Spring has well and truly arrived here in Gippsland and with it comes the inevitable (and usually preventable) rash of ponies developing laminitis.
Let’s have a look at early detection, emergency treatment, prevention and treatment of this most heart-breaking of diseases.
The most common signs of laminitis are: a pounding pulse in the artery either side of the fetlock, pain in the feet and lameness, constant weight shifting between feet, heat in the hooves, frequent lying down and a reluctance to move, the classic "founder stance" where the horse stands with their front feet extended bearing weight on the heels.
Laminitis is an EMERGENCY!!! If your horse is exhibiting these signs ring a vet immediately. Early detection and treatment can sometimes be the difference between life and death. Meanwhile, get your horse away from the source of the laminitis (usually the lush, green grass or feed bin), minimise movement of the pedal bone by getting your horse into a deep shavings bed (about 50cm) or if that is not available cut up an old esky or any foam board and tape it to the animal’s feet. Try and minimise their movement.
The best treatment for laminitis is prevention. By simply having a qualified farrier trim your horse’s feet regularly (every six to eight weeks) and locking your horse away from rich feed, particularly in Spring you will minimise the likelihood of laminitis occurring. The trick is to be TOUGH. I have seen horses with a history of laminitis have an attack after the owner (feeling sorry for the poor locked up pony) let them out into the paddock for ten minutes!!!!
Long term treatment usually relies on a good working relationship between vet, farrier and owner. Over the years I have developed a method of wedging the heels using polymer resins with no painful nailing on of shoes that in conjunction with careful study of good quality x-rays and constant consultation with the vet has produced many successful results.
Remember, with laminitis, vigilance at this time of year is crucial.