Laminitis is a painful condition of the foot, where the laminae holding the pedal bone (third phalanx) within the hoof capsule become inflamed and lose their function.  This can result in the pedal bone rotating within the hoof capsule.


The pedal bone and overlying horn have laminae which interlock and hold the bone in place inside

the hoof capsule. These laminae are very sensitive with an intricate blood supply.  The foremost

aspect of the pedal bone should lie parallel to the hoof wall, with a healthy amount of sole between

the underside of the bone and the floor.



Laminitis has multiple causes, of which more than one may be present in any one case. These include:

  • PPID, or Cushings Disease

  • Equine Metabolic Syndrome “EMS”

  • Obesity and over-feeding

  • Septicaemia

  • Non-weight bearing injury in contralateral limb

  • Trauma – concussion or “pricking”

  • Steroid medication induced (rare)


Clinical Signs:

  • Pottery, shuffling gait

  • Unwillingness to move

  • Leaning backwards onto heels

  • Lying down more than usual

  • Warm feet

  • Bounding digital pulses

  • Lameness


Diagnosis of laminitis is made on physical examination by a veterinary surgeon. Laminitis is in itself a

symptom, rather than a disease, and is indicative of underlying problems which need to be addressed

if resolution is to be achieved. 


Blood tests for Cushings disease and equine metabolic syndrome can help ascertain if there is an

underlying endocrine issue.


Radiography is essential in the investigation into laminitis. It is important to ascertain early on whether

or not any pedal bone rotation is present so that if can be addressed with remedial farriery. Unaddressed

rotation leads to relapses, even if underlying causes are treated. It can take up to several months and

repeated x-ray series to realign a pedal bone.



Treatment generally carries a good prognosis, providing that all underlying causes are effectively treated

and any pedal bone rotation corrected.

  • Pain relief

  • Foot support in the form of padding initially, then by remedial shoeing.

  • Treating cushings (PPID) if present

  • Treating EMS if present

  • Altering diet to minimise carbohydrates and sugars

  • Initiate weight-loss if body condition score is more than 2.5/5

  • Repeat remedial farriery and x-rays until pedal bone realigned.



Laminitis carries a very variable prognosis.  Most cases respond well providing that all necessary treatment can be provided and pain controlled. In some instances laminitis can become a chronic condition resulting in long term pain despite good management, this is something we aim to avoid but can happen in rare cases.  Horses that have had previous bouts of laminitis are always prone to relapse and have to be managed carefully.  It is important that any minor bouts of laminitis are treated seriously, identifying underlying causes prior to a more severe bout can make the difference between success and failure in the future.  Please speak to one of our vets if you have any concerns about your horse.

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