Sunday, September 1, 2013

Fall Laminitis Signs and Intervention - by Dr. E. Kellon, DVM

Several years ago, I was shocked when my aging horse developed sensitivity in its feet in the fall, and this without having access to ANY fresh grass or grain.  This is when I learned that laminitis and founder are not strictly related to eating too much grain or being turned out of fresh grass to quickly.  In the course of my research into ways to help my horse, I found Dr. Kellon, but also a lot of information on the root causes of laminities in horses, and ways to prevent it or treat it.  In the case of my mare, that episode turned out to be the first sight of Cushings disease and she was subsequently treated with Pergolide.

I thought I would pass on this article by Dr. Kellon that gives a fairly simple explanation of the process and the scientific evidence behind fall laminitis, as well as dietary concerns.  It might save you a lot of time looking for answers or even prevent an outset. -- Geneviève Benoit

Laminitis in pastured horses peaks in the spring. There is also a smaller cluster of cases seen in the fall. To understand the reason, you have to look to the causes.

One of the most devastating effects of fall laminitis is that it can appear to strike out of nowhere. However, if you know and are alert to the warning signs, you can intervene and protect your horse before disaster strikes.

Review of case histories in a large veterinary hospital found that 80+% of cases of laminitis are related to endocrine disorders – insulin resistance or Cushing's disease, which causes insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance/IR is a condition in which the insulin sensitive cells, especially skeletal muscle and fat, do not respond normally to the hormone insulin, whose job is to get glucose into the cells.  As a result, much higher than normal levels of insulin are needed to get the job done.

What does all of this have to do with fall laminitis? Beginning late August and into the fall, horses experience a rise in the pituitary hormone ACTH. ACTH is the hormone that causes cortisol release from the adrenal gland. For most horses, this is not a problem. However, increased cortisol will worsen insulin resistance and can push IR horses over the edge into laminitis. Also, horses in the early stages of Cushing's disease, which is also characterized by increased levels of ACTH, have an exaggerated release of the hormone in the fall. This can be high enough to push them into insulin resistance and laminitis. In fact, an unexplained fall laminitis is sometimes the very first symptom of Cushing's disease.

There's nothing we can do to prevent the ACTH rise, but you can be alert for signs the horse could be getting in trouble. Look for increased water consumption and urination, weight gain without change in diet, increasing fat deposits along the neck, tail base, shoulders or other abnormal location, depression. Early signs of laminitis can include reduced activity, reluctance to move when asked, tenderness on hard ground, shortened stride, stiff movements and reluctance to turn.

Click here to read the full article by Dr. Kellon

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Geneviève Benoit offers seminars and workshops on natural horse management, as well as on using Photonic Therapy and Essential Oils.  Contact us for more info and to set one up. 


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