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How laminitis starts and how to prevent it

Laminitis is an inflammation inside the foot. The hoof lamina, which provides the very strong bond between the hoof wall and the pedal bone, start inflaming. The result could be the breakdown of this bond. The pedal bone detaches from the wall and starts rotating or collapses downwards. Not all horses survive this condition.

The inflammation goes hand in hand with a raised temperature and swelling, as the tough hoof wall does not allow any space for a swelling. This causes the horse or pony a lot of pain. A speedy intervention of the vet and the correct treatment by the farrier can cure this disease.

When new grass contains a lot of moisture, it moves quickly through the small intestines and arrives in the large intestines. At that stage, sugar and carbohydrates have not been broken down yet. That is where the problem starts.

The large intestines contain several types of bacteria, who live together in harmony. When the food content suddenly changes, this balance is disturbed. Some of the bacteria start producing gasses. This causes gas colic. Other bacteria die and start rotting. These rotting products are poisonous. The poison gets into the bloodstream, after absorption in the gut wall, and spreads through the whole body of the horse or pony. In the hoof this poison causes inflammation of the hoof lamina. In severe cases, the pedal bone can start rotating, which is very painful for horses or ponies. In this instance recovery is not possible.

Fructan is the cause all problems

For a long time it was thought that the high level of protein in the grass was causing gas colic and laminitis. But nowadays we know that it is not the protein, but the Fructan, a type of sugar, that causes the problems. Especially in spring, we often have a ‘Fructan alarm’. The article ‘Sugar causes laminitis’ provides detailed information.

Prevent Laminitis

Manage the change from stable to field carefully. Start with one hour of turn out and increase this a little bit every day.
To start with, don’t turn out in the morning, as the Fructan levels are higher in the morning than in the afternoon (especially when it has been a cold night).
Give your horse roughage in the morning in the stable to reduce the hunger. As a result the horse will eat the grass more slowley and the passage of the grass through the small intestines will also be slower.

Adjust the amount of hard feed when you turn your horse out.
Strip grazing is a good solution to prevent access to unlimited grass.
Move the strip grazing fencing (probably electric tape) one meter every two days. Move all sides, so you also give some of the grass a rest.