What is laminitis?

Understanding the effects of laminitis on the foot

X-ray of horse's hoof showing pedal bone
Radiograph of horse's hoof showing pedal bone

Laminitis is a common, painful and potentially devastating condition affecting the feet and hooves of horses and ponies.

In the foot of the normal horse or pony, the hoof wall and the pedal bone (the lowest bone in the foot) are joined together by velcro-like structures called the laminae. When a horse or pony has laminitis these laminae become inflamed and pull apart - this is extremely painful, and results in the pedal bone dropping away from the hoof wall. This can be seen in the x-ray above.

If an episode of laminitis goes on for some time, or if there are repeated occurrences, the damage can become irreversible leading to rotation of the pedal bone and permanent foot pain, and in extremely severe cases euthanasia.