Saturday, February 27, 2010

Horse Hoof Care – Recognizing Laminitis

Laminitis, also called Founder, can be a horse killer. Founder/Laminitis has come to commonly mean structural hoof problems involving a separation of the hoof sole from the hoof wall or a rotation of the bones in the hoof where the bones become closer to the bottom of the hoof. Imagine the soles of your boots separating from the rest of your shoe then your bare foot is touching the ground and you’ll get the idea. Very painful to the horse, founder will make a horse lame and may also be evident from fluid or pus appearing to exit from the coronet band or from the sole of the hoof where it connects to the hoof wall. Because the horse presents a lot of its weight on the front end (the front two legs) there is a lot of pressure exerted down into the coffin bone inside the hoof. See sketches below of normal and rotated coffin bone.

The most common cause of founder is over feeding high protein feed such as alfalfa or processed feed – this is usually called grain or hay founder. More reason to secure your stall gates and otherwise protect your hay from a horse getting into it. Most horses will eat and eat until the horse either colics or founder.

Other reasons for founder may be a hot horse drinking a large amount of water (water founder) or a horse jogging or loping on a hard surface with the result being severe concussion to the hooves – called road founder.

Founder can come on fast. A horse beginning to founder will be lame and often the hoof around the coronet band will feel hot. Not much you can, except for letting the horse stand intermittently in water to cool the hooves, this reduces inflammation but you should immediately call your Vet to look at your horse. The Vet may take X-Rays to determine if there is any rotation of the coffin bone. I have been called to look at many horses who symptom wise appear to be foundering, however a recently trimmed hoof that has had too much sole removed (called quicking the hoof), or a penetration into the sole by an object such as a thorn or nail can replicate initial founder symptoms.

Usually a horse that has founder will stand with their back feet up underneath themselves to reduce the weight on the front feet in which most founder occurs at least first. A horse with all four feet foundering will lie down for an extended period of time.

A horse who has chronic founder will often have rings around the hoof, called founder rings, which document that horse’s chronic founder.

Common treatment of founder usually includes your Vet and Farrier working on concert – X-rays, anti-inflammatory drugs and corrective shoeing, plus a special feed management with a low protein diet such as grass hay only.

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