Thursday, September 24, 2009

Laminitis is Not a Disease

Read almost any horse-related magazine, forum, bulletin board or newsletter, and eventually, a discussion of laminitis will surface. “My horse has laminitis. What’s the best way to treat it?

The first thing to realize is that laminitis is not a disease unto itself. Laminitis - meaning “inflammation of the laminae” - is a symptom of something else going on in the horse’s body.

In other words, to control the laminitis, you must determine and treat the cause. Administering all the anti-inflammatory and vasodilating drugs on the planet will not help if the root cause is not addressed at the same time.

In TREES' case, the laminitic horses we care for all suffer metabolic disorders, some related to Cushings Disease, some not. In every case, though, all tend to have high insulin levels unless their diets are very carefully managed. In every case of active laminitis, the insulin levels were well above what is considered normal, sometimes as much as ten times the norm seen in unaffected horses.

To manage those horses' insulin levels, we think of their management in the same way we think of caring for diabetic humans. Foods low in sugars and other simple carbohydrates, small frequent meals, maximum turnout (exercise - also beneficial in keeping arthritic joints moving, and guts functioning properly), and plenty of water. In the food category, no sweet feeds, no apples, carrots, or other starchy treats, no sugar cubes, no peppermints or other candies, no cookies, no applesauce, no corn syrup, no maple syrup, no ....well the list is endless. What IS allowed is a feed low in non-structural carbohydrates, soaked alfalfa cubes, and hay (remember, though, that all hays are not created equally and greatly vary in sugar content.) That's it!

Do our horses feel neglected or unloved because they get no "treats." Of course not! Grooming, scratches and personal attention fill the definition of "treat" as well as any peppermint could. (An added plus of the "no edible treats" rule is that we don't have horses rooting around in our pockets while trying to work with them, or pushing and shoving each other when visitors arrive.)
And, of course, the ultimate benefit of eliminating every source of sugar we reasonably can eliminate is an appreciable reduction in laminitic episodes in even those horses previously deemed "chronic."

We do take a deep breath any time one of our "metabolic" horses takes one bad step but most often that bad step is not because of laminitis. Should laminitis, however, rear its ugly head again, we'll re-evaluate, find the cause, and work to resolve the underlying issue as we also nip the inflammation in the bud.

Meanwhile, since personal attention is our herd's "treat," please consider a visit. All you need to bring is your fingers! For an appointment:

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