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
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:
- Sulfur bearing amino acids such as methionine and threonine
- Organic trace mineral complexes (copper and zinc)
- Antioxidants such as selenium and vitamin E
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.