Foot Casts for Acute Laminitis (AAEP 2008)

There are many ways to support a laminitic horse's foot; one common European method is to use plaster of paris foot casts. Hans Castelijns, DVM, CF, of Cortona, Italy, showed attendees how to apply these foot casts at the 2008 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 6-10 in San Diego, Calif.

"(These casts) are quick (taking less than two minutes to apply with practice), cheap, clean, simple to apply, easy to change, and moldable to the required shape," he said. "They help us recruit the back parts of the foot for weight bearing to release some tension on the laminar apparatus."

Castelijns begins the process by removing the shoe (if present) and trimming the foot as needed, with special care to shorten the toe if it is too long. He then soaks a roll of plaster and molds it into a ball under the rear part of the foot, which, he notes, helps ease breakover when the horse is moving forward or turning. The remaining cast material is applied around the foot only up to the coronary band.

"Horses usually show a marked degree of instant relief, probably because the weight is redistributed away from the most painful structures (dorsal laminae) to the rear areas of the hoof," he reported. He added that casted horses can be walked more comfortably (for exams or for walking to a radiography unit in a hospital, for example). A rigid, synthetic pad can be attached to the end of the cast (as long as it doesn't touch the sole) to reduce wear on the cast of the horse is fairly mobile.

"Laminitis is a medical and mechanical emergency," Castelijns stated. "This cast is a mechanical emergency measure that can be used until the acute problem has been stabilized (one to three weeks). After that time, a more durable shoeing solution should be found."

About the Author

Christy M. West

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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