Laminitis: Horse Disease
Continued from page 2

A final way to check for laminitis is to have a vet inject the horse with a local anesthetic to deaden the nerve going to the sole of the foot. If the lameness goes away, it's a good indication of laminitis, especially if the pain and lameness return after the local anesthetic wears off.

In some horses, and especially ponies, laminitis tends to reoccur. The most common sign of intermittent laminitis is uneven growth rings around the hoof, where new hoof wall has grown in to replace the separated layers.

Finally galloping down the homestretch of the Derby, Foolish Pleasure slowly pulled ahead and streaked across the finish line almost two lengths ahead of Avatar. The champion horse would go on to become one of the most victorious stallions in history, winning almost $1.2 million. After his racing career;, he was used as a stud horse and eventually retired to a large ranch in Wyoming.

Prevention and Treatment

While mild cases of laminitis often respond to treatment, moderate or severe cases can be extremely frustrating to deal with. When the last bone of the digit, encased in the hoof, begins to rotate through the sole of the foot, treatment options are few.

The good news is that laminitis can usually be prevented, a strategy concerned horse owners should dutifully employ. First, avoid giving large feedings of grain and deny horses access to grain bins. While an extra helping or two (eating another horse's ration, for instance) will not cause problems, binge eating will. Grain overload usually occurs when horses break into the grain shed and eat an entire garbage can or sackful of grain. Just one such incident can cause laminitis.

Second, never put horses on lush, green pasture without transitioning them gradually, as a-single sudden change to such feeding ground can bring on the disease. Instead, start by letting horses onto the pasture for an hour a day and slowly but surely, over a two week period, work them up to full time. Dryer pastures found in the West usually do not present a problem, unless a significant spring rainfall causes lush growth of new grasses; here, again, go for the slow transition.

Cases of laminitis caused by grain overload can often be headed off by treating the horse with a mineral oil drench. A flexible plastic tube is threaded through the horse's nose into the stomach (another job for your veterinarian) and a gallon of mineral oil is poured down a funnel, where it hastens along the contents of the stomach and intestines before they can be absorbed. The stomach can also sometimes be emptied by putting several liters of water down the tube and siphoning off its contents.

But getting back to prevention, do not work horses hard on pavement or other hard surfaces. (Dairy cows kept on concrete are susceptible to laminitis, too, and will show a marked decrease in milk production.) Do not allow horses to drink large amounts of ice-cold water at one time. Avoid using black walnut shavings as bedding and do not use beet tops as feed. Lastly, be careful when treating with steroids, because high doses over a prolonged period can lead to the conditions that cause laminitis.

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