Updated laminitis guide aims to help prevent deadly equine disease

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An updated and rewritten guide to laminitis has been produced by international equine charity World Horse Welfare, and it is free for horse owners to download.

Laminitis is a devastatingly painful condition for horses, ponies and donkeys and mules and can occur at any time of year. Owners often particularly worry in spring with the flush of new grass and, with an increased number of horses out at grass during the coronavirus restrictions, many more owners are concerned for their horse’s health. This new leaflet is full of useful tips to help owners prevent laminitis, spot the warning signs and know what to do if their horse is suffering from, or has suffered from, laminitis.

World Horse Welfare’s revised laminitis guide can be downloaded free.

World Horse Welfare has launched its updated guide to laminitis, developed with the support of the Animal Health Trust and Margaret Giffen Charitable Trust.

Not every owner may be particularly familiar with what the risk factors for laminitis are, the danger signs or the common indicators that a horse is suffering.

Laminitis causes severe pain and lameness which needs emergency first aid and veterinary treatment. It occurs when the finger-like projections which support the pedal bone of the foot within the hoof capsule, become weakened by losing their normal shape. This results in instability of the pedal bone within the foot, potential inflammation and signs of pain and lameness. It is most often a consequence of an underlying hormonal disorder and/or an inflammatory condition, such as equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) and pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID, or equine Cushing’s disease) but laminitis can also occur after a carbohydrate overload, such as “pigging out” on spring grass.

Laminitis is a common condition, with about 1 in 10 horses in any year experiencing a bout and having suffered from it once, a horse is more likely to suffer from it again and will need careful on-going management. Common signs of laminitis include strong/bounding digital pulses felt at the back of the fetlock, reluctance to walk forward, difficulty making a tight turn, excessive heat in the feet, shifting weight from foot to foot when at rest and lameness, stiffness or a short, stilted or pottery walk especially on hard ground, but often the early signs of onset of a bout of laminitis can be difficult to spot.

When it comes to the condition, however, the old saying that ‘prevention is better than cure’ is very true. Sam Chubbock, Head of UK Support at World Horse Welfare said making sure your horse or pony is the right weight is really important when it comes to preventing laminitis – as is avoiding unintentional weight gain.

» Here’s how to estimate your horse’s weight

“It can be really difficult to notice our horses gaining weight when we see them every day, which is why regular weight monitoring and fat scoring are so important.

“Although equine weight tapes aren’t 100% accurate as a means of weighing your horse, if you use one regularly it will tell you if your horse is gaining or losing weight – and allow you to adjust his or her management accordingly,” Chubbock said.

» Read more about laminitis here. If you have any queries about laminitis (or any other aspect of caring for your horse) call World Horse Welfare’s Advice Line during office hours on +44 (0)1953 497 238. If you suspect your horse might have laminitis, please call your vet first.

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