Laminitis treatment: A practical approach

Laminitis treatment: A practical approach

One practitioner's 13-step protocol to help horses suffering from this painful condition
Feb 01, 2011

For equine practitioners, treating laminitis may seem like an unrewarding task that can leave patients unimproved (or worse) and clients overwhelmed. So many treatment modalities, drugs and over-the-counter supplements are available that it becomes frustrating just to develop a plan based on solid science.

Photo 1: A grade I laminitic event associated with radiographic findings of mild rotation, good sole depth and fairly normal horn-lamellar zone. (Photos courtesy of Dr. Floyd)
If there are any pearls of wisdom I can give, they would be the following:

Photo 2: A grade II laminitic event associated with radiographic findings of increased rotation, less sole depth and expanded horn-lamellar zone.
• Develop a protocol, and stick to it every time you treat a case of laminitis. Many changes can indicate the severity of as well as signal either improvement in or progression of the disease, and you must learn to identify these signs. Consequently, consistency in your approach to diagnosing and treating laminitis is critical.

Photo 3: A grade III laminitic event associated with radiographic findings of increased rotation (greater than 10 degrees), decreased sole depth and horn-lamellar zone with increased edema and distortion.
• If your protocol doesn't work, send the patient to a specialty hospital.

Photo 4: A grade IV laminitic event with radiographic findings that show evidence of solar prolapse, horn-lamellar zone edema and rotation greater than 15 degrees.
In my early days of practice, each time I got a call about a suspected laminitis case, I felt like I was doomed to failure because there were no tried-and-true therapies. We had some ideas about which medications to administer, but these only relieved the pain—they didn't treat the disease process. The horse was lame and was going to get better or not; it was that simple. After being in practice some time, I began using the following protocol, which allowed me to approach these cases with confidence and know whether I was dealing with a Grade I, II, III or IV laminitic event (Photos 1-4).