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Discover These 10 Laminitis Symptoms in Horses

Chris Price

As a horse owner, it can be a challenging time to think about laminitis symptoms in horses (inflamed sensitive laminae) and perhaps even more worrying when there is no obvious source of the pain. Knowing even some of the laminitis symptoms in horses can help you to understand what might be troubling them and prepare you for the next steps to take.

Although some Laminitis symptoms in horses are more subtle than others, here are some of the key ones to look out for :

  • Signs of pain in any of the feet
  • Particular pain in the front feet that occurs in both left and right sides
  • Sensitivity to the use of hoof testers that check for pain in the sole (that check for pain in the sole)
  • Heat in the hooves
  • A strong pulse just below the fetlock
  • Leaning back on the heels and reluctance to move
  • Rings around the hooves that could be a sign of having had laminitis before
  • Change in shape of the hoof that will result from lack of use after having had the problem for quite a while
  • Hoof or shoe wear that is significantly uneven or different from normal wear
  • Any symptoms of Cushings disease
  • Any symptoms of insulin not working well (EMS) which may or may not be related to obesity

When horses have Cushings disease this is the chief non-nutritional cause of the problem.

laminitis symptoms in horses

Cushing’s symptoms are caused by excessive levels of steroid hormones in the body and include:

  • A rough curly coat that will not shed in the spring
  • General poor condition and tiredness caused by a weak immune system
  • Drinking and urinating a lot
  • Puffy areas over the eyes and behind the shoulder
  • Breeding problems

So, thinking about this multitude of different laminitis symptoms in horses we can see that it can often be tough to pinpoint exactly what is going on.  This is especially so if the physical symptoms are mild and the cause of the laminitis is resulting in other non-specific problems in the body.

Laminitis Symptoms in Horses: What to do if you think it is Laminitis?

When you see a horse that is displaying pain in its feet which you think could be Laminitis, first feel if the hoof in question is hot, then feel the pulse below the fetlock and see if this is strong.  After this, think if the horse has access to rich food or fertilised grass.  Then if all seems clear look for signs of Cushing’s which is becoming more common these days partly because of the levels of chemicals in the environment.

If there are no signs of Cushing’s and your vet does not think there is any too then think of Metabolic disease (EMS) and ask your vet to investigate if he or she has not already done so with a test.

Another way of deciding the cause of the issue for mild cases of laminitis is doing nutritional trials.  Be very careful with this approach and always tell your vet what you are doing.  If nutrition is the issue, you can use a nutritional tonic in order to resolve issues caused by rich food and improve digestion of food. A liver tonic may be suitable in this regard. If this is not sufficient to give quick results, extra nutrition for the hormones combined with support for the liver should give you results after a month or two.  In these cases, Cushing’s is more than likely the source of the problem.

For the sake of completeness, I should say that you should always be aware of the environment of your horse because this may give you the best clue as to what is going on.  Think about the following issues:

  • Access to very rich grass or too much rich food
  • Access to fertilised grass
  • Access to frosty grass in the winter
  • A cresty neck
  • Overweight
  • A large amount of spraying of arable crops in the surrounding fields
  • An infection Too much exercise on a hard surface
  • Favouring one leg because of another problem
  • Bad shoeing which bruises the laminae
  • Stress makes the body release too many cortisol hormones.
  • In broodmares- retained placenta



Rich food is still the primary problem for horses prone to laminitis but symptoms of the disease can often be confusing. The second most important problem is a spike in steroid hormone levels that cause many other unrelated symptoms of Cushing’s and confuses the diagnosis.  Metabolic problems associated with EMS are another cause and are increasingly common and make matters even more complicated.  Both Cushing’s and metabolic issues may be closely connected to environmental contamination.

There are nutritional ways of helping decide what are the origins of the problem but always seek advice from your vet first.  For further information on any of our products and nutritional advice, please do get in touch via our website live chat, advice line, or social media.



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