Laminitis Series
Part One: What is Laminitis?

Laminitis (or Founder) is defined as inflammation of the soft tissue that connects the hoof to the bones of the foot of the horse. The laminae of the foot and hoof are interconnecting microscopic fingers that suspend the boney column within the hoof capsule. They are made up of living cells that help guide the hoof wall as it grows, maintaining a solid attachment between the bones and the hoof. When the laminae becomes inflamed, this connection is compromised and cannot do its job.

Acute laminitis is a sudden inflammation of the lamina. The horse becomes very painful and does not want to walk or stand. You can often feel heat through the hoof wall and the heart rate may be increased (greater than 50 beats per minute) due to pain. If standing, the horse will usually stand leaning back with most of its weight on the rear legs in an attempt to minimize weight-bearing on the painful front feet. Acute laminitis can result in a sudden separation of the hoof capsule from the bones, causing the boney column to move downward, sometimes all the way through the bottom of the hoof. Acute laminitis is an emergency situation! You should call your vet right away if you see these signs.

Chronic laminitis is low-grade, long-term or periodic inflammation of the lamina.. Horses with chronic laminitis are often sore in the toe, and can have a misshapen hoof wall from previous laminar insults. The hoof wall is poorly connected to the boney column and has a tendency to flare, which predisposes many horses to abscesses and thin soles. Many of these horses have a characteristic “slipper foot” appearance, and sometimes have permanent changes in the bones of the foot. Some hooves can be rehabilitated with proper trimming while others may never grow normally again due to boney changes. If you notice that your horse has sensitive feet, recurring abscesses or a misshapen hoof wall, it may have chronic laminitis.

Laminitis is a disease that can affect the long-term performance and comfort of your horse. Recovery and rehabilitation is a long-term partnership between you, your veterinarian and your farrier. Full Circle Equine Service has the tools to properly diagnose laminitis, including digital x-ray equipment and metron block, which will allow us to form a plan of action for you, your farrier, and your horse. See Part Two for underlying causes and prevention of this disease.