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What can you do about it?

What are the causes of laminitis in horses?

Vets have been aware of laminitis for a long time; it is only recently that an unexpected influx of cases has occurred. The question is, why – and how does it arise?

What is Laminitis?

Laminitis is the inflammation of the laminae, which connects the pedal bone to the hoof wall. The capillaries are very thin blood vessels which supply blood to the laminae. When inflammation occurs, the blood in the capillaries starts to clot which alters the blood flow.
This leads to small infarcts (lack of blood flow) which destroys the tissue. Oedema can also occur after inflammation as fluid leaks from the blood vessels.

This fluid build-up can damage and destroy the tissue as it puts a large amount of pressure on the hoof capsule. If left untreated, the laminae separate away from the hoof wall and causes the pedal bone to rotate out of its natural position.
The pedal bone is usually parallel to the hoof wall, but the pull from the deep digital flexor tendon moves the tip of the pedal bone towards the ground

How can you recognise laminitis?

One of the first visible signs of laminitis is when a horse attempts to relieve pressure on their hooves. They often adopt a shorter stride, change the landing pattern of the hooves, and refuse to trot. Visible symptoms are easier to notice on hard ground than soft ground and farriers/podiatrists can usually spot signs at an early stage. If left untreated, these symptoms become more severe; in a highly acute stage, the horse may refuse to make any movement at all and spend time lying down.

Early diagnosis is important

Laminitis is often fatal if left untreated; this can sometimes occur after only a few weeks. In some cases, laminitis becomes chronic, meaning the horse is likely to never walk normally again. Metabolic disorders are frequently poorly diagnosed and, combined with the many causes and many types, even treated laminitis is often fatal.

One of the most common causes of laminitis is endotoxaemia- or sepsis-related laminitis. Used as an umbrella term for cases caused by an overload of the metabolism, it is also called ‘internal poisoning’, and does not necessarily relate to digesting poisonous plants and substances. Chinese medicine dictates that skin and hooves are the ‘auxiliary kidneys’ of the body. If the kidneys become overloaded, the hooves often show the visible symptoms, such as solar inflammation, bruising, or laminitis. In the body’s attempt to excrete the excess toxins, it can also show in the forms of thrush, hoof abscesses, or mudfever / Mallenders / Sallenders.

What to do about laminitis?

Step one: call the vet

The vet must be called first if your horse has acute laminitis. They can then decide which course to take based on the symptoms your horse is exhibiting. If mild, the shoes can be removed to encourage hoof mobility – a good farrier or equine podiatrist can also advise you with this. If symptoms are more severe, they may prescribe a heart-bar shoe or hoof boots with therapeutic pads.

What to do in the acute stage

As laminitis is often associated with fermentation or toxic overload in the intestine, the OKAPI Prodic helps to keep the substances in the intestine, so that they can be excreted with the faeces.
OKAPI HoofCool forte can also be taken at the acute stage; it combines herbal and anti-inflammatory ingredients to help dilate the blood vessels and dissolve blood clots.
There are cases where laminitis can be a metabolic disorder or unrecognised insulin resistance; the OKAPI PankrEMS forte has proved effective with this issue.

OKAPI Prodic © Okapi GmbH

Step Two: Supporting Therapie

OKAPI Spirulina (as powder or pellets) helps in the detoxification of the body. The spirulina algae bind toxins so they are excreted easier; if this is combined with OKAPI Detox Herbs (this helps to make sure the kidneys are functioning) it will assist in eliminating waste products to help relieve the liver-kidney system. These products are useful accompaniments to therapy. It is advised to find a therapist who is trained in treating horses with detoxification issues (e.g. KPU), to make sure your horse is able to handle any detox treatments. Otherwise any well-intentioned treatments might trigger another laminitis episode. 

Step Three: Eliminate the causes

Laminitis is not a short-term illness; in order to treat itlong-term, the root cause must be found. Medication does not always help with this; however, there are some elements, like avoiding stress and using a detoxification treatment, that can help the process.

Make sure to check hay, tracks, and fields for any potentially poisonous plants. Hay should be checked carefully; make sure there is no mould, and that is has been stored correctly in a dry place for 12 weeks after being harvested. Only then can it be used for feed. Do not feed haylage to horses with laminitis.

Avoid allowing the horse to graze in fields, even if the weather is still good.
As stated above, if grass is under stress, the endophytes multiply and, if the grass is consumed, causes damage to the metabolism. Try to only put horses onto grass at midday in the autumn and spring, possibly using a grazing muzzle, because the heat of the sun breaks down the fructans. It is essential to optimise the best feeding in order to rehabilitate the intestine, as, for many horses, this is the cause of laminitis. Usually, it has been festering under the surface for years before it is triggered, often from the result of an acute overload. Therefore, medication (for example, steroids) is often deemed a trigger rather than the true cause, as the symptoms had not yet been recognised.

Ein Pony frisst auf einer kurzen Wiese
© Adobe Stock/Pebo

Step Four: intestinal rehabilitation and feed adjustments

To help the intestine, or gut, we recommend a combination of OKAPI Lapacho Bark and OKAPI Bitter Herbs. These, together with adjusting feed, support the recreation of a healthy digestive system. It provides relief for the whole metabolic system, including the kidneys. You can adjust your horse’s diet by avoiding haylage, feed with high sugar and starch content, and cereals in concentrated feed.

To begin with, do not give the horse carrots due to their high sugar and pectin contents; later, you can start to give them two to three pieces a day. Start the feed change slowly, over a period of fourteen days, to avoid straining the intestine and metabolism.

This prevents any chance of hoof degeneration and a chance for long-term treatment to commence.

After acute laminitis, using OKAPI Detox Herbs, OKAPI Bitter Herbs, OKAPI Pasture Herbs and OKAPI Immuno Herbs every two weeks for the first six months ensures a well-balanced metabolism for the future. For a longterm healthy alternative for concentrated feed, we recommend OKAPI Four Season Feed, a pure herbal feed containing suitable herbs for each season, all supporting your horse.

Even horses with rotated pedal bones can fully recover in around two years, as long as you react immediately, avoid the trigger factors, and help support a healthy metabolism.

Team Sanoanimal