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Learn to Recognise the Early Signs of Laminitis

There is a lot still to learn about laminitis but, for the horse, extreme pain is the eventual result. 

The changes to the hoof capsule that happen after full-on laminitic event are well-known and easier to recognise. 

Lameness, in some cases severe and the angle changes to the pedal bone that you see in X-rays and depicted in the images on the left, are clear signs of laminitis.  

But did you miss the very first signs? 

It is becoming clear that in the vast majority of cases, the laminitis progression is lengthy, and luckily, more and more hoof care professionals are beginning to recognise that the hoof problems photographed above are all possible early signs of lamintis. 

Event lines are better known signs, but the following signs also need to be considered and require professional attention and careful management:

  • a stretched lamina,
  • lamellar wedge,
  • flared and disconnected hoof walls,
  • thin sole over the tip of the pedal bone,
  • bulging convex soles,
  • compacted soles and high heels,
  • seedy toe,
  • frog infections and abscesses

All these hoof issues could indicate laminitis. Act now! Image courtesy of Maja Stocker.

Establishing whether the horse is insulin resistant, has Equine Metabolic Syndrome or Cushings (PPID) should be prioritised.

In the meantime, start by adjusting the diet to a low sugar and starch diet, and provide sufficient exercise – if your horse is still sound. 

Many of these conditions are also perfect entrance points for fungi and bacteria, especially in warmer temperatures and standing in wet, dirty surfaces. 

Remember that horses are very stoic and can mask low levels of pain. By the time they are lame, the laminitis can be extremely painful. 

Learn to recognise the subtle signs of pain.

Identifying the early signs of laminitis will allow you to begin implementing a holistic management plan as soon as possible.

Learn more about laminitis. 

Maja Stocker Equine Podiatrist
Maja Stocker

Maja Stocker is a fulltime barefoot trimmer with a diploma from the Australian College of Equine Podiotherapy. Her background is in Linda Tellington Jones’ equine TTEAM technique, and she has trained as a Centred Riding Instructor and Pony Club coach, in addition to studying art and working as a teacher.

Maja grew up in Switzerland and moved to Melbourne 17 years ago. She now lives in south-east Queensland with her family, dogs and horses. She is passionate about professional barehoof care and improving horses’ wellbeing.

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