Laminitis is a painful condition that affects the horse’s hooves. It can related to a variety of factors including, increased sugar levels in the horse’s blood stream. Overweight horses and horses with conditions such as Cushings or Equine Metabolic Syndrome are more at risk in the summer as the grass grows and has a higher carbohydrate content.
Spotting the signs early will help to improve the outcome for your horse, these can include
1. Hot hooves
Heat is a sign of inflammation. If your horse’s hooves are warm to touch then it can be a sign that something isn’t right. Any inflammation or swelling in the hoof can be really painful for horses because the hoof doesn’t stretch so there is no where for the swelling to go. It’s a bit like wearing shoes a size too small.
2. Increased digital pulse
The digital pulse is the term for the pulse around the horse’s hooves. It is taken just below the fetlock on the outside of the leg. A raised pulse here will tell you that something isn’t right in the hooves. It increases because swelling in the hoof will restrict blood flow and the heart will need to work harder to get blood into the hoof, leading to an increased pulse.
3. Raised Pulse and Respiration
If the horse is in pain in any way, their breathing and pulse will increase. This is because their body is under stress, think about yourself if you have to walk with a blister it’s going to feel harder to keep going and you are going to breath faster to cope with the pain. It’s the same with horses. If you notice any of these other signs with increased breathing or pulse it’s a sign that something isn’t right. If you are unsure about what to be looking for when checking vital signs check out my free online course which talks you through it HERE
4. Short stiff steps
Due to the pain in their hooves, horses will shorten their stride so they don’t have to put as much pressure onto their hooves when they move. There can also be other changes in their movement such as a reluctance to turn or shifting their weight from side to side.
5. Shifting weight to the heels
The typical laminitis stance is a horse standing with their weight pushed back onto their heels. The amount of pain they’re in will determine how dramatic their posture is. The reason they stand like this is because as laminitis progresses the pedal bone in the hoof becomes unstable and starts to drop, this causes pressure in the horse’s toe. By pushing the weight to the heels, the horse is trying to relieve this pressure.
If you spot any of these signs and are concerned that your horse may have laminitis, the best thing to do is to call your vet. They will tell you the best thing to do to keep your horse comfortable of they are worried about them. This usually involves bringing them into a stable, if they’re out, and putting them on a deep bed of something they can’t eat such as shavings. Catching laminitis early makes a huge difference to the outcome for your horse so don’t hesitate to ask for advice if you’re concerned.