WHAT IS LAMINITIS AND WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAMINITIS AND FOUNDER?
Laminitis simply means Inflammation in the lamina. Founder is the term used to describe the catastrophic result of laminitis. Laminitis occurs first and if the cause is not addressed then the inflammation and laminar damage can become so severe that the laminae ‘let go’ and the connection breaks down to the point where the bone within the hoof suddenly loses all support. It can then rotate and drop in the hoof. This rotation signals that the horse has ‘Foundered’.
A laminitic horse does not necessarily founder. But a foundered horse is always laminitic. A foundered horse is unable to walk properly due to the collapse taking place in its hooves. Inflammation is present in the hoof in the acute stage of the illness. Horses which suffer chronic, ongoing or repeated episodes of laminitis will generally suffer loss of some of their pedal bone – both a reduction in bone density and the loss of the tip of the bone. This is often referred to as chronic founder and once this happens the horse can become difficult or impossible to completely rehabilitate. Soundness may never be possible for these horses.
The good news is that many laminitic horses can be rehabilitated. Firstly the diet needs to be addressed and the horse needs to get plenty of low sugar forage. Don’t starve a laminitic horse. It will be necessary to take it off lush grass, but make sure it gets sufficient volume of low calorie food such as grass hay or Maxi Soy. Secondly, the hooves need to be regularly trimmed, removing any lever forces which may stress the laminar regrowth. Thirdly the patient should be made comfortable enough to be exercised – usually walked in hand. This may require hoof boots and pads. This movement promotes circulation and healing. Rehab takes time. Sunken, and ‘rotated’ pedal bones can be ‘de-rotated’ and lifted in the hoof capsule, if the horse has the correct care early on.
If you have a horse or pony which is prone to laminitis, talk to your Vet and hoof care professional who will be able to offer you more specific information.