While laminitis is commonly associated with springtime and all the new, lush grass, the threat of laminitis in the fall is still very real. With this summer’s weather being conducive to lush pastures, it is important to constantly monitor and observe your susceptible horses for this debilitating hoof disease. Older and overweight horses are more susceptible, especially the ones that show early cases of Cushing’s disease which can cause a worsened insulin resistance, as are ponies, minis and draft horses.
Diet is a huge component to combating laminitis, as a diet very low in simple sugars (ESC) and starch can help combat its onset. Some experts, such as Eleanor Kellon, VMD, veterinary advisor to ECIR Group INC, have attributed the cause as the seasonal rise in the Adrenocorticotropic hormone or ACTH. ACTH is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. Its function is to stimulate the adrenals to release cortisol. Cortisol induces insulin resistance and also makes the blood vessels in the hoof more sensitive to chemicals mediating constriction.
Carefully observing the grass in which you allow your horse to graze in is important, as the high levels of Fructan, the sugar in grass, can trigger laminitis. It is hard to pinpoint the exact “areas” of grass that are harmful, but there are common areas that are high risk. These areas include, but are not limited to, lush green grass, cool-season grass such as bluegrass and orchard grass, and even previously unaffected areas. The issue itself lies within the growth pattern of the grass, not so much the grass itself, which makes combating and controlling the issue even trickier. This, coupled with the natural tendency of horses to have an ACTH hormone rise from late summer through end November allows the onset of laminitis. If you find your horse to be spotting visible hoof pain, of course consult with your veterinarian and your farrier to determine the cause. If you know your horse is teetering on the overweight side or is in one of the high risk categories, try muzzling them to limit their intake, or containing them to a dry lot. Also, turning them out at night can give them the freedom to graze while the grass’ sugar content is low. Also, if you supplement their pasture time with a grain, consult with your veterinarian to determine if a low starch balancer feed might be a better option.
Just like humans, a healthy diet and exercise is a good combatant for most illnesses. Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of laminitis and is a good method to help prevent laminitis from occurring in the first place. With prevention in mind, monitor your horse’s diet, examine their body index and control pasture time. Preventative care is always easier than recovering care, so take these precautions to help your horse out during this deceptively “safe” fall season.
Stay up to date with all Stardust Farm related material by checking back regularly for more insightful articles such as this!
For further reading and research on fall laminitis, you may check out these links.