Learn about laminitis
Why should we CARE about laminitis?
Equine laminitis is a serious and debilitating disease which can lead to long-term lameness and pathological changes in the foot. Multiple factors interact to result in the disease and once clinical signs of pain and lameness are noticed - damage to internal foot structures has already began. That is why working towards preventing the disease from developing in the first place is so vital.
So, why should all horse owners CARE? Every horse and pony has the potential to develop laminitis, however, some are more at risk than others. In order to know how many horses and ponies are affected by the disease and why, we need to collect information from both animals that have had the disease previously and those that have never had it and hopefully never will!
Therefore the main aims of this study are to:
- Estimate the frequency of owner-reported laminitis in Britain – thus we will know the impact this disease has on our animals.
- Further investigate factors which increase or decrease the risk of an animal developing laminitis.
- Provide owners with evidence-based guidelines that will reduce the impact of laminitis nationwide.
Chapter 3 – Anatomy of the equine foot
- Relating the horse’s anatomy to our own can help us better understand the unique challenges to, and adaptations of, the equine foot.
- Horses distribute their weight over four limbs that undergo almost constant forces of impact and weight-bearing; resulting in debilitating pain when the feet are compromised.
- The horse foot is enclosed by a pigmented, non-living outer hoof wall which is most rigid on the outside and becomes more elastic and more “living” further towards the inside of the foot.
- The lamellar region consists of folded leaf-like structures divided into the epidermal and dermal layers
- The epidermal and dermal layers interlock at the basement membrane which is a thin but tough sheet of tissue that connects the structures of the inner hoof wall to the pedal bone.
- Changes to the structure of the basement membrane and the lamellar layers affect the strength and normal function of the foot and have been proposed in the pathophysiology of laminitis.
Comparing the human and equine skeleton (with kind permission from The Pony Club). If you would like to purchase this handy wall chart, click here.
To read more about the anatomy of the equine foot, click here.
Chapter 2 – What are the potential clinical signs of laminitis?
- Clinical signs of acute laminitis range from subtle (heat in the hoof and coronet and an abnormally strong digital pulse) to more noticeable (refusal to weight bear and/or move forward and extreme changes in gait and stance), and are all associated with the development of pain and/or inflammation. However, no permanent changes occur to the anatomy of the foot during this phase and the horse may fully recover. In this video Dr David Catlow talks about early clinical signs of laminitis.
- Clinical signs of chronic laminitis include visible changes to the outside of the foot, reflecting permanent changes in the position of the pedal bone within the foot. Recurrent episodes will display signs of acute phase pain with progressive deterioration and failure of the lamellae.
- A 2013 study described the clinical signs of both acute and chronic laminitis in a population of veterinary-attended horses. While no individual clinical signs were present in every case, the most common clinical signs were found to be: increased digital pulses, difficulty in turning and a short, stilted gait in walk. Laminitis was found to occur in all four feet, but both front feet were most commonly, and also most severely, affected.
To read more about potential clinical signs of laminitis, click here.
Chapter 1 – What is laminitis?
- Laminitis is a complex disease that occurs when the lamellae inside a horse’s foot undergo degenerative changes due to systemic disease, inflammation, blood circulatory changes, hormonal imbalances and/or mechanical trauma. The interlocking lamellae, which suspend and stabilise the pedal bone (distal phalanx) within the hoof, are ‘weakened’ by the disease. This causes debilitating foot pain during the initial acute phase of the disease.
- In severe cases, the damaged lamellae may no longer be able to suspend the pedal bone in its normal position, and permanent anatomic change occurs as the pedal bone ‘rotates’ and/or ‘sinks’ within the foot. These events mark progression into the chronic phase of the disease where a full recovery is no longer possible, leaving the horse with permanent foot impairment requiring careful ongoing management.
- Given the threat posed by laminitis and its potential debilitating and life-threatening consequences, every horse owner should be aware of the disease, including its underlying causes, and correctly view laminitis as a medical emergency requiring prompt attention.
|Fig. 1 Anatomy of the healthy foot showing the internal structures (above) and a solear view (below).|
What is laminitis? Click here to find out more.