Laminitis is a painful condition which can lead to lameness in affected horses and ponies and in the most severe cases can be lead to total debilitation and even death. There are several factors that are linked to the onset of laminitis from obesity, insulin resistance, non-structural carbohydrate overload, drug induced complications to endotoxaemia (commonly associated with retained placenta post delivery) and over-consumption of lush young pasture.

There are some nutritional strategies which have been shown to help in the management of laminitis and even help prevent the onset of acute laminitis.

  • Find out the starch content of your concentrate diet – remove high starch feeds and replace with low starch alternatives e.g Gain Easy Go Cubes
  • In obesity linked cases reduce access to pasture by strip grazing, using a grazing muzzle or restricting turn out time. This will help to reduce body weight however do not starve replace pasture with soaked hay or unmolassed chaff
  • Feeding a low starch balancer such as Gain Opti-Gro Cubes will provide the nutrients to encourage hoof wall growth without providing excess calories in the diet
  • Feed later cut hay with a low level of water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) i.e. sugars of less than 12%
  • Soak hay for 30 minutes in warm water if possible before feeding to remove as many residual soluble sugars as possible
  • Feed 2% of the horses bodyweight as hay reducing to 1.5% if not losing weight
  • Turn out horses only at safer times of the year i.e. not during grass flushing times and overnight if NO frost (as fructan content of grass is particularly high after frost)
  • If the horse is sound, exercise whenever possible even walking out in hand
  • Regularly assess body condition and take into account breed types and natural body frame when assessing condition
  • Monitor weight loss and retest for insulin resistance following weight loss programme
  • Always check the placenta post foaling if not intact contact your vet to ‘flush’ the mares uterus
  • For underweight laminitics, energy should be supplied as fat and fibre or low starch based concentrates such as Gain Easy Go cubes which is 8% starch

Joanne Hurley is a nutrition specialist with Gain Horse Feeds. She holds a Masters in Animal Nutrition and Production from UCD. She is based at Gain Horse Feeds Office in Bridge Street, Portlaoise, Co Laois and can be contacted on 087-7958573 or by email at jhurley@glanbia.ie

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