How Well Can Horse Owners Recognize Laminitis?

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Would you recognize the signs of laminitis in your horse? Research published last month in the Equine Veterinary Journal compared cases of owner-reported laminitis with veterinarian-confirmed cases to determine if owner-reported data could help advance knowledge of this equine ailment.

Laminitis is inflammation of the structures that connect the coffin bone to the hoof wall, which are called laminae. The term is often used interchangeably with “founder,” although founder is typically reserved for more severe symptoms that occur as a result of advanced cases of laminitis. As the inflammation progresses, the coffin bone can actually detach from the hoof wall. The bone can sink or rotate, which is a serious and painful condition that requires a long recovery, if not euthanasia.

The symptoms of laminitis are most often a reluctance to move, a stretched-out stance as the horse tries to take weight off his front feet (front hooves are more often affected), unusual heat in the hooves, and a strong digital pulse. Some of these symptoms are similar to other causes of lameness, which is where the discrepancy between owner-reported and veterinarian-confirmed cases comes in.

In this study, researchers looked at data from 93 cases of laminitis that had been confirmed by veterinarians. In 51 of the cases, the owners had suspected laminitis, and all of those cases were confirmed. In the remaining 42 cases, the owners had reported the condition as other causes, most often general lameness or stiffness, colic, or hoof abscesses.

Owners were more likely to report increased hoof temperature as a symptom leading them to their assumption of laminitis. Veterinarians were more likely to cite difficulty turning, shifting weight, and body condition as symptoms of laminitis.

The data suggests that owners can be a valuable source of information about laminitis cases. All of the cases where owners suspected laminitis were confirmed by vets. However, it appears that owners may underreport the problem as the symptoms appear very similar to other conditions. The researchers conclude that this highlights the need for more education of horse owners to ensure that they recognize early signs of the disease.

Pollard, D., Wylie, C. E., Verheyen, K. L. P. and Newton, J. R., Assessment of horse owners’ ability to recognise equine laminitis: a cross-sectional study of 93 veterinary diagnosed cases in Great Britain. Equine Vet J. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/evj.12704


Leslie Potter is a writer and photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky. www.lesliepotterphoto.com

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Leslie Potter
Leslie Potter is a graduate of William Woods University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Equestrian Science with a concentration in saddle seat riding and a minor in Journalism/Mass Communications. She is currently a writer and photographer in Lexington, KY.Potter worked as a barn manager and riding instructor and was a freelance reporter and photographer for the Horsemen's Yankee Pedlar and Saddle Horse Report before moving to Lexington to join Horse Illustrated as Web Editor from 2008 to 2019. Her current equestrian pursuits include being a grown-up lesson kid at an eventing barn and trail riding with her senior Morgan gelding, Snoopy.

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