It is now widely acknowledged that laminitis is not a condition we only see in the summer months, and actually can strike at any time of the year. Laminitis is a debilitating condition and should be treated as an emergency. The laminae connect the coffin bone with the inner surface of the hoof capsule. In cases of laminitis, this attachment has failed. If the coffin bone is not properly attached to the inside of the hoof, the horse’s weight will force the bone and the capsule apart. The result is extensive damage to the structures and intricate blood supply, which results in acute pain and lameness. If the acute symptoms are not treated and rehabilitated immediately then the likelihood of the pedal bone rotating and sinking are far greater.
Genius takes a look into the common myths surrounding laminitis.
Q. Does drinking cold water induce Laminitis?
A. Feeding excessive amounts of cold water after exercise may induce colic, but not laminitis!
Q. Does Laminitis only occur in the front feet?
A. Often the front feet are worse, but laminitis is seen in all 4 feet. There is nearly always an increased digital pulse, hoof rings, and stretched white line in all 4 feet. X-Rays confirm Laminitis in all four feet, most people do not x-ray the hind feet.
Q. Is the Laminitis stance always with the front feet stretched out in front of the body?
A. Obviously laminitic horses have gone undiagnosed, purely based on the stance they had taken not being typical of laminitis symptoms. Each horse is different and some will often move the front feet back, or pull all 4 feet into the centre of the body creating a V shape
Q. Can we diagnose Laminitis by checking for heat in the feet?
A. An acutely laminitic horse is likely to have heat in the foot; however, foot temperature is an unreliable tool when diagnosing laminitis. Foot temperature usually varied throughout the day.
Q. Should I cold hose my horse’s feet to treat laminitis?
A. Whilst cold hosing the feet may provide temporary pain relief and take away some of the surface heat. Prolonged cold will only further constrict the blood vessels and cause reduction to the already reduced dermal perfusion. It is doubtful whether hot or cold applications have much effect on the final outcome of most laminitic cases, warm fomentation would be preferable if the owner wanted to treat in this way.
Q. Does my horse have to be on prolonged box rest to treat laminitis?
A. It used to be common practice to immediately instate 6-9 months box rest to laminitic cases. The correct treatment should include, immediately removing and/treating the cause. We now know that many cases will have EMS or issues where high insulin can be assumed, unless there is another clear cause, i.e. systemic infection. The feet should be x-rayed and correct trimming and frog support put in place. The acute phase should not last more than a week, and pain relief should also not be required after this phase. Horses that have not been correctly managed and treated will frequently require pain relief for longer. Movement is essential to recovery; The circulation within the foot is maintained and the risk of bone loss and abscess is reduced. Horses that are in pain and/or on pain relief should not be allowed to move.
Q. Laminitis horses do not recover
A. There was a time when laminitis was a death sentence. Times have changed, and our knowledge is far greater now. Even horses presenting with rotation and founder should be able to make a full recovery, as long as the issues are recognised and rehabilitated. However, half way measures, get half way results, and protocol must be followed (Dr Kellons). Dr Eleanor Kellon, has a DDT+E protocol – diagnosis, diet, trim and exercise when able. It is easy when treating horses with laminitis to get distracted with the level of discomfort the horse is experiencing. The inflammatory response must be controlled in order to limit the damage, which in turn reduces the pain. Diagnosing the issues, Pain management and corrective trimming are really the tip of the iceberg, the rehabilitation of the hoof capsule can take up to 12months.
Q. Is laminitis is caused by allergies?
A. There is little evidence to suggest that laminitis is induced by allergens. Research actually suggests that around 80-90% of horses are suffering with endocrine disease.
Illustrations and format- JamesOrsini, Dvm ACVS. Equine Laminitis in McGraw-Hill yearbook of science and technology. 2008, 114-118.
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