Some of the more subtle signs of laminitis can be easily missed but being able to spot an attack as early as possible maximises your horse or pony’s chance of recovery. On the other hand, prevention is always better than cure and making sure you can identify the signs of chronic laminitis will help you to adapt your management and prevent future episodes.
Signs of acute laminitis (sudden/ initial attack) include:
- Weight shifting
- Changes in gait – shorter stride, ‘pottery’ movement
- Reluctance to move or turn
- Abnormal stance. Most horse owners will have seen pictures of the ‘classic laminitic stance’ adopted in an attempt to relieve pressure on the forefeet but how the horse or pony stands will depend on the severity of laminitis and which feet are affected. In fact, if all four feet are affect the horse or pony may stand normally
- A strong/ bounding digital pulse
- Hot feet
- Signs of pain such as sweating and increased pulse, temperature and respiration rates (which may be mistaken for signs of colic)
- Refusal to move or stand in severe cases
Tip: Although most common in the forefeet, laminitis can affect only one foot, all four feet or the hind feet only.
Subtle signs can be easily missed!
In mild cases, signs of lameness or discomfort can be hard to spot and may be as subtle as a slight shortening of stride, mild stiffness, ‘footiness’ on stoney ground or reluctance to turn on hard ground. These cases may not respond to hoof testers and a change in stance is unlikely.
Although hot feet can be a sign of laminitis, they are not always the most reliable indicator. Hoof temperature fluctuates and if your horse has been stood outside in the height of summer, hot feet is not necessarily a concern. However hot feet for prolonged periods or on a cold day and/ or heat in one or two feet only should raise suspicion.
Being able to identify signs of chronic laminitis is key to successful management. These include:
- Abnormal hoof growth, in particular faster growth at the heel than the toe
- Laminitic hoof rings which are often wider at the heel than the toe
- Thin and/ or bruised soles
- Convex or dropped soles
- Bruising or blood in the white line
- Stretched white line
- Cracked and or ‘flared’ hoof walls
- Change in the hoof wall angle
- Rotation and/ or sinking of the pedal bone (shown by x-ray)
For advice on managing horses and ponies prone to laminitis contact the SPILLERS Care-line on 01908 226626