Hoof Nutrition Intelligence Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is a twice-a-month web segment that is designed to add to the education of footcare professionals when it comes to effectively feeding the hoof. The goal of this web-exclusive feature is to zero in on specific areas of hoof nutrition and avoid broad-based articles that simply look at the overall equine feeding situation.

Below you will find Part 2 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.

Q: I’m concerned that I don’t fully understand what laminitis is. Can you share some basics about this disease?

By BioZyme staffers

With the beginning of spring comes warmer weather, green grass and laminitis. Often also referred to as “founder,” laminitis is the inflammation of the laminae – the soft tissue that attaches the coffin bone of the foot to the hoof wall.

When that tissue is inflamed, it becomes more fragile and easily manipulated. The deep digital flexor tendon, located near the back of the leg, will begin to pull the coffin bone down and back, sometimes called “sinking” or “rotation.”

In severe cases, it can push the coffin bone through the bottom of the hoof. With 60% of a horse’s weight bearing up front, laminitis is generally found in the front feet. However, it can occur in any given hoof, depending on the circumstances.

A common cause of laminitis is the over consumption of starch or lush forage, like when a horse breaks into the feed room and eats half of a bag of grain, or when one is left out on pasture for too long in the spring before its body can adjust to the new, nutrient-filled grass. This is why it is important to introduce changes to the diet gradually and not overwhelm the stomach and digestive system.

Since its stomach is only the size of a football, it’s easy to understand why things might not always go as planned when horses are fed large amounts of concentrated grain. When you feed your horse too much grain, undigested starches can be pushed into the hindgut where they are fermented by a particular type of gut microbe that produces lactic acid. From here, the pH of the hindgut decreases due to the lactic acid, the good fiber-loving bacteria start to die off and, as they die, endotoxins are released. These conditions often cause the integrity of the gut to become compromised, meaning those endotoxins are now able to enter the bloodstream. From this, comes laminitis.

Another cause of laminitis can occur after injury of a limb, when a horse must place more pressure than usual on an adjacent limb. This puts an overwhelming amount of stress on the non-injured leg and can set your horse into a laminitis spell.

Your horse might be at risk if he or she is:

  • Overweight and/or “cresty.”
  • Has Cushing’s disease.
  • Suffers from insulin resistance.
  • Consumes large amounts of nonstructural carbohydrates.
  • Has access to newly lush forage for long periods of time.
  • Has foundered previously.
  • Has recently suffered a limb injury.
  • Has recently had a negative farrier experience. 

Common Symptoms of Laminitis

If your horse does not fall into the above categories, other common signs include leaning back on its hind legs to relieve pain off the front-end. A strong digital pulse, a short, shuffling or uncomfortable gait, a hot hoof and an increased heart rate and temperature.

If your horse shows any of these signs, call your vet immediately! If not taken care of right away, laminitis can be life-threatening. While waiting for your vet, soak your horse’s front hooves in ice or cold water to help decrease the blood flow to the area. 

The first thing to do if you have a laminitis-prone horse is make sure his or her diet is consistent and in line with his or her lifestyle. For example, if you have a fat pasture ornament that never gets worked, the horse does not need a large amount of grain. Also, try to avoid allowing the over consumption of lush grass in the spring, especially after a cool night. 

In conclusion, laminitis is a condition directly related to the horse’s diet and can be prevented with correct management. Know if your horse is at risk and keep any changes to its diet or lifestyle to a minimum. If you fear your horse could be suffering from the early onset of laminitis, contact your veterinarian right away.

Located in St. Joseph, Mo., BioZyme develops and manufactures natural, proprietary products focused on animal nutrition, health and microbiology.

Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is brought to you by W.F. Young Co. (Absorbine). Absorbine

Like many significant achievements, Absorbine® grew out of humble beginnings—and through the tenacity of someone willing to question the status quo. In this case, it was a young woman in late 19th-century Massachusetts: Mary Ida Young. Her husband, Wilbur Fenelon Young, was an enterprising piano deliveryman who relied on the couple’s team of horses to make deliveries throughout the Northeast. Inspired by Mary Ida and Wilbur’s vision, Absorbine® has continued to add innovative products throughout the years — products used every day by horse owners around the world. Which is why, since 1892, we’ve been The Horse World’s Most Trusted Name®.

Click here to read Part 1 of the May 15, 2019 installment: My farrier says one of my horses has a case of rainrot. Can you explain what it is and is nutrition involved with this problem?

Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.