Looking for early signs of laminitis

Laminitis is a painful and life-threatening condition most commonly affecting the front feet of horses, ponies and donkeys.

 Those animals most at risk are native breeds, the overweight and the elderly.

 Because of the high incidence of cases that we have seen this year and the severity of the disease, there has been a national awareness campaign called “Talk About Laminitis” (TAL).

 The aim of the campaign is to help our understanding of how the disease develops and therefore what we, as horse owners, can do to prevent our animals from developing laminitis.

 Although eating grass can trigger the onset of laminitis it is now known that 90% of all cases are caused by an under lying hormonal (endocrine) disease. Equine Cushings Disease (PPID) and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) are the two most common hormone disorders of horses and ponies.

 Recent advances in our understanding of laminitis have changed our approach to the diagnosis and treatment of the problem.

 The results of recent extensive laboratory testing schemes have shown that Cushings is no longer a disease of the elderly horse, but can affect horses from 10 years upwards.

 Cushings Disease and Equine Metabolic Syndrome can be easily diagnosed with blood tests. It is essential to reach the correct diagnosis as early as possible in the disease process, to allow the most appropriate treatment to be implemented and give the best chance of a successful outcome.

 In addition to laminitis, other clinical signs associated with Cushings Disease are the development of an abnormal coat, ranging from mild changes in coat shedding right through to a full, long, curly overgrown coat. Other indicators include abnormal fat distribution including fat bulging above the eyes, a pot belly, excessive sweating, increased appetite, increased drinking and urination, poor performance, repeated episodes of laminitis, recurring infections (eg sinusitis) and loss of top line.

 Equine Metabolic Syndrome shares some similar physiological mechanisms with Type II Diabetes in humans, and is characterised in horses and ponies by being overweight and/or having abnormal fat distribution. Therefore this disorder can occur in normal or even underweight animals that have abnormal fat deposits.

2. Insulin resistance and having high blood insulin levels (a hormone that helps to regulate

blood sugar).

3. Laminitis which can range from recurrent mild episodes to severe laminitis that persists or

recurs despite good management and veterinary treatment.

In summary it is essential to allow your veterinary surgeon to carry out blood tests in the early stages

of laminitis in order to pin point any underlying cause so that treatment is more likely to be

successful.