One cause of laminitis, or founder, is obesity. Obesity-associated laminitis is often found in adult horses that don’t receive consistent work. This can cause foundering because the extra body weight puts extra pressure on the horse’s hooves. This makes the soles of the horse’s hooves sore. Those affected with this typically have large pockets of fat on the crest of their neck and on their butt. Sometimes, these horses are also insulin resistant or have Cushing’s disease. Natalie Buss. Photo by Timber Creek PhotographyNatalie Buss. Photo by Timber Creek Photography

Another cause of laminitis in horses is grain overload. This causes founder because after a horse eats a larger than normal amount of grain, the horse’s gut is overwhelmed by the dying off of good bacteria and a build-up of lactic acid from the fermentation, or digestion, of the grain. As the good bacteria die off, they release toxins that make the horse very sick. If the grain binge is caught early enough, the horse can be treated with nasogastric tubed mineral oil. This is when your vet puts a tube in the horse’s nostril, pushing it gently down into their stomach and then pumping out excess fluid and pumping in mineral oil. If not treated early, symptoms of founder will occur 12 to 18 hours after eating too much grain.

A less common cause of laminitis is standing on bedding that contains Black Walnut shavings. Standing on or eating some Black Walnut shavings causes founder because this species of tree is highly toxic to horses. Since Black Walnut wood is often used to make furniture, its shavings have been used for bedding. All of the parts of the Black Walnut tree are poisonous to horses, and the only symptom of Black Walnut poisoning is laminitis.

The best way to deal with laminitis is to prevent the causes. Some ways that laminitis and founder can be prevented are by promoting a healthy lifestyle for your horse, keeping all grain stored securely and out of reach of your horses, and not using bedding that contains Black Walnut shavings. If you ever suspect laminitis, consider it a medical emergency and contact a veterinarian immediately. While you wait for your vet, take your horse’s temperature and start soaking your horse’s feet and lower legs in ice water to try and keep the inflammation down. There are lots of ways that your horse could founder, but if caught early, you can keep the worst away.

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