Treating Acute Laminitis

Important steps in treating Laminitis

One thing a horse owner fears is laminitis. This is a condition which affects many horses and if not properly treated, can result in physical damage and even death. If caught early and properly treated, most horses can recover from laminitis. There are many factors which can impact how well the horse recovers and the amount of permanent damage. These include when it was spotted and if the right treatment was started quickly. Some mild cases can be managed by making small changes in a horse’s nutrition. If the case is advanced, it may require care of an equine veterinarian. When it comes to treating laminitis, it often requires the skills of a farrier, a vet, and a nutritionist.

What Is Laminitis?

Laminitis is an inflammatory disease that impacts the tissue within the hoof. One is called the sensitive layer and the other the insensitive layer. These tissues are located between the coffin bone and the horse’s hoof. There are 600 primary laminae with 150 secondary laminae in each hoof. These laminae form the connection between the coffin bone and the hoof wall.

Acute And Chronic Laminitis

When the condition first develops, it is referred to as acute laminitis. If the coffin bone is rotated (see the explanation video below) or is displaced, the condition is called chronic laminitis.

If a vet can start treatment while the condition is acute, the horse will usually recover with minimal damage. If treatment doesn’t begin until the condition is chronic, recovery will depend on how the disease is managed and treated.

Laminitis is caused by a variety of factors, but it usually involves eating either too much or the wrong food. The hoof will be hot and will stay that way for several hours. Initial treatment will usually consist of dipping the hoof into ice water for two or three days.

Caring For The Hoof

If a horse has chronic laminitis, the coffin bone may have already pierced the sole of the hoof. When this happens, the veterinarian may need to use a combination of surgical and medical treatment. They may choose to use a mechanical support to encourage the hoof sole to regenerate and to stabilize the hoof capsule.

The vet will initially try ti relieve the horse’s pain and enhance blood flow to the coffin bone and the sole. This will help encourage hoof growth. The goal is to improve the angle of the coffin bone and properly align it within the hoof. This is done by trimming the hoof and using various methods to support the hoof including boots, special shoes, casts or clogs.

horse with acute laminitis

How A Farrier Can Help

Every horse is different and what works with one may not be effective with another. The farrier can help by trimming the foot to help redistribute the load, elevate the heel and address any break over.

If a horse with laminitis is wearing shoes, the farrier will remove these to help with access to the hoof. The farrier may then trim the horse’s hooves, especially the affected hooves. They should remove any excessive length, but take nothing off the sole. It is best to just bevel and square the toe to help with break over.

If the horse laminitis is chronic, the farrier may place cushioned hoof boots on the hooves. These will help with the pain. Other footwear options include wooden shoes or hoof pads.


It is important to diagnose the cause of the laminitis before adjusting the diet. Many times, diet is one of the best ways to manage this condition. Horses can develop a health condition similar to diabetes in humans called equine metabolic syndrome. A horse with this disease must eat a specially formulated diet that includes low nonstructural carbohydrates. It is best to work with a nutritionist to create the best diet for a horse with any metabolic disease.


Chronic laminitis can also be managed with medications. These include phenylbutazone, also known as Bute and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. One newer anti-inflammatory, firocoxib or Equioxx can be especially effective. If a horse has an equine metabolic disease, they may need to take medication to treat this disease, too.

Treating laminitis can include a variety of steps. These typically include some type of foot support, a special diet, and sometimes medications.