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November 2019 - Equine Welfare

No animal lover wants to hear or see abuse, but it’s a subject that we are often faced. Join us in November as our expert, Dr. Alina Vale answers your questions concerning equine welfare, neglect and abuse.

Click here to read this month's questions and answers.

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Laminitis (Founder)

  1. I have a rescue horse that came to us foundered in both front feet. It was just about as severe as it gets. After three years of medication, special shoeing, and straight Bermuda grass hay, she is actually well and rideable. At only 11-years-old, I have been taking it easy with her by keeping only my weight of 145 pounds and a 15 pound synthetic saddle on her. We ride at a walk twice a week for half an hour.

    My concern is in May, we move to our land in the North Idaho Panhandle. The grass and hay are lush grazing for our healthy horses all summer. I don't think I can get my rescue horse Bermuda hay or keep her entirely away from a tiny bit of fresh grass. How do I keep her from foundering again?

    (View Answer)

    This is a very good question. There are several steps you can take to help your horse reduce the chance for recurrent founder issues. 1) annual/bi-annual check ups on blood insulin levels to make sure insulin levels are not getting out of control  2) grazing muzzle - one of the most important pieces of equipment in your arsenal; this will reduce total amount of grass intake and reduce weight gain 3) allow grazing at night time only - keep in during day as sugar levels rise with sunlight, then turnout at 10-11 pm (depending on your bedtime of course) when sugar levels are decreasing rapidly 4) create a small pen for her - you can use panels and make a small area, which will ultimately become a 'dry lot'; this sound mean to a lot of people but reducing the risk of insulinemia or high sugar intake is a huge prevention of laminitic episodes 5) get your hay tested! This is usually very inexpensive or sometimes can be done at no cost through the county. If your hay has high starch content, soak the hay 30-60 minutes (then remove hay from water) and feed. This 'washes' away the sugar, greatly reducing the sugar content while maintaining the nutritional content of the hay.

    Good luck! I hope these tips help! Karen Blake, DVM, DACVS, Elite Veterinary Services, Park City, UT

  2. My horse is a 17-year-old Quarter horse, recovering from a laminitic problem. He currently doing great as I have him on a smartpak laminate vitamin and he wears a grazing muzzle. I also just started him on thryroid medication, per my veterinarian's recommendations. He currently receives the vitamin, Timothy hay, 6 oz of carb care feed and his shoes still have pads since the toe has not grown out yet. What else should I do or not be doing? He is currently outside from 10am to 1:00pm and 4:00pm to 7:00pm. He cannot be out in the rain due to his hoof pads. In his past life, he was used for shooting as I am his second owner.

    (View Answer)

    It sounds like you are following a good protocol from your veterinarian regarding laminitis treatment. I would keep that regimen going. One modification I might discuss with your veterinarian would be afternoon grazing times. Usually, the highest level of sugar in the hay is in the afternoon, but this may not be a concern for your particular horse. Regardless, it would be good to discuss this with your vet in case time modifications need to be made.  Karen Blake, DVM, DACVS, Elite Veterinary Services, Park City, UT

  3. How much green grass is too much for a weanling miniature horse (approx. 5-months-old)?

    (View Answer)

    Typically, unless otherwise stated by your own equine veterinarian or nutritionist, it is recommended that any sized horse get 1-2% of its body weight in fiber per day. So, it depends on the size of the horse. Karen Blake, DVM, DACVS, Elite Veterinary Services, Park City, UT

  4. Our horse was just diagnosed with Chronic laminitis. She is a rescue horse. Her right front foot is in extreme condition. The farrier put corrective shoes on her. The pain was beyond belief after shoeing. I am hesitant to believe she will ever by serviceable again. Should I be optimistic? 

    (View Answer)

    This sounds like a very difficult situation indeed. It is not uncommon for laminitic horses to be worse after shoeing for a variety of reasons. If your horse remains this lame, it would be worth discussing the use of modified ultimate boots on the horse with your veterinarian or, if your farrier is into making a 'wooden shoe', that is an option as well. Unfortunately, without being directly involved in your horse's care or seeing the radiographs, it is difficult to comment on the long-term prognosis or serviceability sound potential, though some horses can recover from chronic laminitis. Karen Blake, DVM, DACVS, Elite Veterinary Services, Park City, UT

  5. What long term pain and anti-inflammatory medications can be given to a lamintic horse? Is there something easier on the horse than "Bute"?

    (View Answer)

    There are no great long term pain management strategies in laminitic horses. Bute is actually one of the best pain management drugs out there as far as efficacy seems to go. There is a 'specific cox-2 anti-inflammatory drug' - Equioxx. This medication seems to target less of the good 'housekeeping' cox-1 pathways, which tends to protect the GI tract and kidneys. However, Equioxx has also been related to acute renal disease, and therefore; is not innocuous. 

    Additionally, there are additive things which target different pain pathways such as gabapentin. These appear to be horse specific as far as their efficacy for pain control. 

    Truely, pain control is best achieved by shoeing/therapy to reduce the pull of the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT), which reduces the strain on the laminae. Also, if the horse has metabolic issues, getting weight management under control is an essential component for halting the inflammatory cascade and resultant laminitis. Karen Blake, DVM, DACVS, Elite Veterinary Services, Park City, UT

  6. My horse has was diagnosed with Navicular Bursitis in his R/F leg and was due to be put down by his previous owner 4 years ago. We have treated him with diet, trimming and herbs and he has been coming along well. He has no problem laying down and can move around the paddock well at a trot or canter. His face and body are relaxed and his right leg now is a very similar size to his left, however; he still does have some pain. Have there been any advances in supplements and treatment?

    (View Answer)

    This is a very involved question as there are likely no advances that you haven't already heard of, with the exception of Osphos. This an injection medication that can be purchased through your equine veterinarian. There are alternative showing options, so you could research Dr. Ric  Redden or Dr. Nanric for more information. Karen Blake, DVM, DACVS, Elite Veterinary Services, Park City, UT

  7. My gelding had a bout of acute laminitis late last winter. It is being controlled with diet, grazing muzzle, regular farrier visits and boots when needed. He is currently barefoot and doing well. My question is, can he go into the pasture without the muzzle during late fall and winter when I will be putting hay out for my other horses, or will he need to continue to be separated into the dry lot for his hay?

    (View Answer)

    I think the answer depends on where you live and what kind of grass you have in the winter. I don't recommend them be turned out in fall in some regions based on whether there are warm spells or for instance, in Oregon, the fall there is heavy rainfall = lots of green grass. So, I would go based on your veterinarian's recommendation since they know the area. Additionally, it depends on your hay and the amount of sugar content or easily digestible starch content of your hay. If your hat tests low in sugar, it's probably fine for everyone, but if it's high in sugar, then you should not give that to a laminitic horse and find a hay certified low in starch or testing low on sugar. Karen Blake, DVM, DACVS, Elite Veterinary Services, Park City, UT

  8. When can I take the grazing muzzle off my ex-laminitic horse? It has been three years since her last episode. Now she is back in training and being ridden. Will she always have to wear a grazing muzzle due to her laminitis?

    (View Answer)

    If your horse is prone to being overweight, has Cushing's Disease or is an insulin resistant/equine metabolic syndrome horse and has access to grass, then most likely your horse will have to wear a grazing muzzle. Instead of looking at this as punishment (to you or your horse), think about how you are being proactive in preventing further degradation of the laminae or any hyperinsulinemia which has a direct effect on 'breaking' the laminar junction. Karen Blake, DVM, DACVS, Elite Veterinary Services, Park City, UT

  9. My horse was recently diagnosed with Insulin Resistance (IR) and is recovering from acute laminitis with coffin bone rotation. This was all diagnosed in July of this year. Should fall core vaccinations be staggered or can they be administered at one time?

    (View Answer)

    This question is really for your veterinarian to answer because they have an understanding of your particular horse and the specifics of what has been going on with your horse's feet. However, If the IR (Insulin Resistance) is under control, meaning your blood insulin level is now normal (checked by your veterinarian) and the feet have stabilized, in theory it would be safe to give vaccinations. That being said, being safe is always better than being sorry, so staggering the vaccines are fine too. Furthermore, if your horse lives by itself, in a northern climate, he/she may not need fall vaccines at all (depending of course on what your veterinarian administered this spring, but again, this would be based on your veterinarian's recommendations). Karen Blake, DVM, DACVS, Elite Veterinary Services, Park City, UT

  10. Can laminitis be reversed with proper treatment and shoeing?

    (View Answer)

    This is a very good question. Unfortunately, it depends on many variables. It depends on the blood supply to the foot, whether rotation or sinking has occurred and what the quality of the bone present appears like on radiographs. It is also dependent on whether the metabolic status or other diseases of the horse (i.e: Equine Metabolic Syndrome, cushings, severe severe endotoxemia, etc ) is under control or if the horse has an injury and the support limb is under duress. There are also many ways to treat laminitis with various shoes, however in an acute stage Modified Ultimate boots or a wooden shoe are usually recommended. Karen Blake, DVM, DACVS, Elite Veterinary Services, Park City, UT