Laminitis in Horses – What can you do?

Many times when our animals are sick it can be hard to know what to do – how to feed them, how to help them, and how to make them feel better. With laminitis, the main thing you can do as a horse owner is to take steps to prevent it from happening. But if your horse does fall victim to this disease, knowing the appropriate diet and way to feed will help with the healing process.

Prevention of Laminitis
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “The best offense is a good defense.” That is certainly true with the hoof disease laminitis – here are some simple steps to improve your defense and help prevent this disease:

  • Keep concentrate meals at 5 lbs. or less to avoid overwhelming the capacity of the upper GI tract (prevent starch leakage to the hind-gut)
  • Restrict turn out time for those not used to spring grasses. This helps control intake of grasses that are high in sugar.
  • Sugar content (fructans) in grasses may be higher mid day & afternoon. Time turnout in the evening, nighttime and early morning hours

Closely monitor ponies and older horses, as they are often more prone to acute and/or chronic laminitis:

  • Restrict turn out time
  • Utilize a grazing muzzle when appropriate

Feeding the Laminitic Horse
For horses that are prone to bouts of  laminitis or  who are recovering from an episode with the disease, the overall diet is very important.

1. Feed a low-calorie, controlled carbohydrate feed

Turning horses out to pasture at the right time of day may help prevent laminitis

2. Feed smaller meals on a more frequent schedule

3. To aid in damaged hoof repair and growth, look for feeds that also contain guaranteed levels of:

For the laminitic horse, balance is key – once tissue damage has occurred it is imperative to provide a well balanced diet to encourage repair and healing. While it is important to manage calories closely, particularly calories from starches and sugar, we also have to strive to balance the overall diet for the best result.  Understanding the nutrient content of the hay your horse is eating is important to determine the nutrient content of the total overall diet (hay plus concentrate). It is a great idea to consider having your hay tested and factoring those results into your feeding program.

5 thoughts on “Laminitis in Horses – What can you do?

    • Hi Linda – If your horse is having problems urinating or showing discomfort your first step should be to call your veterinarian. While horses don’t have problems with kidney stones as often as other domestic animals do, they can still develop issues with the urinary tract and bladder. Often times these issues can get serious very quickly. A horse that is prone to stones in the kidneys or bladder may not tolerate a diet that is high in calcium or one that is high in phosphorous, as these can aggravate the condition. To prevent these problems in horses that are prone to developing stones, feed a well balanced diet that does not include excessive calcium or phosphorous. Feedstuffs that are high in calcium can be forages like alfalfa and clover, while items high in phosphorous can be certain grains and brans (rice bran and wheat bran are common examples).
      Thanks! Tiffany T.

  1. I have an older horse that is way under weight. She was given to us because she has no one to care for her. She is 25 years old or thereabouts. We’ve only had her a couple of days and she’s been checked out by the Vet. Supposedly she is in good health, but today she was putting on her halter and she spit out at least a cup of water (but was not near water or had not drank). She did this twice within a couple of minutes of each other. Can you tell me what might be wrong with her and what we can do to stop this?

    • The horse may be expelling fluid that is not straight water. Potentially could be a guttural pouch problem, an overactive salivary gland, ergoalkaloid-slaframine toxicity (slobbers) from extensive red clover ingestion, or could be diverticulitis (formation of a pouch or extended area where fluid/water accumulates and where pressure from halter causes it to be pressed out). Please consult with your local vet for an additional exam to identify source.

      Regards,
      Roy

  2. Pingback: Feeding Tips for Horses with Laminitis | The Feed Room

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