Treatments for laminitis vary according to the severity of the condition
Symptoms of the primary illness will be present along with lameness - usually in the front feet. On occasion, all four feet will be affected. When the forelimbs are affected, the horse will shift weight to the back legs, with the front legs extended. This is the typical "founder stance". In response to the pain associated with the condition, the horse may refuse to stand or walk. In the early stages, identifying the condition may require turning the horse in a circle, preferably on a hard surface. An affected horse's gait is typically short with rapid foot placement, hence the term "walking on eggshells".
Laminitis is a disease that is avoidable when proper horse management is practiced consistently.
Horse owners wishing to prevent the condition should observe the following:
The following risk factors exist for laminitis and founder:
The digital laminae are responsible for suspension of the axial skeleton of the animal within the hoof and dissipate concussive forces during locomotion. There are about 600 pairs of interleaved laminae: the epidermal laminae attached to the hoof wall and the dermal laminae attached to the coffin bone. Laminitis results from a compromise of this interaction, the mechanism of which remains unclear and is currently the subject of much research. Laminitis literally means inflammation of the laminae, and while it remains controversial whether this is the primary mechanism of disease, evidence of inflammation occurs very early in some instances of the disease.
At present, three primary hypotheses exist for the mechanism of laminar failure. The first is classical inflammation, which includes infiltration of potentially destructive white blood cells. The second is ischemia-reperfusion injury. Researchers have observed both decreased and increased blood flow to the laminae. As ischemia-reperfusion injury reconciles both observations, it has received much attention in past years. Finally, metabolic derangements that lead to impaired cell function and proteolysis enzyme activation has been proposed to be the primary mechanism for development of laminitis.
In laminitis cases, a clear distinction must be made between the acute situation, starting at the onset of a laminitis attack and a chronic situation. A chronic situation can be either stable or unstable. The difference between acute, chronic, stable and unstable is of vital importance, when choosing a treatment protocol.
Laminitis can be mechanical or systemic, unilateral (on one foot) or bilateral (on two feet) or may also occur in all four feet.
Systemic laminitis follows from some metabolic disturbance within the horse, from a multitude of possible causes, and results in the partial dysfunction of the epidermal and dermal laminae, which attach the distal phalanx to the hoof wall. With this dysfunction, the deep digital flexor tendon (which attaches to the semi-lunar crest of the distal phalanx and serves to flex the foot) is able to pull the bone away from the wall, instead of flexing the foot. When the coffin bone is pulled away from the hoof wall, the remaining laminae will tear. This may lead to abscesses, within the hoof capsule, that can be severe and very painful.
Systemic laminitis is usually bilateral and is most common in the front feet, although it sometimes affects the hind feet.
Mechanical laminitis or "mechanical founder" does not start with laminitis or rotation of the distal phalanx. Instead, the wall is pulled away from the bone or lost, as a result of external influences. Mechanical founder can occur when a horse habitually paws, is ridden or driven on hard surfaces or loses laminar function, due to injury or pathologies affecting the wall.
Mechanical founder can be either unilateral or bilateral and can affect both front and hind feet.
Use of the Outlaw shoe in any phase of laminitis can improve the pain level and chances of recovery.