Newsletter Vol 10 2017
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Contents of this newsletter

01 What is laminitis?

02 The dreaded dummy foal

01 What is laminitis?

Laminitis (also known as founder) is a potentially crippling condition of horses and ponies which can be fatal in severe cases.

By definition, laminitis is inflammation of the ‘laminae’ of the foot – the sensitive soft tissue structures that attach the pedal bone of the foot to the hoof wall. Inflammation and damage to the sensitive laminae causes extreme pain and can lead to instability of the pedal bone in the hoof. In severe or chronic cases it can lead to irreversible rotation and/or sinking of the pedal bone within the hoof capsule. All four feet can be affected, although the fore-limbs are more frequently and severely affected than the hind-limbs as they support around 60% of the horse’s weight, while the hind-limbs support the other 40%.

What does laminitis look like?

In the initial stages, laminitis may present with signs such as:

  • Reluctance to move about
  • Sore-footedness, especially on hard ground
  • ‘Leaning back’ stance
  • Weight shifting from foot to foot
  • Excessive lying down

Horses or ponies which have suffered chronic (ongoing) laminitis may have signs of abnormal hoof growth such as hoof wall ‘rings’ and long, dished toes.

It is important to note that laminitis can affect all breeds of horses, not just fat ponies.

What causes laminitis?

Laminitis is a complex condition with a range of potential causes and underlying conditions:
Nutritional causes – e.g. over-feeding
Metabolic conditions – e.g. Equine Metabolic Syndrome, Cushing’s disease
Toxins – e.g. grain overload, retained placenta in broodmares
Traumatic causes – e.g. over-trimming, repeated concussion on hard surfaces

Diagnosis & treatment

We will be able to make a diagnosis based on medical history and examination, and with the aid of X-rays. Treatment will vary depending on the underlying cause but is generally aimed at reducing the inflammation in the feet to prevent or limit irreversible structural changes.

02 The dreaded dummy foal

Dummy foal syndrome, also known as Neonatal Maladjustment Syndrome, is a broad term that describes a range of conditions that may cause a newborn foal to exhibit abnormal behaviours and/or neurological signs. Dummy foal syndrome may present at birth, or within 24-48 hours of birth. Dummy foal syndrome affects 3-5% of live born foals.

What are the signs of a dummy foal?

As the name suggests, these foals act “dumb”. They may show signs such as weakness or collapse, depression or lethargy, lack of interest in nursing and poor suckle reflex, disorientation/circling, abnormal vocalisation or even seizures.

What causes dummy foal syndrome?

Dummy foal syndrome is thought to result from a lack of oxygen reaching the foal’s brain, either before, during or after birth. Risk factors can include placentitis in the mare, a prolonged or difficult birth (e.g. dystocia, red bag delivery, caesarean), premature birth, and illness or disease.

What can be done for dummy foals?

If you suspect your foal may be suffering from dummy foal syndrome please contact us immediately as prompt diagnosis and treatment is critical. We will usually treat a dummy foal with intensive supportive care, including IV fluid therapy +/- plasma transfusion, oxygen therapy, nutritional support, anti-inflammatory medication and antimicrobial treatment.

Foals that respond well to treatment often go on to live long, healthy and successful lives.