Laminitis vs founder

Did you know the terms laminitis and founder do not mean the same thing?

Some owners will describe their horse as foundering when their horse is actually suffering from laminitis. So, what’s the difference?

Laminitis is a disease of the feet. It literally means “inflammation of the lamini”. The lamini are what make the connection between the pedal bone (also known as coffin bone or P3) and the hoof. The pedal bone is suspended in the hoof by these lamini, which keep it firmly in place. This is necessary because the horse’s weight and the tendon that is connected to the pedal bone create forces that would otherwise move it. When the lamini inside the foot become inflamed, the local swelling that goes with it causes the lamini to lose their grip and the connection between the bone and the hoof wall becomes unstable.

When the lamini lose their grip, the forces that are put on the pedal bone can cause it to shift. The horse’s bodyweight can cause the pedal bone to sink down inside the hoof. The deep digital flexor tendon, which attaches to the pedal bone, can cause the bone to rotate by pulling the toe tip backward. When these incidents occur, it’s commonly called “founder” or a sunken bone can be called a “sinker”.

As you can imagine laminitis is an extremely painful condition. An acute episode of laminitis is an emergency situation that needs to be handled ASAP! If this does not happen in time, the horse can start to founder. Once the pedal bone sinks or rotates, the prognosis becomes poorer. After initial treatment, some horses can be managed long term with special shoeing for extra support and corrective trimming (often calculated from radiographs). Founder however can be too painful for a horse to have a good quality of life, in which case euthanasia becomes the only option.

Laminitis is a serious condition that can have lifelong effects on a horse (and therefore the owner). It is important to find the cause of laminitis and treat it, otherwise it is likely to recur.

Do you have questions about laminitis or founder? Or do you think your horse might be at risk? Call us on 06 356 5011 or e-mail awapuni@tvg.co.nz to talk to one of our vets.

 

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