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  • Understanding Laminitis: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Management Using Natural Remedies

    by Fiona Lane August 09, 2023

    Understanding Laminitis: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Management Using Natural Remedies

    It’s surprising how quickly laminitis can take hold, and how tricky it can be to detect, especially the first time it happens. And unfortunately, once a horse has had laminitis they’ll be prone to more attacks in the future.

    We always recommend contacting your vet if you have concerns about the health of your horse, but for support during minor attacks or with the prevention of laminitis, take a look at two of our natural remedies – LamiPrev and LamATK.

    What is laminitis?

    Laminitis is an inflammatory condition that often appears during Spring and Autumn when the grass is lush and green. Rain increases the level of soluble carbohydrate in grass and clover which, when ingested, can cause metabolic changes to the blood that flows to the laminae – the tissues that connect the hoof wall to the coffin bone inside the hoof. The laminae then swells and, if not treated, can start to weaken causing permanent damage. Once a horse has had laminitis, they are prone to the condition recurring, which is why prevention of this painful condition is important.

    What causes laminitis in horses?

    Heavy breeds or horses that are overweight, or those with hormonal imbalance conditions such as Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) or Cushing’s disease can be particularly prone to laminitis. For some horses, the large amounts of adrenaline and corticosteriods they produce when under stress can also contribute to onset. However the most common cause is excessive consumption of the starches and sugars present in rich, lush pasture or grain-based feed.

    Normally these carbohydrates are easily digested in the small intestine, however if the digestive system becomes overloaded – such as after gorging – the undigested feed moves through to the hindgut which is where the problem starts. The hindgut often doesn’t contain the right enzymes to digest feed and so produces lactic acid. This kills off the good bacteria resulting in production of a toxin which passes into the bloodstream, finding it’s way to the laminae where it causes the condition we know as laminitis.

    What are the signs of laminitis?

    The onset of laminitis can be surprisingly quick. It usually affects the front feet causing the horse to rock back onto their heels as they try to relieve discomfort by shifting their weight. The front feet will often feel excessively hot and have a strong pulse which can be felt at the back of the fetlock.

    Can Laminitis be prevented?

    Overweight horses have a higher risk of developing laminitis so managing feed, particularly over the winter months, is a good preventative measure.

    Restricting access to lush green pastures, particularly later in the afternoon when the grass contains the most sugar, is also important. New grass can also contain a lot of sugar, so even a small amount of new grass in an otherwise bare paddock is worth watching out for. It's often recommended to feed horses prone to laminitis a diet high in fat and fibre and low in sugars.

    Our LamiPrev oral remedy can also help by supporting digestion of the starches in grass and feed, providing a head start against a laminitis attack. Dosing starts two weeks before new grass growth is expected and continues through until grass has died back. While this might sound expensive, it isn’t! Our 90ml pump bottle retails for under NZ$60 and contains around 115 days of coverage.

    How to treat laminitis

    Laminitis doesn’t go away on its own, so treating this condition is essential. In the first instance, box rest and close management of their diet and feed is essential. Soaking hay to remove some of the carbohydrate and giving feed that is high in fat and fibre and low in sugar is commonly recommended.

    Managing any pain and discomfort is also important, so talk to your vet if this is acute or you have any concerns. For minor discomfort, try our LamATK remedy. It’s professionally formulated to support a normal immune response to the symptoms of laminitis, and is safe to use alongside any treatment or medication your vet might prescribe. 

    Unfortunately, once your horse has had laminitis, it will be prone to more flareups in the future – and each flareup needs to be taken seriously. So once your horse has recovered, we recommend keeping our LamiPrev remedy on hand so you can start dosing as soon as new grass growth is expected and using our Foot Sore Equine remedy for any ongoing minor hoof discomfort. 

    Early intervention is key when it comes to managing laminitis and limiting the long term damage that can occur if laminitis is left untreated. If your horse is experiencing hoof issues that aren't related to laminitis, take a look at these tips on how to manage other common hoof conditions.


    General Disclaimer

    Always follow dosing instructions. Our remedies are formulated to support the natural immune system of horses, pets and livestock. We do not claim to treat, medicate or cure any health conditions. If you are worried an animal may be in pain or suffering please contact your veterinarian.

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