What things do I need to keep my eyes peeled for to catch laminitis early?


Laminitis is the inflammation of the laminae, which is the "velcro" that surrounds the 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.  


We all know that laminitis and founder are horrible conditions, and now we can learn a little more about what you may see, so that your horse can get appropriate treatment early.  If you are at all uncertain about anything - call your Veterinarian.  Better safe than sorry.  Even a tiny delay in Veterinary care can have staggering implications on the outcome of this disease.  Please don’t delay! 



A stronger digital pulse than normal is a HUGE clue to what's happening in the hoof.  For details on finding and checking the digital pulse, this article has a video. 


So - without further yammering - here are signs of laminitis.  

  • 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.
  • 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.  (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.)
Checking for heat and a strong digital pulse takes seconds a day to do.  
  • 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 something’s sinking, the hairs will be rearranged as the anatomy inside changes.  



There are lots of ways to cool the hoof, providing relief!

Now - some of these signs are also signs of an abscess, which also can be really painful and should be treated.  If you suspect abscess, work with your Veterinarian to make sure it is just an abcess.  

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 medictions, 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 Doctor and get those hooves into ice water or pack them with ice packs.  (For tips on icing hooves read this!)  For a long time.  Hours even.



ICE ICE ICE ICE ICE ICE ICE ICE ICE ICE ICE  Make it happen - 24 to 48 hours IN A ROW.  Boots make this easier - but use what you have until you can get your hands on some boots.  Don't delay!



There are a lot of super resources out there for horses and laminitis.  One of them is Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog and Fran's Hoof Care website.

Does anyone out there have any experiences with catching laminitis early?