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Learn About Chronic Laminitis in Horses: The risk, prevention, symptoms and treatment of this hoof disease

Keep your horse founder free!

Learn About Chronic Laminitis in Horses

Arm yourself with knowledge of the risks, symptoms, prevention and treatment of chronic laminitis, one of the most devastating diseases of the hoof of the horse. Download our FREE guide Learn About Chronic Laminitis in Horses: The risk, prevention, symptoms and treatment of this hoof disease.

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Download your FREE report from MyHorse Daily and learn about laminitis causes what you can do to prevent laminitis, a potentially deadly horse disease.

MyHorse Daily Managing Editor

MyHorse Daily Managing Editor

Did you know that Secretariat, one of the most powerful racehorses ever to exist, died of laminitis, a painful hoof disease?

Unable to cure Secretariat’s laminitis, his owners didn’t want to see him suffer, and so had him put down on Oct. 4, 1989, at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky.

Horse hooves.

Is your horse at risk for slow-onset laminitis?

That fact is chilling testament to the seriousness of equine laminitis, one of the more serious horse diseases caused by an inflammation of the soft laminae of a horse’s hooves.

How much do you know about laminitis causes, or laminitis symptoms, or laminitis treatment? Do you know anything about founder in horses? How is founder related to equine laminitis?

The more you know about laminitis and founder in horses, the better you can protect your horse. So here is a laminitis quiz with some very important facts, put together by Christine Barakat of EQUUS magazine.

What’s Your Laminitis IQ?

Test your laminitis knowledge with our 12-question quiz.
TRUE OR FALSE?

1. The words “laminitis” and “founder” mean the same thing.

False. Although these words are often used interchangeably, they describe specific stages in what is one of the more complex of the horse diseases. Laminitis is the inflammation of the laminae, the thin, pleated tissues that connect the coffin bone to the hoof wall. Founder is the deformity caused when the laminae stretch and fail, leaving the hoof’s coffin bone without support so that it rotates (“sinks”) downward, pulled by the deep flexor tendon. Not all horses with laminitis develop founder in their hooves.

2. Horses who graze dew-covered grass are at greater risk of laminitis.


False. Theories linking the location and timing of grazing to laminitis in horses abound, and this is one of the most common. But research into fructan, a plant sugar thought to be a key trigger of laminitis in horses, suggests that the early morning hours might actually be the safest time for a horse to graze. Fructan levels in grasses are lower during the early morning hours, after a night when the minimum temperature was above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Fructan levels are highest in the late afternoon or evening on a sunny day.

3. Particular types of bedding can cause laminitis.

True. Exposure to shavings made from black walnut (Juglans nigra) trees is one of the well-documented laminitis causes. A chemical in black walnut called juglone, which can kill other plants and even earthworms, is the likely culprit that triggers laminitis. When exposed to black walnut shavings, horses typically begin to show laminitis symptoms within one or two days. Bedding containing as little as 20 percent black walnut shavings can induce laminitis in horses, so it’s important to learn what type of wood shavings you have before using them.

4. Very hard footing can precipitate founder.


True. Prolonged concussion against an unforgiving surface, such as asphalt, can lead to a condition commonly called “road founder.” The force of each step literally pulls the laminae from the hoof wall; this is one instance in which a horse can founder without having had laminitis. Simply trotting across a street will not cause road founder. Most horses who develop road founder have galloped on hard roads for miles or spent years working on asphalt without protective shoes on their hooves.

What causes laminitis? Can you keep a foundered horse sound?

Learn About Chronic Laminitis in Horses

It's easy to tell when a horse is affected by acute laminitis, but its devilish cousin chronic laminitis develops more slowly. Learn the symptoms and causes of laminitis, and how to keep a "foundered" horse sound when you download our FREE guide Learn About Chronic Laminitis in Horses: The risk, prevention, symptoms and treatment of this hoof disease.

Click the button below and we'll send you a download link to your copy of this FREE guide and we'll also notify you by email whenever we post new tips!

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5. A coffin bone that has rotated as a result of laminitis will eventually return to its original position.


False. Founder in horses is forever, and a hoof’s rotated coffin bone never regains its original position or attachments. However, corrective trimming and shoeing can help the hoof grow to match the new position of the coffin bone and form new attachments between the bone and hoof wall.

6. Particular dewormers and vaccines are known to cause laminitis.


False. There is no evidence linking any deworming product or vaccine to laminitis in horses. That said, laminitis can be a complication of a high fever or systemic illness, so a severe adverse reaction to any veterinary product could precipitate the condition. If you suspect your horse is having such a reaction, call your veterinarian immediately.

7. It’s important to learn what caused a case of laminitis before treating it.

False. The appropriate treatment will be virtually the same no matter what has caused the inflammation of laminitis or the physical damage of founder. Nonetheless, in some cases knowing what precipitated laminitis causes may help you to prevent a recurrence or protect other horses from black walnut shavings, moldy grain and other dangers.

8. There is a “right” way to shoe a horse with laminitis

False. If one tried-and-true shoeing or trimming method restored horses with laminitis to soundness, everyone would beusing it. The reality is that there are varied approaches to helping with laminitis in horses–from applying shoes backward to adding special pads to leaving the horse’s hooves barefoot–and no scientific studies have yet proven one to be more effective than the rest. The best treatment or combination of treatments for laminitis in horses depends on the specifics of the case, which can change over time.

What's the Difference Between Chronic and Acute Laminitis?

Learn About Chronic Laminitis in Horses

Do you know what causes slow-onset laminitis? Learn how chronic laminitis differs from acute laminitis with our FREE guide Learn About Chronic Laminitis in Horses: The risk, prevention, symptoms and treatment of this hoof disease.

Click the button below and we'll send you a download link to your copy of this FREE guide and we'll also notify you by email whenever we post new tips!

Please provide your name and email address to download this free guide.

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9. Laminitis occurs primarily in extremely fat horses and in ponies.

False. Risks for laminitis increase with obesity, and evidence suggests that certain bloodlines are more susceptible to laminitis in horses, but with enough metabolic stress, any horse regardless of size or breed can develop laminitis.

10. By the time a horse is lame, the damage of laminitis has been done.


True. The 24 to 48 hours between the event or conditions that precipitate laminitis and the point when it is evident that the horse is in pain are known as the “silent period.” Once a horse begins to exhibit discomfort from laminitis symptoms, the condition is impossible to reverse. One track of laminitis research involves investigating the complex metabolic mechanisms at work during the silent period so that one day we may be able to prevent them from triggering the cascade of events that leads to pain and permanent deformity of a horse’s hooves.

11. Clover and alfalfa are dangerous for horses who are susceptible to laminitis.

True. Clover and alfalfa contain relatively high levels of sugars and starch, both in pasture and as part of hay. These nutrients can start the chain of events that leads to digestive laminitis. Avoid giving clover or alfalfa to horses who are at an increased risk of laminitis, and check your fields periodically to make sure these plants have not appeared as volunteers.

12. Horses who have foundered are at an increased risk of another episode of laminitis.

True. A horse who has recovered from a bout of laminitis eventually grows new laminae that reattach the coffin bone to the hoof wall. However, those attachments are not as strong as the originals, and the horse will forever be at increased risk of foundering again. Also, many “new” cases of founder are simply an exacerbation of an earlier episode, which may have occurred unnoticed or when the horse had a different owner.

Amy Herdy
Amy Herdy
MyHorse Daily Managing Editor

Is Your Horse Just Sore? Or Is There Something More?

Learn About Chronic Laminitis in Horses

Laminitis is laminitis, right? Learn how to identify the signs of slow-onset, chronic laminits. Download our FREE guide Learn About Chronic Laminitis in Horses: The risk, prevention, symptoms and treatment of this hoof disease.

Click the button below and we'll send you a download link to your copy of this FREE guide and we'll also notify you by email whenever we post new tips!

Please provide your name and email address to download this free guide.

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