Note for Horse and Pony Owners:

This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your horse or pony is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate.

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Laminitis is a painful condition of the feet that requires urgent veterinary attention. It is also known as "founder"

e underlying disorder in laminitis is a circulatory problem within the foot. As a result the laminae - which are soft tissue structures that lie between the bone and the wall of the hoof lose their structure and unnatural movement of the bone within the hoof can occur. In the most severe cases the bone can even perforate through the sole of the foot .

There are many primary causes which lead to the local circulatory disturbances in the foot, and then to laminitis include :

  • Obesity
  • High carbohydrate rations - increases likelihood of an acidic environment in the gut lumen which leads to breakdown of Gram-negative bacteria and release of endotoxins into the bloodstream
  • Any other disease that results in toxin release into the bloodstream, for example :
    • Septicaemia
    • Kidney disease
    • Liver disease
    • Colic - due to increased bacterial growth in the gut
    • Retained placenta in mares
  • Trauma to the feet due to road exercise or over-trimmed hooves
  • Inactivity eg following a fracture
  • Hyperadrenocorticism 

Breed Occurrence
Laminitis is most common in horses fed grain eg performance horses, and obese show horses or "pet" horses


Horses with laminitis are in pain as demonstrated by some of the signs of the disease, including  :

If the bone drops through the floor of the foot infection can be a serious complication


Diagnosis is based upon a veterinary physical examination and sometimes Xrays to determine the position of the bone within the hoof (rotated or dropped)

Treatment includes: 

  • Pain relief
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Reduce grain intake - under veterinary supervision mineral oils can be used to reduce grain digestion
  • Reduce body weight if obese
  • Corrective shoeing - bar shoes for support, and wedge pads can be used to reduce deep digital flexor tendon pull
  • Corrective hoof trimming


Ensure the horse/pony :

  • Is fed a balanced ration
  • Does not get excessive amounts of grain
  • Does not get excessive amounts of lush grass - especially in spring/early summer
  • Maintains optimum body weight - does not become overweight
  • Gets regular exercise
  • Gets regular foot care


Good for most cases, but poor in severe and advanced cases


Updated October 2013