Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Speedy Laminitis/Founder Recovery ?

Recently, I responded to a question on the EC list about one of the targeted "magic bullet" supplements that are becoming heavily marketed toward horses with laminitis. The supplement in question isn't a bad supplement - it is safe and would likely do the job - but in my mind it supplies some unnecessary nutrients, is overpriced and appeals to the emotional vulnerability of our desire to do the best we can for our horses.
The writer was appropriately seeking to support her horse's recovery from founder, but also wanted to know if the supplement would provide a "speedier" recovery.
There is no speedy recovery from laminitis/founder - under the best conditions, recovery is limited by the horse's ability to grow a new hoof capsule.
With all systems being optimal
  • diagnosis by doing the correct blood work for metabolic issues to differentiate IR (insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome) from Cushing's Disease (PPID)
  • appropriate medication only if definitively diagnosed with Cushing's
  • removing the source or cause of the laminitis/founder
  • diet based on low carbohydrate forage supplemented with minerals and vitamins that both provide recommended daily requirements and balance any excesses/deficiencies based on hay analysis or regional information
  • frequent hoof care based on a trim which places P3 ground parallel and removes stress from the injured laminae
  • non-weight bearing straight line exercise (no riding) as tolerated by the horse during recovery plus as much turn out as possible for free movement
recovery from laminitis/founder is going to take the time it takes to regrow a new hoof capsule with tight laminar connections - at least 8 to 10 months or more.
Even if your horse "appears" sound - if shod, with anti-inflammatory medication (bute or herbal), on soft resiliant footing or when wearing boots - it takes at least eight months for the hoof capsule to regrow and the damage to be repaired. Irregardless of which hoof care method you choose (I have personal preferences but my way is not the only way) it will take at least eight months before your horse can be safely started back in work.
Going back to work too early can stress the new growth and slow down the repair. Would you continue to jog, play tennis, go dancing before your broken foot healed? (I realize that some of us would but our horse does not have the option to choose.)
For a metabolically challenged horse, a half hour of grass or a scoop of the wrong feed at your boarding barn can put you back to step 1 and turn an eight month recovery into a year or longer. And trying to treat IR with medication instead of diet changes is an exercise in futility.
Good nutrition can help put your horse at the short end of the time line to regrow a new hoof capsule by providing the building blocks required for healing and repair. Your horse will need good quality low carbohydrate forage, quality protein, and minerals and vitamins that at least meet NRC requirements and balance the forage/hay. Healing requires higher levels of antioxidant support which can be safely enhanced by providing vitamin E at levels suggested by KER research and Omega-3 essential fatty acids from flax.
You don't need to spend $2 to $3 a day on a "magic bullet" supplement to supply what your horse needs. A custom mix that balances your hay analysis or regional needs will more likely be in the range of 60-90 cents a day with some locally purchased "add-ins" - vitamin E, magnesium, iodized salt - adding another 15-20 cents a day.
While many horses can benefit from anti-inflammatory herbs to improve comfort and/or nitric oxide donor herbs to improve circulation, these should be specific and targeted, not part of a "kitchen-sink" approach. Any herb at a level potent enough to provide benefit also has the potential for adverse side effects and their use should be carefully considered, along with the possibility of synergy (multiplication of individual actions when combined) and interaction with medications your vet may have ordered.
Once your horse is through the acute initial phase of a laminitis/founder attack, plan on hanging up your saddle for at least eight months and consider how to turn his recovery time into an opportunity. The additional TLC he will require almost guarantees a new bonding experience for you, a time when you can just be and reflect with your horse. Take the time to explore some of the excellent groups and websites focused on laminitis/founder and metabolics (see my links for a sampling). Learn what your horse's nutritional requirements really are, how to read labels and how to separate myth and advertising from fact. Plan a gradual reconditioning program so that once he can carry a rider again, he can do it safely with less chance of reinjury.
Speedy recovery? Don't expect it. But you can make this recovery time count toward your horse's long term soundness and health.

8 comments:

Suzanne said...

Excellent info! When I first suspected IR in my mare, I was guilty of looking for the "magic bullet." Through lots of reading and research, the EC group being a big part of that, I came to know otherwise. Balancing the diet and adding targeted treatments isn't that difficult once you get the feel for it. The horse will tell you if you're on the right track.

Anonymous said...

Great information and very necessary in today's world, as more and more horses are showing up with IR, Cushings, and laminitis. I've found this article to be useful to me, and hope it helps other people dealing with laminitis related issues:

http://www.holistichorsekeeping.com/resources/articles/chroniclaminitis2.html

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for your informative article. It has been articles like yours that have helped me and my friend through a very difficult time with her foundered pony - who 3 months after his attack is now steadily recovering.

Cindy said...

I needed this, my horse had a case with rotation in August 2011. It's hard to watch her in discomfort, but she is not giving up and neither am I. It does look like I need to get her trimmed more often. Pray for us.

Patti said...

Cindy ~
Sorry that I am late in catching your comment. Please email me if you need any help with your horse's diet and consider joining the Equine Cushing's group (if you haven't already). http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/EquineCushings/
Also check out http://www.ecirhorse.com/

Anonymous said...

Hi thanks for the great article. I was just wondering if the same time frame applies to a horse that has experienced laminitis from too much grass and has responded well to treatment and has not resulted in a rotated or sunk coffin bone. Thanks

Anonymous said...

I will.I know what it's like.

Patti said...

Catching up on posts that slipped into cyber space -
Just need to keep in mind that the laminae are inflamed and damaged in any episode of laminitis, even a "mild" one. I would want to make certain any "triggers" are removed (feeds with excess carbs, grass, etc.) and watch like a hawk for any sign of foot tenderness. A healthy horse may grow a full new hoof capsule in less time than one with poor nutrition or footing, but will continue to be at greater risk until the hoof capsule has fully grown out. I tend to err on the side of caution as I see many owners (and vets) using bute or mechanical devices to keep a laminitic horse in competition,