Laminitis Discussion Coming to SmartPak Store

According to the National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) 2000 report, 13% of all horse facilities participating in the study had a horse struck by laminitis in the previous year--and 4.7% of these horses died or were euthanatized. That makes laminitis second only to colic as a leading killer of horses.

Laminitis will be discussed at an upcoming GetSmart event the SmartPak store in Natick, Mass.

There are at least five theories for why horses develop laminitis: vascular/ischemic, enzymatic/toxic, inflammatory, metabolic/endocrine, and biomechanical. All result in injury to the laminae that can progress to structural damage in the foot (rotation or sinking of the coffin bone).

Since approximately half of the horses that develop laminitis are on pasture when the disease develops, efforts are being focused on why. Researchers have found that certain grasses under certain conditions have high levels of fructan, a specific kind of sugar, and that fructan can directly cause laminitis. It has also been discovered that horses with insulin resistance (IR), a component of equine metabolic syndrome, are predisposed to laminitis and that pasture acts as a trigger factor.

For these reasons, experts recommend that horses who have developed laminitis from pasture or who have been diagnosed with IR not be allowed to graze, or be limited in what they are allowed. Sweet feed, treats that contain sugar, and anything with molasses in it should also not be fed to horses with IR. An appropriate diet for a horse prone to laminitis from sugar is hay with a low sugar content and a ration balancer or multi-vitamin/mineral supplement instead of grain.

Article by Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA, medical director/staff veterinarian for SmartPak. Monthly GetSmart lectures resume at the SmartPak store in Natick, Mass. beginning September 19, 2007, with "They Don't Call It Heaves Anymore." For more information and a complete presentation schedule for fall visit

About the Author

Lydia Gray, DVM, MA

Lydia Gray, DVM, is Medical Director and Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak Equine. She was previously the executive director of the Hooved Animal Humane Society in Woodstock, IL, and an Owner Education Director for the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

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