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Laminitis (Foundering)

Buckeye Nutrition

In order to eliminate the onset of laminitis, we must look at the most common circumstances that precede this disease. Most cases of laminitis cases can be avoided with proper management.

1.) Diet rich in soluble carbohydrate (ie; rich spring grass, corn, etc.) - Laminitis often occurs in the spring when horses are turned out after a long winter of being stalled. When you turn out your horses in the spring, only allow them an hour or two each day and gradually allow them to work up to being out all day. The richness in the grass is a “shock” to their system and won’t be a factor if allowed to gradually get used to the spring grass.

2.) Obesity/overeating (excess of an incorrect diet) - Proper balance is vital. We do not recommend a feeding program that consists of 50% or more grain. This can cause not only be a cause of laminitis, but also interrupts normal gut function and may cause colic and ulcers.

3.) Toxaemia - Exposure to any toxin that would cause restricted blood flow. Your veterinarian can provide information on these toxins.

4.) Trauma - Overworking, abnormal weight bearing on one leg more than the others, injury.

5.) Drug related - Some long-term administration of drugs can cause the disease (check out the long-acting corticosteroids), some vaccination and worming programs can also be a factor.

6.) Pituitary cancer - common in animals over the age of 15, with a tumor resulting in abnormal hair coat, diabetes, weight loss, ravenous appetite and laminitis.

Some things to look for if you suspect laminitis are reluctance to walk. In severe cases the animal won't get up, often confused with colic or azoturia (tying up). If the animal will walk and lands on the heels of the feet first this is a tell-tale sign that the laminitis is more severely affecting the front of the hoof than at the heels. Oftentimes, there is pain when applying pressure over the sole and sometimes around the coronary band. If the horse walks flat-footed and slaps their feet down, this is a sign of an acute founder (a.k.a.: sinker) and only have a few hours to get expert veterinary attention if they are to have a chance of survival.


Laminitis is an emergency. Expert veterinary attention should be sought immediately. Sometimes surgical treatment offers the best chance of success, however a combination of medical attention, proper shoeing and management / nutrition can prove successful.

In addition to your veterinarian’s treatment program, Buckeye recommends feeding Grass hay and Gro’N Win (feed ˝ pound more per day than what is recommended) to the foundered horse. We do not recommend feeding any additional grain as this will add calories, which is counterproductive at this time. While the foundered horse is healing, it is important that the lowest calorie diet is given to keep additional weight off the feet, while still providing the minerals and vitamins necessary to maintain optimal health.

Offering a soft floor, such as a deep bed of shavings, is usually recommended. There is debate as to whether or not the horse should be isolated. Buckeye agrees that unless the horse is prone to injury or injuring others, or has a severe case of laminitis, confinement may not be necessary.

Reprinted with permission from Buckeye Nutrition