What is laminitis?
At the basic level, laminitis (or founder) refers to inflammation of the connective tissue (laminae)
between the hoof and the pedal bone in the equid foot. There are varying degrees of severity from low
grade inflammation, all the way up to complete breakdown of the laminae resulting in rotation and/or
dropping of the pedal bone.
Clinical signs of laminitis centre around foot pain. Laminitis typically affects the front feet, although
the back feet may also be involved. Horses walk with a stiff, quick, shortened gait, and are typified by
the “leaning backwards” stance (in an attempt to take weight/pressure off their front feet). The feet
are usually hot, and the digital pulses to the feet typically increased and bounding. The horse may be
reactive to hoof testers applied to the sole or tapping on the dorsal hoof wall.
The causes of laminitis in the horse are many and varied. They include but aren’t limited to:
o High energy diets
o Dietery changes
o Access to lush/sweet pasture
o Overweight animals (especially ponies)
o Underlying metabolic conditions such as:
▪ PPID/Equine Cushings
▪ EMS (Equine metabolic syndrome)
▪ IR (Insulin resistance)
o Impact/high intensity exercise
o Hoof deformity/poor conformation
Laminitis is typically diagnosed from the history and on the presenting signs of your animal. Ruling
out other potential causes of lameness can be of benefit. Reaction to hoof testers is non-specific.
Radiographs (X-rays) are often also taken to establish if any more chronic changes have resulted
within the hoof. This also gives very helpful information that may be utilised for corrective trimming
or shoeing by your veterinarian or farrier.
Laminitis treatment can vary relative to your horse/pony’s condition. It typically involves antiinflammatories, deep bedding and corrective farriery/shoeing. Ensuring an appropriate diet/feeding
regimen and weight control for your animal is also important.
If at any time you are worried about your horse/pony’s condition, or if you have any further
questions, please contact the Main Ridge Veterinary Clinic on (03) 5989 6232