laminitis. Ice right away and call the Veterinarian for this emergency. (PS - this goes for binge eating hay, too… a horse that doesn't normally eat timothy but suddenly eats a boat load of it can have the same cascade of events.) These Big Black Boots provide ice therapy around the entire hoof! In a nutshell, the real reason to ice your horse’s hooves is to make sure they don’t fall off. Well, not literally, anyway, but your horse’s hooves are designed to carry his enormous body on four tiny little tootsies, and then we climb on board and ask them to run fast and jump high. So you begin to see why keeping them comfortable starts at the hoof level! Always involve your Veterinarian with any questions or issues that you discover with your horse. It’s always great to ice your horse’s hooves before you need to. Work hard to prevent laminitis in your horse with daily care, lots of pampering, and preventive care. Did you know? Ice Horse products are endorsed by leading equine veterinarians. Learn more about the science behind our ice therapy products.
One of the most heartbreaking diseases that can happen to a horse is laminitis. Laminitis is the inflammation of the laminae, which is the "velcro" that surrounds the hoof’s coffin bone and glues it to the hoof wall. Laminitis is most common in both front feet, and can happen in the hind feet as well. Founder is when the “velcro” has failed and the bones of the hoof are displaced, either by sinking, rotating, or sinking medially. It’s important to stress that if you even think your horse is developing laminitis or another hoof condition get your horse’s feet into ice and call your Veterinarian right away. It’s recommended by the Veterinary community that any horse showing signs of laminitis remain in ice therapy for 24-48 hours straight, or longer, depending on the case. Cold therapy on the hooves and lower legs not only reduces inflammation and pain, it prevents more triggering chemicals in your horse’s body from reaching the hooves causing more damage. Of course this is only helpful if you know what to look for! Some common signs of laminitis are: Your horse is tender or sore after being shod. Walking is uncomfortable, he may hesitate, he may act like he’s on eggshells. He may not want to turn in his stall, he may pirouette/pivot and put all his weight on the hind end. He may also take tiny baby steps with the front hooves to turn. Mild colic. Postural changes. Is he standing differently? Some horses look as if their front feet are splayed out in front of them. Digital pulses that are strong and bounding. The digital pulse is found on the lower leg at the back of the fetlock, your Veterinarian can show you the exact location. It’s best to know your horse’s normal digital pulse, check it every day as you check legs and pick feet. It’s typical for a healthy hoof to have a barely perceptible digital pulse. The hooves are warm or hot. Again, check every day as you pick feet. You may even see the hair around the coronary band and pastern start to poke out and be fringy….if the hoof structures are sinking inside, the hairs will be rearranged on the outside. It’s often very helpful to know a little bit more about your horse's lifestyle and diet, as metabolic issues such as insulin resistance and Cushing’s disease are often factors in laminitis development. A simple blood test yearly (or twice yearly) will tell your Veterinarian about your horse's metabolic state. Other factors that influence the development of laminitis include: Your horse’s weight, obese horses are more likely to have laminitis. The footing your horse exercises on—hard and unforgiving surfaces take their toll on the hoof. Fevers – a virus or illness that includes a fever often can preclude laminitis. Exposure to toxins, such as black walnut. This is sometimes in sawdust shavings. Stress. Increased carbohydrate intake, such as the horse that escapes and eats all of the grain from the feed storage area. Spring grass is also high in sugars, as is fall grass that is environmentally stressed. Size and gender. Ponies are more likely to develop laminitis, as are geldings. Now—some of these signs are also signs of an abscess or other hoof ailment, which also can be really painful and should be treated right away. If you suspect abscess, work with your Veterinarian to make sure it is just an abscess. Some of us would rather save few bucks and have our Farrier come out to check for an abscess, which they are very often experienced in. However, your Veterinarian is also versed in this and can eliminate laminitis as a cause. Veterinarians can diagnose diseases and conditions, prescribe appropriate medications, and work into the soft tissue in the hoof. Farriers can't do these things, so don’t wait, don’t wait, don’t wait if you see any of those signs. Call the Veterinarian and start your horse on some cold therapy. Ice Horse Laminitis Kit If you do end up with a case of laminitis, you can use the Laminitis Kit to keep your horse's hooves cold—reducing inflammation and providing some pain relief. Buy the laminitis kit here!