In my opinion, the most important factors in preventing your horse, or pony, developing laminitis are Regular exercise and Regular foot trimming.

If your horse or pony has had laminitis previously then I believe that regular foot trimming still applies but consideration will have to be made as to the amount and type of exercise depending on the stability of the pedal bone in the foot. (See When to walk and when not to walk)

There are some conditions that we should be able to prevent by avoidance of the causative factor.

Make sure there can be no access to the feed bins. This can prevent accidental grain overload, but unfortunately it can still occur due to overfeeding by an owner.

Make sure that Black Walnut is not included in wood shavings for bedding (As far as I know, we do not have black walnut in the UK but certainly has been reported in USA).

If corticosteroids are not injected then they cannot cause laminitis.

The only technique that has been demonstrated to prevent clinical laminitis is with cryotherapy. (See Pathogenesis)

It has been shown that if horses are stood in ice slurry up to the knees and hocks that clinical laminitis can be prevented. Van Epps A.W. and Pollitt C.C. - Equine laminitis: cryotherapy reduces the severity of clinical laminitis and lamellar histopathology 7 days after experimental induction with oligofructose. 2005 Poster Presentation Third International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot.

This could be used to try to prevent laminitis following infections or colic, gut surgery or if the horse has got into the feed room. The two problems with this are: knowing when animals are likely to develop laminitis and the other is the practical side of doing it

If there is no means of standing the horse in ice slurry then it is possible that application of frog supports may reduce the effects of laminitis if it does develop.

There are some causes of laminitis that we should be able to avoid by management.

Laminitis following "non-structural carbohydrate" overload (starch, excess sucrose, and fructans) should be preventable by restricting grain feed and grazing, and Founderguard can be used to help prevent laminitis from this cause occurring.

Don’t over-feed hard feed, restrict access to lush grass, and limit grazing on sunny but cold days as found particularly in the spring and autumn (muzzle.) (See Fructans and Metabolic Syndrome)

Founderguard can be fed daily to reduce the likelihood of laminitis following overfeeding grain or grass in chronic laminitics

Founderguard is a supplement containing the antibiotic virginiamycin which is not absorbed through the intestines. This has been used to control the proliferation of bacteria in the large bowel as an aid to the prevention laminitis following over feeding of grain but can also be used in horses and pony to protect against laminitis from overeating of fructans. [This product is not licensed in the UK but can be imported from Australia by applying to DEFRA for a Special Treatment Authorisation (STA).]

Founderguard is ineffective as a treatment for laminitis and must have been fed for a period of time before it will be effective.

Prompt removal of retained placenta following foaling will help to prevent the occurrence of metritis and laminitis that can follow it.

The choice of antibiotic to treat metritis and other infections could be critical, but we still have to identify all the bacteria that can trigger laminitis. Bacterial culture from an infection and using a suitable antibiotic to treat it is the best we can do at the moment.

If horses are extremely lame on one limb, we must do all that we can to ease the pressure on the other, dependant, leg.

This may even occur in bad cases of laminitis, when one foot is bad initially, the other may then collapse due to the increased strain on it.

We must give as much pain relief as is safe and support or bandage the affected leg, hopefully to allow the horse to be able to shift weight off the dependant foot.

It may not be possible but, if one can, application of a frog support to the dependant foot may help.

Equine Metabolic Syndrome EMS(Insulin Resistance) and Cushing's Disease CD are likely to have a similar pathogenesis and both may only become evident following an episode of laminitis. There are very many overweight and old hairy horses and ponies that have not developed laminitis but may still have EMS or CD but controlled sufficiently to prevent it.

Horses with EMS and CD will probably be more prone to developing laminitis from any other cause due to the likely weakening of the epidermal basal cell bonds. (See Metabolic Syndrome)

We should be able to control EMS by regularly exercising the horse and restricting its feed.

More specifically, horses should be fed for their individual needs relative to the amount and type of work they are doing and how they are managed.

It is important to monitor the weight of your horse to ensure that it is maintained in suitable condition and not overweight. (1)(2)(3)

The same may well apply to those suffering from Cushing's Disease but they may also be helped by giving pergolide or periactin.

Often, when a horse develops laminitis, there are several factors that combine to cause the problem. Delayed and inappropriate feet trimming and shoeing is often involved.

The feet should be trimmed regularly, preferably keeping the heel low and toe short, particularly in chronic cases.

If nothing else, remember Regular Exercise and Regular Foot Trimming

(1) Condition scoring and weight estimation: practical tools Dr P.Harris and H.Gee Veterinary Review Nov. 2005 Issue 109 pp15-18 Condition scoring and weight estimation: practical tools - 2 Dr P.Harris and H.Gee Veterinary Review Dec. 2005 Issue 110 pp41-43 Weight control and management: practical tools Dr P.Harris and I.Stewart Veterinary Review Jan. 2006 Issue 111 pp18-20

(2) Body condition scoring and weight estimation of horses C.L.Carroll and P.J.Huntingdon Equine Vet. Journal Vol. 20 pp41-45

(3) Condition Scoring

Note: Information upon the prevention of laminitis can also be found on my downloads page

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