Equine Laminitis – No Foot No Horse

By Dr. Garrett Metcalf, DVM

Laminitis is probably by far the most devastating disease that a horse and horse owner will ever face. The definition of laminitis is nothing more than inflammation of the lamina or the tissue of the foot, but that does not describe the devastating pain and struggle that a horse faces with this disease. There are many sources of laminitis or foundering in horses. I will cover some of the most common causes, ways to avoid these causes and treatments. The foot is an amazing organ for the horse and it is resilient but at the same time very fragile. The equid foot has to endure nearly constant loads of daily locomotion but also endure very high levels of load during events such as racing, jumping and pulling. The tissue that holds the foot attached to the coffin bone is only a few millimeters thick but is remarkably strong.

The tissue looks like Velcro under a microscope and is very rigid but also at the same time allows the foot to flex, grow and expand. The metabolic energy and blood flow rate that feet require to withstand this load is incredibly high as well. The blood flow to the very farthest part of the horse is complex and important when addressing laminitis which will be discussed later.

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