Laminitis is any inflammation of the laminae that interdigitate between the hoof wall and the inner structures of the hoof. These laminae can become inflamed in any generalized systemic condition which can affect peripheral circulation. These conditions include endotoxemia, septicemia, severe dehydration, and cardiovascular shock. Other causes include mechanical stress, endocrine disease, steroids, and genetic predisposition as seen in some ponies.
Nutrition can play a role in initiating laminitis, either through precipitating an abrupt change in bacterial flora and releasing an endotoxic shower or directly through a carbohydrate overload. It is also necessary to nutritionally manage the laminitic horse to increase hindgut fermentation.
Laminitis in rarely seen in neonates, seldom seen in weanlings, and commonly seen in adult horses. Ponies are prone to laminitis as are heavily muscled stallions, obese horses, and endotoxic adults. Treatment is most effective if it occurs very early in the disease process or even prophylactically. Medical treatment is aimed at decreasing blood viscosity, improving vasodilation, and decreasing systemic inflammation. Nutritional treatment tries to effect a decreased absorption of endotoxin from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, repopulation of the bacterial flora of the gut, and increased transit time of ingesta through the hindgut via increased fiber content and less acidic pH in the colon.