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Laminitis | Signs & Treatment




The classic laminitic stance – the horse rocking back on their hind legs to take the weight off their front feet.


Photo credit: The Royal Veterinary College



Three Stages of Laminitis:

1) Subclinical laminitis happens when minor changes within the hoof are beginning to take place, but the horse is yet to show, or is showing extremely subtle signs.

2) Acute laminitis is when it first develops, and the signs are associated with pain. Signs can be subtle so they may be mistaken for other issues. Knowing what is normal for your horse is important as any subtle signs of laminitis, as shown above, can be identified sooner. The earlier laminitis is noticed and vet advice and treatment provided, the less damage will be caused.

3) Chronic laminitis is usually where the horse has had many episodes of laminitis causing physical changes to the hooves or when the pedal bone has moved. Horses with chronic laminitis can be at a high risk of future episodes and may still show signs of pain, but can also include:

Changes to the shape and angle of the hoof chronic laminitis
Rings on the outer hoof wall Diverging hoof rings
A groove/indent just above the coronet band Horse Hoof
Bruising on the sole of the foot, usually just in front of the frog Solar haem

Photo Credit: Kieran O'Brien/Penbode Equine Vets, part of VetPartners family.


Recognising laminitis and reducing the risk

Dee Pollard presents 'Recognising Laminitis and Reducing the Risk'. Dee is a Postdoctoral research scientist in Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance.


What should I do if I suspect my horse has laminitis?

Call your vet immediately for advice as laminitis should always be considered an emergency. Horses need to be treated as soon as possible to reduce their pain. Don’t force your horse to walk if they are resisting. Your horse is likely to be in a lot of pain and there is a risk of causing more damage to the laminae. If your horse is able to walk, carefully move them to a nearby stable or shelter. If shavings are available set up a deep bed as this will provide:

  • SUPPORT especially under the hoof, frog and pedal bone.
  • CUSHIONING to support the horse’s weight when standing.

Wait for your vet to arrive to offer further advice.


Your vet is likely to prescribe painkillers and advise a period of box rest with a deep bed of shavings. Once the pain has initially been managed, your horse’s hooves may have to be trimmed by your farrier to relieve any pressure and sole or frog supports fitted.


Your vet is likely to work closely with your farrier, as remedial farriery is a big part of the management of a chronic laminitic. The aim is to:

  • Help relieve pressure
  • Stabilise and maintain correct foot balance
  • Rehabilitate the foot.

Options for pain management and alternative treatment options may be suggested by your vet. In serious cases of laminitis (acute or chronic) where the prognosis is poor, euthanasia is often recommended to prevent further suffering.

Further Reading

Pollard, D., Wylie, C.E., Newton, J.R., Verheyen, K.L.P. (2018) Incidence and clinical signs of owner-reported equine laminitis in a cohort of horses and ponies in Great Britain. Equine Veterinary Journal. 51(5), pp. 587-594

Pollard, D., Wylie, C.E., Verheyen, K.L.P., Newton, J.R. (2017) Assessment of horse owners’ ability to recognise equine laminitis: A cross‐sectional study of 93 veterinary diagnosed cases in Great Britain. Equine Veterinary Journal. 59(6), pp. 759-766.


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