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Laminitis or Founder

This is a painful condition of the feet resulting from the disruption of normal blood supply to the foot and associated with abrupt changes in diet or overeating (most common), severe colic, severe infections and illness. The signs are often a sudden onset of lameness and reluctance to move, with the front feet being most commonly involved, making the horse take on a characteristic stance with the forelimbs stretched out in front and the horses weight shifted to the hind limbs. It is an urgent condition, and early treatment is required.

Please contact us if you think your horse or pony has this condition.

The sensitive lamini tissue is located between the hoof wall and the pedal bone. This is where the inflammation occurs and if left untreated it will cause a permanent deviation or rotation (X-Ray picture) to the pedal bone. This could result in chronic lameness. This is why early treatment is important.

Early treatment includes intensive pain relief and anti-imflammatories to limit the development of the chain of events that is happening within the hoof

Treatment other than the above involves a close working relationship with a farrier.

In principle, the pedal bone within the hoof has to be supported as this is the bone most effected and the support structures that hold it in place inside the hoof wall.One of the best ways to provide initial support and relief is with Styrafoan blocks. (The sole foam support can be Styrofoam obtained from a builder supplier .. must be the blue one, 50 to 60mm thick and cut to the size of the foot and taped on with duck tape. (don’t use the white polystyrene used in refrigerators) Can also be obtained from Classic Horseshoes Pty Ltd. Each foot requires two blocks. The first is applied and taped in place and weight bearing over the first 24 to 48 hours compresses the block creating a cast 15 to 20mm thick. This foam cast has the area under the descending and rotating pedal bone tip removed, the area being determined by careful hoof tester application. This becomes the zone that must receive no pressure from the foam cast and the area behind and the frog become the only supporting areas.

The second foam bock is then taped onto the first and this will compress down as well. The resultant foam sandwich is taped together and left taped in place. They can be replaced of modified as required and should be left in place 1 to 3 weeks.) The foam pads are only a temporary support to stabilise and support the pedal bone (distal or 3rd phalanx) and support the damaged lamellae.

Digital support shoes need to be applied longer term.Two options include Heart Bar Shoes (HBS) and the Equine Digital support system (EDSS).

Both require lateral XRays to establish positioning of the break over point in relationship to the rotated point on the pedal bone.XRays need to be done with NO shoes attached, just prior to HBS or EDSS (Equine Digital Support System) application.

The important thing about the HBS is that the frog plate should be parallel and 2 to 3 mm above the level of the branches of the shoe. The frog support plate and the shoe should apply even pressure over the entire length of the frog. The toe is rolled to ease breakover of the foot when moving and relieves tension on the laminae. Effectively the HBS is applied to the distal Phalanx, not the entire hoof.

Shoes are best not nailed but screwed and glued as the vibration of nailing can add to damaging already weak laminae and tendon/capsule attachments

Additional forces from contraction of the deep digital flexor tendon can add to the rotation of the pedal bone and laminae separation. This can be controlled with the use of wedges to raise the heels 12 to 18 degrees. This can be best achieved using the Digital support system which is a system of pads, wedges, frog inserts etc and impression material. The heel wedges can be screwed on and off the shoe (wedge rails) as they are all predrilled and can be removed a couple of weeks later when the signs of laminaitis have disappeared (without analgesia)

NOTE: The hoof has to be trimmed first to normalise the position of the pedal bone in the hoof capsule. All applications are best done with NO analgesia (sedation/nerve blocks)so that the horses response can be immediately seen (or not). Any application to the foot may need small adjustments that can show marked responses, often immediately.

Why are X-Rays Essential:

Because the Pedal Bone has shifted inside the Hoof Capsule, we can only determine with X-Ray examination essential things like:

  • Sole depth over the tip of Pedal Bone.
  • The amount of rotation of the pedal bone
  • If the whole Pedal Bone has “sunk”. This is a very serious situation with a poor prognosis.

All these points can be measured accurately with X-Rays and will give the owner valuable information about treatment options and prognosis.

Without X-Rays you are just guessing and putting your horse at risk!

Laminitis is a complex and urgent condition of horses and needs to be treated as a Veterinary Emergency.

Phone 5445566

Personal Care for All Animals


79 Gladstone Road, Richmond

03 544 5566
[email protected]

Monday – Friday: 8am – 5.30pm
Saturday: 9am – 4pm
Sunday: Temporarily Closed except for emergencies. Please phone first
Public Holidays: Hours may vary


400D High Street, Motueka

03 528 8459
[email protected]

Monday – Friday: 8.30am – 5.30pm
Saturday: 9am – 2pm
Sunday: Closed. (See Richmond Clinic).
Public Holidays: Hours may vary


69 Aranui Road, Mapua

03 540 2329
[email protected]

Monday, Tuesday and Friday: 8.30am – 10am and 3.30pm – 5.30pm
Thursday: 8.30am – 12.30pm and 3.30pm – 5.30pm
Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday: Closed
Public Holidays: Hours may vary


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