Laminitis: Horse Disease

Continued from page 4

In addition to a sand stall and anti-inflammatory medications, corrective trimming and shoeing can often help horses with laminitis. Often the toe is trimmed very short to reduce the pain from the pull of the tendon on the backside of the foot. Protective pads, known as lily pads, and elevated heels sometimes work to reduce pain and allow the hoof to grow back normally. Supportive shoes can take pressure off of the frog of the foot. Only highly experienced farriers should be consulted for corrective shoeing.

Foolish Pleasure's owners wanted to do everything possible. Corrective shoes of different types, electrotherapy and massage were attempted without success. The veterinarians and technicians supervising Foolish Pleasure's care began to openly discuss the need to consider euthanasia, but the owners, who had returned to their ranch in Wyoming, were determined to help their horse. Salvage surgery involving cutting the deep digital flexor tendon was considered but had a low possibility of success. A prosthetic foot had been developed but was still highly experimental. High doses of NSAIDS continued to be given, until that morning when the stallion was found thrashing in agony in his stall.

Because the disease is so painful and crippling, euthanasia is a common treatment for laminitis. Mercifully; it was finally provided for this famous horse as he lay on the surgery table, his abdomen contaminated with foodstuffs from his ruptured stomach. Laminitis had claimed another victim, despite every possible treatment given to the patient.

Gratefully, we all learned much from Foolish Pleasure's disease and death, especially about the severity of the side effects of many of the drugs commonly used to treat laminitis. Severe cases are usually hopeless and treatments may cause things to get much worse for the patient. In cases like this one, timely euthanasia is the most humane treatment.

Become versed at recognizing the signs of laminitis so your veterinarian can provide eddy treatment. And hope that, unlike the once triumphant Foolish Pleasure, none of your horses should ever have to endure this debilitating and often fatal condition.

Risk Factors for Laminitis

Grain overload

Sudden change to lush, green pastures

Working on hard surfaces

Consumption of large quantities of very cold water

Ingestion of black walnut shavings or bent tops

High or prolonged doses of anti-inflammatory medications


Mild, moderate and severe cases

Sawhorse stance

Shifting from foot to foot

Reluctance to move

Moderate and severe cases

Pounding pulses above feet

Sole of foot painful to hoof testers

Evidence of irregular hoof growth rings (previous laminitis)

Heat felt at coronary band

Severe cases

Unwilling to stand

Loss of appetite

Separation of hoof wall from sole of foot

Rotation of toe bone (P3) seen on X-rays


Immediate treatment

Exercise ten minutes out of every hour

Sand stall

Stomach lavage and/or mineral oil treatment (within several hours)

Ongoing treatment

Sand stall


NSAIDS (Banamine or phenylbutazone)

Blood vessel dilators (acepromazine, isoxyprine or nitroglycerine)

Anticoagulants (Heparin or Aspirin)

Gastrointestinal protectants (Cimetidine, Ranitidine or Misoprostol)

Long-term treatment for severe cases

Corrective trimming or shoeing

Salvage surgery (deep digital flexor tenectomy)

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