Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hoof care professionals: First line of defense in prevention of laminitis

Dr. Don Walsh, president of the Animal Health Foundation, gave Natural Hoof Care professionals an important point to be aware of regarding laminitis and its prevention.
Dr. Donald Walsh, AHF President, during his presentation at the Liberated Horsemanship Clinic in April.

The presentation entitled “You, the hoof care giver, are the first line of defense in preventing laminitis” was heard by attendees of the Liberated Horsemanship Clinic held April 16, 2011 in Warrenton, MO, sponsored by Dr. Bruce Nock, PhD.

Dr. Walsh pointed out that the person caring for the horse’s feet is in a position to see and recognize the first signs of laminitis, before any lameness may be apparent.  Changes occur in the hoof during the early stage of the disease that can be recognized by the observant hoof care professional, who can then alert the horse owner of these warning signs.

Changes that may be observed include abnormal growth rings in the external hoof wall which are wider at the heel, a separation in the sole of the foot in the toe between the external hoof wall and the white line (seedy toe), and often small hemorrhages are seen in this area due to the stretching of the laminae prior to a bout of laminitis.  Veterinary care should be started as soon as possible, for the longer that damage takes place within the laminae of the foot, the less likely recovery is possible.  The sooner the laminitic process can be halted, the better the chances are for reversing the effects of the disease.

The first line of defense in preventing laminitis can be the horse’s hoof care professional.  Early detection of changes in the hoof may save the horse’s life.



  1. I have conflict between farrier and veterinarian. Farrier says my horse's sole is sinking. Vet says not likely as he isn't in pain. This article tends to indicate that a horse's sole can sink without there being pain?? I will have his feet x-rayed to really know for sure. Can a horse's sole be sinking and yet he has no sign of pain or discomfort?

  2. This is a really good question. We see very flat footed horses who are sensitive if ridden over any rocks of any size, but seem quite sound on soft surfaces. Many of these horses have recovered from laminitis. You always really need an x-ray to tell what the position of the distal phalanx is inside the hoof. Probably both the farrier and your Veterinarian are correct. I believe that changes can occur as a form of pre- laminitis causing the sole to lose its concavity and flatten(no major pain). If this is associate with laminitis caused by elevation in his insulin he will also probably have some separation of the laminae resulting in the presence of seedy toe in the front of the foot at the junction of the white line and the sole. Also present are abnormal growth lines wider at the heel than the toe causing a distorted hoof wall. As the disease progresses the distal phalanx descends into the sole the bad pain starts in the hoof, with heat and a digital pulse being present(acute laminitis). If the radiographs are not normal I suggest checking the horses fasting insulin level and ACTH level. This will enable diagnosing Equine Metabolic syndrome and Cushing's disease.
    Don Walsh DVM