Atypical Laminitis

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Our paint mare (not at ALL overweight and with good quality hooves) was diagnosed with what translates to atypical laminitis/founder on Sunday. She didn't have all the normal symptoms of founder. And it wasn't a typical founder situation... we'd brought the horses back from the summer pasture to their home pasture because of a storm forecast. They'd been on the summer pasture for a little over a week, so there wasn't much grass on the winter pasture.

They have straw mixed with some hay to supplement and we were adding some feed, primarily grass pellets. A small amount of grain. The usual vit/min supplements. NO molasses, no sweet feeds. She'd had the same the day before without problems. Towards the end of feeding, we noticed something was wrong with the paint. She was pulling her rear end in under her and not acting right. She'd eaten fine.

We got the horses out and she was still not right. Kept looking at her stomach and acting like she wanted to lie down. Stomach sounds were minimal, so we assumed colic and got her walking. She wasn't very happy about it, but that isn't unusual for colic.

It took a couple hours for the vet to get to us... not our usual, just the one who was on call. Shortly before the vet arrived, we were starting to wonder about founder. She was trying to eat, which didn't seem much like colic, and was stiff-legged when led over gravel. She was landing heel first on firm pasture even in the worst of it.

So vet did a thorough exam and diagnosed an atypical founder, said she's seen a lot of it lately (4 cases herself like this in the week before). The mare only reacted on the one front foot and hasn't had the heat and pulse typical of founder. Vet didn't know if there would be any impact on her hooves.

She's getting something for pain/inflammation and we've got her restricted to a small pasture that is mostly sand. The limited diet already has her losing more weight than she has to spare. She was just right Friday and is now getting a little thin. We've started feeding small portions of grass pellets to try to keep weight on her, but we're very nervous.

Even with more than 40 years experience with horses, my husband has never had one founder. We do our own trimming now and there aren't any barefoot trimmers around here. So we don't have anywhere else to turn for advice except here and our usual vet, who would go with " traditional" treatments if necessary.

What do we need to watch out for in her hooves and pay attention to? It sounded like the vet thought it unlikely that she would have any problems, but what should we watch for? What would be the signs we would see in her movement or hooves that meant somethign had gone wrong?

I was out to check on her earlier and she definitely has a heel-first landing on all four feet. She's moving normally right now, but I don't know how much of that is the meds she gets every morning and how much is just not having further symptoms. We have meds until Saturday morning.

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Definately doesn't sound like typical founder/laminitis.

Could the weather have something to do with it? If the vet has seen 4 cases in the same week. You mentioned a storm system that was supposed to come through? Just throwing ideas out because I have no clue what else it could be. Maybe bugs?

Sorry I don't have any advice as to what to watch for. Hope you guys can keep it all under control, seems you're doing a good job with it already!

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there are SO many things that can cause laminitis (inflammation of the lamina) in any particular horse at any particular time.

vaccines, diet, fever (even low grade), impact, injury, diabetes, de-wormers, sickness, poor trimming/shoeing, medications, stress, toxic plants (ie. HOARY ALYSSUM - you name it.

Founder (sinking) is when the lamina (due to any of the above) no longer support P3, and it drops

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I believe many horses on pasture cycle through bouts of low level laminitis - changes in weather, time of day, and many other factors trigger sugar surges in grass and our horses feet tell the tale.

When my horses start walking tender over gravel, one of the things I do is supplement with magnesium. I believe it has helped, but this is a totally subjective comment.

Here are a couple of links discussing the use of magnesium to help with laminitis.

Edited by aredhorse

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Straw is high in sugar, over grazed grass is high in sugar. Cold weather inhibits grass from processing the sugars they gather during the day with the sun. Likely a mix of many things caused it. Def. dont be feeding straw to horses (unless straw is something different there then it is here?), it has no nutritional value for one, its no doubt she is losing weight if that is the bulk of what she is eating.

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The vet said to give straw. The whole point was to avoid nutritional value. It is simply to occupy her and her stomach and to spread out the hay so she doesn't get as much of it. We're also to limit her feed intake, although we have slowly started giving her the grass pellets to try to keep weight on her.

Horses need to eat constantly. We've been unable to get decent hay at the end of this season--our usual supplier, who promised to have plenty for us the entire season (we'd reserved in early spring and he'd never failed us before) DIDN'T have it, only some very moldy and dusty stuff left (probably at least 5 yrs old), and no one else has had to spare because of the unusually hard winter. So we were forced to go with bales of straw that are about 1/3 to 1/2 hay. The hay in that case is a good quality, no dust or mold. So we'd been upping the feed and increasing the number of feedings to keep them fit with the straw/hay ad libitum to keep them occupied and feeling good.

Hay is late this year, so we can't get any new stuff either.

The majority of our grass (and everyone's hay fields) was also destroyed by the snow. It delayed the usual growth of the summer pasture and has limited hwat has come in on the winter pasture. Right now the foundered mare and my quarter for companionship are on what is primarily a sand pasture with some of the grazed-down-grass along the edges. No signs of further problems. We don't have much choice on where to put her. It is either the same pasture, now with a dividing fence to cut down the space and leave them the softest part, or over on the very lush grass with the other two. Fromw hat the vet said, the very lush grass would be a very bad idea.

If she were a more "typical" founder horse, we'd be having no problems because she'd have plenty of weight to lose. But she's not. She's a very fit paint and not one that gets fat on nothing like my Quarter, who was fine on the same pasture, along with the younger paint and the old Oldenburg.

The best guess as to cause is the unusually cold winter and spring increasing the amount of sugar in the grass, but odd that it is this mare and not the heavier Quarter that foundered. Also odd that they'd been on that pasture for 48 hours before it happened and had been on that pasture 8 days earlier and receiving much more feed to supplement without problems.

But this doesn't answer my actual question--what do we watch out for with her hooves?

My husband says she is a little stiffer and more sensitive in the morning before she gets the med. But whenever I see her, she is moving pretty normally and with heel-first landings on the firmer part of the pasture (beyond the sandy area). She isn't happy about having feet lifted, which is probably a sign that she is still some sore. We had them up to check thrush, which is mostly gone, and treat what was left.

She hadn't been ridden in over a week and hadn't been on asphalt or rock and she isn't the type to do a lot of kicking. So concussion-related founder is unlikely. Her trim is well-balanced and she was moving well the day before. The vet was also considering something I don't know how to translate (kidney-related, usually hits after overexertion or improper cooling down), but that didn't make sense because she ahdn't been worked.

Hard to know whether there might eb anything poisonous out there, but we haven't seen anything. There are a few plants local to our area that we always watch out for. She didn't have the swelling that would indicate snake bite... this is the mare that has had a poisonous snake bite in the past.

Our shetland pony stallion is on a similarly grazed-down pasture and is also fine with no signs of problems. But he has enough for himself, so hasn't been supplemented with any type of feed. Our other shetlands are on a good pasture and also doing fine.

So this is one very odd occurrence, though apparently common in the area right now and common to be atypical of the usual laminitis symptoms, and we're doing our best to care for her and follow vet directions. This is why I am asking about what to keep an eye on in the hooves so we know whether there are long-term consequences that will need to be managed.

I haven't gotten too much research done on barefoot management techniques, but so far it looks like we'd mainly be needing to boot or cast for comfort and to keep the walls short so the pressure is off until things grow together.

But beyond seeing if she shows signs of soreness, how do we know if we need to do anything?

My husband had trimmed her fronts a few days before this happened. So right now her bevel is good, her quarters are up, and she was moving properly after the trim without any signs of soreness. We've never had a problem with post-trim soreness in any of our horses.

Thanks for trying to help! I really appreciate it.

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It sounds like you are doing all the right things. I don't like to hear about the weight loss, though. Do you think the soreness is causing the weight loss? If so, then boots with pads will help, or soft ground she's more comfortable on.

If she's not overweight, then she doesn't need to be on a diet. A slow feeder would be better to keep her intake constant.

Just the fact that you got her off the grass is going to change things around...chill out her diet.

I would feed 2.5% of her body weight in hay/day. I would put it in a slow feeder net and soak it in a bucket for 20 minutes to get the sugar out of it. Then wait for the chilled out diet/meds to turn things around.

Could be that the snake bite has compromised the blood flow and is now more sensitive to things like this.

Any kind of weather that is not normal...causes the plants to store sugar (drought) or followed by rain (lush growth) is a head's up. Springtime alone is a head's up and for IR horses, so is the fall. So much of this is going on right now.

I just pulled mine off the pasture. I had worked them up to 1/2 a day on pasture. When I took them off, it was Missyclare (24) that was going sore. Walter also had something jump into his eye and it was swollen like a baseball.

The thing that I was noticing was after their 1/2 day on grass, what they would look like. Standing half stretched out, distended tummies and feeling bloated like after a really big meal. They'd be fine the next morning. All on top of their trims etc. Then Missyclare got sore, (RF) just had a Clean Trax treatment too. I soaked her for an hour, starting with epsom salts and warm water because her pastern and heel bulbs were slightly fluid filled and had a squishy feel to digital pulse, but warm. Then soaked again in cold water to fight the heat I was feeling. I also renewed the bevel, but no more, to take the torque off the white line. I then put her on shavings for 4 hours and sprayed her with vinegar before taking her to the dry lot. She's been there unhappily for 2 days, looking at the grass. Geez! When it comes to sugar, horses are no better than kids. They are their own worst enemies!

Her white line wasn't stretched, but dark coloured and mad looking. I renewed the bevel and her soreness decreased 50% right there and is moving around better.

Sweeter than grass, is the weeds. Way higher and with a higher toxicity value to them. Buttercups, lamb's quarters, pig weed. Dandelions have a 27% NFC....too bad, they have an excellent source of Vit. C. Plaintain is the only one that shines with a low sugar level.

I would feed her enough hay that her optimal weight requires and upping it if it doesn't maintain her. Just watch the grain (minimal to only deliver the meds) and watch the sugar.

If you don't have a slow feeder, look into them. They have a wonderful way of keeping the horse happier longer and regulating intake beautifully.

See yuh in the dry lot!......ugh!

Edited by missyclare

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Horses do not have to be fat to founder, and getting weight off a foundered horse isn't exactly the point. It's just that the thing that causes founder normally, sugar and insulin spikes, also tends to cause weight gain. But not always. Just like not all diabetic people are fat.

I think it's a combination of feeding hay that was probably stressed or late in it's cycle and high in sugar, and upping concentrate to make up for poor hay- plus your cold weather.

Would love to see pictures of her feet.

Edited by Southerngurl01

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Update: Usually it is IR horses that are "sensitive" to rich spring grass with laminitis. BUT.... If diarrhea or colic becomes a symptom, then the grass is causing a hind gut upset that lets toxins through and develops into laminitis. Missyclare had diarrhea and she's not IR.

With a barefoot horse on top of its trim, this means probably nothing more but an "event" line on the hoof wall. For a horse with a pasture trim and a moderate amount of pathology on the hoof, the same "event" could spell founder.

My list so far of early symptoms before "the stance" are:


-fluid retention in pastern/heel bulbs

-heat and/or digital pulse

- stretched out stance from being piggies

-diarrhea and/or colic

-difficulty turning

-discoloured white line

Edited by missyclare

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