Laminitis: Horse Disease

Continued from page 3

Down the Home Stretch

In November of 1994, almost 20 years after winning the Kentucky Derby, Foolish Pleasure was brought to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University. He had developed severe laminitis in all four feet and could barely be loaded off of the trailer. When he walked, his legs trembled with the excruciating pain.

Once the signs of laminitis are present, efforts are directed toward reducing pain and inflammation and improving blood flow to the hoof. Immediate veterinary care is needed, but while horse owners are waiting for the vet to arrive they can help out by exercising the animal lightly for about ten minutes out of every hour and placing the horse in a stall bedded with sand or on very soft ground.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) such as Banamine or phenylbutazone are the mainstay of pain control. Drugs that improve blood flow to the foot by dilating arteries and reducing the possibilities of clots are also used (these include acepromazine, heparin and isoxyprine). Recently nitroglycerin, which has the ability to dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow, has also shown promise as a treatment.

Unfortunately, Banamine and phenylbutazone (commonly referred to as "bute") are well known for their tendency to cause ulcers as a side effect. These medications affect different horses to varying degrees, depending on individual susceptibility. In one horse, ulcers might develop after a week on Banamine at .5 milligrams per pound of body weight daily, while another horse could go several months without developing ulcers. As a precaution, some kind of acid-blocking drug (i.e., Zantac, Cimetidine) is generally used to counter this problem.

Foolish Pleasure was placed in a sand stall, which allowed his hooves to move

freely and decreased the pressure on his soles. He was immediately started on an aggressive treatment regimen including Banamine, isoxyprine and phenylbutazone. A stomach and intestinal protectant was given to reduce the possibility of damage caused by the anti-inflammatories.

Despite all treatment efforts, the pain was so extreme that he spent most of his hours lying on his side in the stall. As a result, he soon develop oozing pressure sores on his hips and shoulders. Antibiotics were introduced to help control infection. His owner decorated the stall with the ribbons, plaques and awards that the 22-year-old stallion had collected in his younger days.

Visitors and hospital workers would walk by the stall to admire the awards, only to see this magnificent horse laid out lifelessly in his stall. During the infrequent times when Foolish Pleasure was standing, he would eat and drink quickly, shying his weight constantly because his feet could barely endure the pressure. Walking was too painful, so he never left his stall. Despite his pain, Foolish Pleasure always seemed to appreciate human contact and took his medications without balking.

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