Purchasing a horse is making a commitment to keeping them safe, happy, and healthy. As a horse owner, you'll need to be aware of the warning signs of illness in order to manage the problem immediately. Laminitis is one of the most common causes of impairment in horses. It is an inflammation of the tissues that connect the hoof wall to the coffin bone. There is no set age, sex, or time of year that laminitis can strike, which makes it necessary to know the signs and what can be done to reduce risks.
Laminitis should always be handled as an emergency, as an aggressive case can be fatal. While generally found in pastured horses, laminitis is typically the result of a primary disease or trauma. It is crucial to pay attention to anything that could factor into the progression of the affliction, as a thorough history is essential for treatment. According to an article released by the International Equine Podiatry Center, some of the problems preceding laminitis could be:
- Overeating or Obesity
- Severe Colic
- Potomac horse fever
- Accidents or Trauma
Knowing your horse's habits will allow you to spot signs of laminitis immediately. Frequent attention to your equine-companion is key to an early diagnosis and treatment of the illness. There are five major symptoms of laminitis to watch for; the earlier these symptoms are diagnosed, the higher chances are for recovery.
A horse exhibiting signs of laminitis will prefer to walk on softer ground. They will have a shorter, unnatural gait and show hesitation towards tight turns. You may notice your horse demonstrating the "saw-horse" stance, where they stretch their front legs forward and shift weight to their heels. Shifting from foot to foot to relieve pressure is another sign.
Occasionally, the horse will refuse to move at all. You'll notice their coat becomes sweaty, typically in patches. They may display other symptoms of general pain, such as laboured breathing, increased heart rates, and trembling. If your horse is refusing to move, never force them to.
Balmy foot temperatures
Laminitis is an inflammatory disease which increases blood flow to the feet, causing the hooves to feel warm to the touch. This, however, is the least reliable symptom as laminitis can also present with cool feet. Checking digital pulses is the best step to diagnosing increased blood flow.
A horse afflicted by laminitis will show a painful response when pressure is applied to the sole of the foot.
Altered hoof shape
By checking the hooves, you can determine if your horse has endured the ailment before. If growth rings on the hoof are no longer parallel, uniting at the toe, they have previously suffered from the condition. In severe cases, you will see the deviation cause an upturned toe.
The most important step in the prevention of laminitis is keeping your horse slim. Choose a feed that is low in starches and sugar, high in fibre with added minerals and vitamins. Using adequate and balanced supply with protein and minerals in conjunction with feed will also help reduce risks. Restrict pasture turnouts to nights during spring and autumn when fructan levels are highest.
If you observe any of these symptoms, it is imperative to treat promptly. Delay in treatment can result in severe damage and costlier treatment. Constant monitoring of the horse's feet and behavior is vital for successful risk reduction.
Image via Wikipedia (under CC license)
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