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Laminitis: Prevention is better than cure!

Laminitis is a complex disease where the laminae in the hoof, which are the structures responsible for suspending the horses pedal bone from the hoof wall, become inflamed. When the laminae inflame they lose their integrity, and allow the weight of the horse to drive the pedal bone downward through the hoof, damaging arteries, veins, the corium of the coronet and the sole of the hoof. Once the pedal bone moves the condition is then referred to as founder. Laminitis causes severe pain and in many situations, euthanasia is the only humane option. Laminitis is the second most common cause of death in horses worldwide and is something horse owners never want to see their horses go through.

The good news for you and your horses is that laminitis is largely preventable and there is much you can do as a horse owner to prevent it from ever happening. The key to prevention is understanding what causes laminitis and avoiding the feeds and situations that may put your horses at risk.

What causes laminitis?
The two most common causes of laminitis are diet related. They are:
1. The overfeeding of high starch feeds or feeds that contain fructan
All horses are susceptible to this form of laminitis. The diagram below explains how laminitis is caused by starch and fructan. Diagram 1 here.


2. Feeding high starch or high sugar feeds to horses that have an impaired ability to regulate blood glucose and insulin concentrations
Horses that can’t accurately regulate their blood glucose and insulin concentrations are susceptible to this form of laminitis. The diagram below explains how this form of laminitis, commonly termed endocrinopathic laminitis occurs. Diagram 2 here.


How can laminitis be prevented?
Laminitis is a preventable disease. Incorporating the following points into your equine management practices will help you prevent your horses developing laminitis: