What is laminitis?

Laminitis has the potential to strike any of Britain’s horses and ponies regardless of age, size or breed. It is a serious and debilitating disease, often leading to long-term lameness.

In most cases, once signs of pain and lameness are noticed in the feet, damage to the foot has already begun often leading to permanent changes in the foot. That is why working towards preventing the disease from developing in the first place is so vital.

The most prevalent clinical signs of laminitis, as reported by both vets and owners, were all associated with changes in stance and gait, and included difficulty turning and a stilted/pottery or lame walk.

Equine laminitis is one of the top health concerns for horse owners and vets. It affects large numbers of horses, ponies and donkeys – and once an animal has had it, they are at a much higher risk of having it again. this ongoing cycle of recurrent episodes is a welfare concern and can become life-threatening.

Dr Danica Pollard
Dr Danica Pollard, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance

Researching laminitis

Despite being a disease most horse owners have heard about, there is a still lot that is unknown about laminitis which makes preventing it especially difficult. So far, our research has focussed on identifying factors which make laminitis more, or less, likely to develop, as well as helping horse and pony owners to recognise it earlier.

We have found that as many as one in ten horses or ponies in Britain develop laminitis every year. A previous history of laminitis, lameness or soreness after routine hoof care, and weight gain were all found to increase the risk of the disease occurring. Importantly, 45% of owners we surveyed didn’t realise their horse or pony had laminitis before the vet diagnosed it, mistaking it for general lameness, a foot abscess, colic or joint / muscle stiffness. So, we now need to do more to help horse owners spot laminitis signs quickly, and work on finding out more about the disease so we can advise vets and owners on the best ways to prevent laminitis.

1/10 One in ten horses or ponies develop laminitis every year

45% of owners do not recognise laminitis as laminitis

Help our research into laminitis

We want to develop more useful tools, such as a weight tracker app, to help owners maintain a healthy weight in their horses. This tool could also be useful in tackling a number of other health problems associated with equine obesity, such as laminitis, colic caused by fatty tumours (lipomas) and musculoskeletal problems. But we need funding to do this, so please donate if you would like to help our research.

Research lead

Dr Danica Pollard

Dr Danica Pollard

Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance

Dee conducted her PhD at the AHT and has returned as a postdoc to continue with laminitis research.

Read Dr Danica Pollard's bio

We are very grateful to the following for their ongoing support of this work:

Margaret Giffen Charitable Trust
World Horse Welfare.