Not all the signs of Laminitis are obvious! Your horse doesn’t have to be standing ‘Camped under’ in the classic Founder Stance or have ‘Aladdin’ slipper feet! Some of the signs can be subtle and easily confused with other common problems.
The horse has adopted the ‘founder stance’
The horse has an elevated heart rate (above 45 beats per minute) and/or respiration rate (above 16 breaths per minute)
The horse may lie down a lot and be depressed
Not stepping out properly – goes with a shuffling gait, worse on corners or when asked to go downhill
Bounding digital pulse
Shifting weight from hoof to hoof
Difficulty holding up a hoof to be trimmed
Seedy toe problems and hoof cracks
White line separation with flat soles
Tender on hard ground
Growth rings and dishing in the hoof wall or ‘slipper feet’
Image: Dorsal wall flare (front of hoof)
Image: White Line Separation
Signs That Your Horse Could Have Cushing’s Disease:
Laminitis occurring in the Autumn (not spring)
Excessive drinking and urination
Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) or failure to sweat (anhidrosis)
Development of allergies and hypersensitivities (e.g., vaccinations, flies)
Increased susceptibility to infections
Poor resistance to internal parasites
Skin darkening, often with thickening and scaling
Slow spring shedding of coat with a long, coarse & sometimes curly coat, in advanced cases there is a failure to shed completely
Image: Classic slipper feet and thick curly coat of Cushings Disease Photo by Sandi Chiswell
Signs That Your Horse Could Have Insulin Resistance
The horse is overweight with a cresty, hard neck and other abnormal fat deposits. These may persist even after the horse loses weight.
The horse is an easy keeper and always seems to stay fat compared to other horses
Not all IR horses are overweight. In advanced cases the horse can be skinny however it will often still be cresty and have abnormal fat deposits.
History of laminitis or founder commonly induced by grass
Puffiness in the hollows above the eyes
Sheath swelling in geldings
Advanced symptoms may include increased thirst and urination
Loss of body condition and muscle wasting
Low energy levels
Image: Cresty necks don’t have to be huge, hard and obvious to indicate IR
In the next article, we will look at what happens to the hooves, both externally and internally and how this affects the horse.
For more info on Laminitis including treatment, rehab and prevention, have a look at the book ‘What is Laminitis? – A Practical, Step by Step Guide to Recovery’ written by Rebecca Scott and Zoe Messina. This is available in the shop as a PDF
‘If your horse has laminitis, this is the FIRST book you should read! A review by Linda Whitfield Cowles – Equine rehab specialist.
You may find that your horses coat has already started shedding, this is triggered by the longer daylight hours and marks the start of the long winter coat loss! This process will continue over the next few months and it's important to provide adequate nutritional support during this time to encourage a healthy and shiny new summer coat.
Often during Spring horses are locked up for extended periods to keep them off the rich grass and the danger of Laminitis at bay. Compared to fresh grass, the nutrient profile of hay can be quite different. This is because some vitamins and fats are fragile and are lost in the curing process or can decline over time. There are some main nutrients that should be considered.
The herb Jiao Gu Lan has a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Because of the herb’s ability as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, it has beneficial effects for horses suffering from Laminitis. It also has a powerful ability to increase blood flow in the hoof due to its ability to modulate nitric oxide.