‘Huge surge’ in laminitis cases: vets urge vigilance

  • Vets are urging owners to be on the alert for early signs of laminitis following a “huge surge” in cases.

    Devon-based veterinary practice Phoenix Equine has seen an increase in cases of the condition, in both horses and ponies, following a mild winter.

    Vet and practice director Tony Kaye told H&H it is important for owners to act quickly if they suspect a horse or pony has laminitis.

    “If it’s not caught and dealt with quickly and appropriately, the prognosis for that episode and future soundness is definitely much worse,” said Mr Kaye.

    “The longer it goes on, the more the pedal bone becomes unstable and it can start to move. The risk is that the pedal bone rotates a long way, or worse starts to fall down inside the hoof. Owners need to be really vigilant – as soon as a horse or pony goes a bit pottery – they need to act on that.”

    Mr Kaye warned changes to the pedal bone can happen quickly.

    “If you have a very big horse, there’s much more chance of the bone moving a lot as the horse is obviously putting a lot of weight on the foot so is going to be more susceptible. You can get change very quickly if you get a bad bout of laminitis, but in some cases it can be gradual changes over a long time,” he said.

    “It’s definitely worth involving the vet and farrier – ideally you will have foot X-rays to see what rotation there is and you can take a lot of force off the pedal bone with trimming. You’ll occasionally have a pony where the owner will swear it has never had laminitis, but when you X-ray the hooves you’ll find quite noticeable rotation so it has to have had subclinical laminitis.”

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    Phoenix Equine vet Teresa Cordovil told H&H owners need to stay on top of their horses’ and ponies’ management.

    “It’s good to remind owners of the things to be on the lookout for, not to be complacent with checking horses and ponies and to stay on top of things,” said Ms Cordovil. “They need to make sure their animals are getting the appropriate amount of feed and enough exercise, and if they see any signs to ring their vet and treatment can start early.


    “I try to teach owners to look for heat in the hoof and to assess digital pulses. If owners train themselves to do this to their horse or pony day in, day out, we can at least catch some cases in the early stages. Then it’s a lot easier to treat and prevent the long term traumatic affects of laminitis.

    “If we can get to those horses early, and before we need to limit exercise because of the effects of laminitis on the hoof and pedal bone, the prognosis is a lot better. If you’re already having issues with laminitis and chronic changes to the hoof then it’s very difficult to manage.”

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