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Bob Childs - ESA/AHA/PHCP Certified Hoof Specialist

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Laminitis and Obesity
By | | Laminitis |

Interesting comments on laminitis and obesity by Donald M. Walsh, DVM


"Based on my experience observing laminitic horses over the past 36 years in veterinary practice, I believe that obesity leads to the development of weakened laminae and other supporting structures of the foot and to changes in the growth pattern of the feet. 2 Radiographs reveal that the appearance of the laminae begins to change in horses that are becoming obese, even before any signs of lameness from laminitis are observed.


Perhaps, when a horse becomes obese, there is a messenger substance that promotes or allows for the skin's basement membrane to stretch so the skin can "enlarge itself" in order to accommodate for the increased layer of fat under the skin. If this is so, perhaps this same messenger substance is also recognized by the epithelial laminar basement membrane in the foot, which would cause the basement membrane to stretch, which could result in the weakening of the laminae of the foot in the obese horse. These weakened feet are much more susceptible to grass laminitis and other predisposing insults known to cause laminitis.


Obese horses need a major change in lifestyle in order to become healthy. Accomplishing this can be a challenging task for the owner because weight reduction in these horses requires a low caloric diet together with a considerable amount of exercise. Many of the horses experiencing laminitis are so sore-footed that much exercise is not possible. Many live lives of constant pain associated with ongoing bouts of laminitis, which finally results in so much damage to the feet that recovery is impossible. These (heavy-type) horses are the most common group associated with the ingestion of grass as a cause of laminitis."