What is laminitis, and how can it be prevented or treated?

Laminitis (also termed founder) is inflammation of the laminae of the foot - the soft tissue structures that attach the coffin or pedal bone of the foot to the hoof wall. The inflammation and damage to the laminae causes extreme pain and leads to instability of the coffin bone in the hoof. In more severe cases it can lead to complete separation of and rotation of the pedal bone within the hoof wall.

Laminitis is a crippling condition which can be fatal in severe cases. Once a horse has had an episode of laminitis, they are particularly susceptible to future episodes. Laminitis can be managed but not cured which is why prevention is so important. 

Initial (acute) symptoms

Chronic symptoms

These are found in cases where the inflammation has existed for some time and structural changes are now evident:


Over-feeding fat ponies is a very common cause, particularly during the spring months after recent rain. The soluble carbohydrate content increases in grasses and clovers after rain. When ingested, this causes metabolic changes that result in altered blood flow to the laminae of the foot.

Other causes include:

Risk Group

Fat ponies and their cross-breeds are most predisposed to laminitis. However, any horse suffering a condition mentioned above may also be affected. Horses which show signs of previous episodes of laminitis (e.g. hoof rings or slipper-shaped feet) are predisposed to future episodes because they have fewer healthy laminae remaining to support the pedal bone. Spring is when most episodes of laminitis due to over-feeding occur


If you suspect your horse has laminitis, seek veterinary attention immediately. Depending on the severity of the clinical signs, your veterinarian will probably wish to take some radiographs (X-rays) of your horse’s feet to determine the degree of rotation of the pedal bone within the hoof. This will provide your veterinarian with a bench-mark against which to assess response to treatment and the necessary information from which to work with your farrier to achieve the best possible outcome.


The key to a successful outcome is early diagnosis and an aggressive approach to treatment, together with a good relationship between you, your vet and your farrier:


For more information see:  http://www.equiculture.com.au/horse-care-and-welfare.html

Article ID: 461
Last updated: 10 Mar, 2016
Revision: 2
Sport, entertainment and working animals -> Horse care -> What is laminitis, and how can it be prevented or treated?