How to recognize the early signs of laminitis

Illustration of founderCatching laminitis early can help minimize permanent damage to the internal structures of the hoof. However, the signs can be subtle.

Laminitis can be sudden — brought on by a fever or an overload of carbohydrated — or it can be gradual. So, what should you look for? Keep in mind that no one symptom indicates laminitis and in some cases, a horse might not exhibit a common system, such as heat in the hoof, and still have it.

Foot soreness — while this can also be an abscess or bruising, if your horse becomes tender-footed, make sure to check his digital pulse and determine if there’s any heat in the hoof and ask your vet to apply hoof testers. An abscess typically

Reluctance to move – if your horse appears to be very stiff and is reluctant to move, check his feet.

Hind feet tucked underneath its body – laminitis more typically presents in the front feet so if your horse is standing with his hind feet further under his body than usual, it may be a sign that the front feet are sore.

Lethargy or reluctance to eat – if your horse typically has a good appetite and turns up its nose at grain, lack of appetite can be a symptom of laminitis.

Atypical weight bearing – a horse that has a limb injury can cause a horse to put too much weight on the opposite limb, triggering an episode of laminitis.

The best defense is to know your horse and take all deviations in “normal” behavior seriously.