Laminitis from Dietary Intake
Firstly you need to know that starches and sugars (carbohydrates) are the problem in this type of the disease. Grass has starches and sugars, with the main sugar being fructans. Grain of course is also full of starches. Normally these carbs are digested in the small intestine assisted by enzymes which exist in that area. If all carbohydrates are digested there, then there is not a problem. But if overloaded then undigested carbs move through to the hindgut and that’s where the problem lies. In order to digest in that part of the gut (which doesn’t have the right enzymes) the system issues forth lots of lactic acid. Unfortunately this excess lactic acid kills off good bacteria and as they die they give off a toxin, which then passes into the bloodstream and moves through the fine laminae of the feet, causing the problem called Laminitis.
This toxin is not the same one as in mouldy feed and endophyte grasses. That is a Fusarium toxin and some binders can be useful to remove them, but do not work on the Laminitis toxin. The toxin that is released from killing the good bacteria needs something called mannan oligosaccharides (MOS) to help clear it. Also extra intake of starch digesting enzymes will help to digest all the starch in the small intestine, thus reducing any undigested excess passing onto the hindgut. It is common to restrict grass intake and only feed a little fat and some fibre to animals prone to Laminitis, but of course this is an unbalanced diet. Better to help the horse or pony to improve its digestion and be able to take in some grass and keep good condition than have to keep it in light condition and hungry.
Acute Laminitis is a very painful condition, it can have a quick onset and usually affects the front feet and results in a “rocking horse” stance as the horse or pony tries to shift their weight to the hind feet. Overweight horses and ponies are particular prone. A veterinarian must be contacted immediately if this occurs.
Chronic Laminitis can be a common problem in performance horses. These symptoms are non specific and are often blamed on sole bruising. They include : jarring up on hard ground, shortened stride, sore shoulder muscles, dished hooves with sheared heels, crumbling white lines and low grade seedy toe. Again restricting grain and assisting digestion as above can greatly assist .