Case Report – Chronic Laminitis

Coco is a 20 year old pony who has been living with his current family practically all his life.

About a year ago we were contacted because we noticed that he was suffering from severe pain apparently in his forelimbs, and it was very difficult for him to walk. He spends a lot of time lying down, although this does not seem to have affected his appetite, as he still has the same desire to eat as always.

When we carry out the first general examination, we realise that, apart from the reason for the consultation, he has pain in the temporomandibular joint, which, if you follow our publications, you will know is indicative of some imbalance in our patient’s dental chart (we leave you the link to the article on “Essential questions about equine dentistry” so that you can review it).

The rest of the general examination is completely normal, except that when we try to move him, he shows refusal and does not want to walk a single step and stands as if he were a trestle. We placed the hoof clamp and palpated different points on both hands, which led to a positive result as there was pain. There was a digital pulse and in some places there was even a softening of the hoof with indications that an abscess might be present underneath. Obviously, this is a clear sign that something very serious is happening at the level of our patient’s locomotor system.

We decided to carry out a radiological study of the hoof and detected that the line formed by the third phalanx and the hoof was not parallel, observing an evident inclination with even the presence of a small incipient fracture at the tip of the bone. This process is known as Laminitis, and is one of the main diseases affecting horses, donkeys and ponies in our daily clinic.

Laminitis, also known as infosure, is a debilitating, extremely painful and potentially fatal systemic hoof disease. It affects the soft tissue of the toe (sensitive and insensitive laminae) causing separation, and therefore rotation or distal displacement of the third phalanx, causing degeneration, separation and necrosis of the laminar corium.

It usually appears as a consequence of the presence of other pathologies:

  • Severe diseases of the GI tract: colic, chronic diarrhoeal processes…
  • Incorrect nutritional balance due to high concentration of fructans in the diet: excess of grain, fruit, alfalfa, leafy herbs.
  • Septicaemic processes.
  • Uterine infections secondary to placental retention in recently foaled mares.
  • Compensation due to problems in the stallion’s poise.

There are certain factors that can predispose to the appearance of this disease:

  • High concentration of circulating glucocorticoids in the blood: Cushing’s disease, prolonged treatment with steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (corticoids).
  • EMS (equine metabolic syndrome).
  • Lack of exercise (associated with obesity)
  • Strong and repeated hoof impacts.
  • Stress: transport, hospitalisation…
  • Incorrect shoeing.
  • Cold water binge after intense exercise. History of laminitis.

Since the radiological images of Coco gave us indications that this is a fairly chronic process, we decided to perform a venogram to be able to give a prognostic value. This technique consists of preventing venous recoil inside the hoof by placing a compressive bandage, injecting the palmar digital vein with contrast, and taking serial X-rays. The aim of this technique is to be able to check how far the blood supply inside the hoof reaches in order to be able to assess the irrigation of the tissues and structures that make up the horse’s hands.

This test gave us a lot of information to give a prognosis to Coco’s family. The venogram is so good that we believe that with medical treatment and correct orthopaedics in the hands of her farrier, she could regain her quality of life.

Chronic laminitis is a disease that cannot be cured. All we can do is alleviate the pain and try to correct as far as possible the tilt of the third phalanx inside the hoof, working closely with the patient’s farrier.

Coco has been using Napoleonic horseshoes for a few months now and with a treatment based on different types of anti-inflammatory drugs with follow-up by our veterinary team, and not only does he no longer spends so much time lying down, but he also allows himself to gallop around playing with the rest of the family.

From AnimalFeel we want to give you two VERY IMPORTANT reminders:

Before incorporating a new member into the family, whatever the species, we recommend that you do a literature search on the biology of the species. It is important to know what its physical, mental and social needs are so that we can provide it with the well-being it deserves, and above all to avoid problems in the future. In addition, we will be able to get an idea of whether the animal fits into our lifestyle.
If you detect any physical or behavioural abnormalities in your pet, contact a veterinarian specialising in the species. As we have said before, it is good that we use technology to search for information and enrich ourselves, but in many cases this information is incomplete or even erroneous, and carrying out certain practices without supervision can have a catastrophic result for the animal (unproven therapies, administration of medication or voluntary termination of a prescribed treatment, feeding…). Always check everything you read with your vet to ensure the health of your furry friend.