Acute and Chronic Laminitis: An Overview

Individualized approach based on adherence to principles produces best results

Acute and chronic laminitis is a frustrating and often disheartening condition to manage. Having the opportunity to observe, treat and shoe laminitic horses for many years gives one a unique prospective into this disease. The biggest challenge to the veterinarian and the farrier is to improve function in a foot or feet that may have potential, substantial and possibly permanent structural changes.

It should be remembered from the onset, that it is the extent of the lamellar pathology (damage) that will influence our ability to treat a given case of laminitis, not the treatment regimen that is used. If this were not a fact, we would not read on a weekly basis in equine journals or horse-care magazines about some horse that was lost to laminitis.

Another problem we need to overcome is that treatment regimens for both acute and chronic laminitis generally remain empiric and are based on the past experience of the attending clinician or farrier. Each case of laminitis should be approached on an individual basis noting the predisposing cause, the foot conformation and the structures of the foot that can be used to change the forces placed on the hoof. Perhaps our approach to treatment should be based on mechanical principles, aimed at what we want to accomplish on a given laminitic foot rather than any one shoeing method.

Acute Laminitis

When we approach a case of acute laminitis, we encounter three problems.

1. We have no way of knowing the extent of the laminar damage…

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Stephen O’Grady

Dr. Steve O’Grady is a veterinarian and a farrier. He operates Virginia Therapeutic Farriery in Keswick, Va., which is a referral practice devoted to equine podiatry and therapeutic farriery You can read informative papers by him at He is a member of the International Equine Veterinarians Hall Of Fame and the American Farriers Journal Editorial Advisory Board.

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