Laminitis can be caused by many factors, including grain overload, a retained placenta, a protein-rich alfalfa diet, colic, and acute or chronic trauma of the foot, writes Les Sellnow in the November edition of The Horse. This potentially fatal foot problem is commonly known as founder. "The very nature of laminitis implies that in most cases, the horse owner has waited too long before calling the veterinarian," said Dr. Gunda Gamble, an equine practitioner from Wyoming. "It is a condition that, once observed, should be treated immediately. Failure to do so puts the horse at risk of permanent damage to the foot, rendering it irreversibly lame." The symptoms, according to Gamble, include a stance with the front feet pointing forward as the horse attempts to relieve pressure and pain by placing more weight on its hindquarters, painful response to hoof testers, and, in serious cases, a horse that is unable to walk and lies down in an effort to relieve pressure. Gamble discussed the following scenarios along with possible treatments:
Grain overload or protein-rich alfalfa diet. This can cause excessive fermentation of carbohydrates, with the end result being vasoconstriction in the foot. Treatment would take the form of oiling the horse via a nasogastric tube and maintaining it on low doses of Banamine.
Retained placenta. If the placenta is retained three to four hours after a mare gives birth, a veterinarian should be called to remove it, flush the uterus, and initiate treatment that would include the administration of antibiotics, cortisone, and Banamine.
Colic. "Any colic," said Gamble, "that has progressed and has allowed gut absorption of toxins should prompt the owner to call a veterinarian for the sake of treating the colic and preventing founder."
Foot trauma. This can take the form of acute trauma--such as a stone bruise or being ridden or worked on a hard surface--or chronic trauma--such as that which occurs in racing and other competitive events. In either case, the trauma can result in compromised blood flow to the distal limb. Improper trimming, such as a sudden change in angle or quicking, also can bring on trauma that can result in laminitis. Treatment includes administering analgesics, padding the foot, paring out a sole abscess, and allowing proper drainage. Proper trimming and shoeing are musts.