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Doubling-Down for Serious Laminitis

*Note this is about feeding not trimming – it goes without saying that the services of a vet for pain relief/x-rays along with a farrier/hoof trimmer experienced with laminitis cases are essential. Properly attending to horse suffering from laminitis is a team effort!

If laminitis is caught early enough recovery can be a straightforward process:

  • Urgently remove them from all green forage. This includes lucerne as it has a very similar nutrient profile to short, green grass (high potassium/Crude Protein/low sugars)

  • Soak their hay

  • Eliminate all hard feed

  • Ensure soft footing – at least 6 inches deep sand or sawdust so that they can bury their hooves into it - being able to lay down a LOT brings obvious comfort. The horse is noticeably GRATEFUL WHEN THIS IS PROVIDED.

You should see improvement within a week.

Once the horse is out of pain…

Carefully reintroduce a small hard feed (twice a day) consisting of non-lucerne chaff, along with small amounts of protein (not easily digestible eg: Black Sunflower Seeds ) to start with, salt, vitamins & minerals. There is no protein in mineral licks and no Vitamins, notably no Vitamin E.

Having said this, some horses recovering from laminitis are NOT straight forward cases. They do your head in! Lack of progress can be down to the hay!

In our experience dealing with some more challenging cases, it is necessary to ‘double down’ on the above.

Most people don’t have a large enough soaking container for the volume of hay they are soaking. You really do need a high water:hay ratio which can be a practical challenge.

The following works well:

Double Soak the hay ie soak it for 1 – 2 hours then change the water and soak again for another 1 – 2 hours

When you take it out of the water – rinse before draining. Soak, Rinse, Soak, Rinse, Drain.

This also vastly reduces the risk of any microbial contamination.

How to go about soaking hay is explained in full here… Soaking Hay | Calm Healthy Horses

Double soaking is more effective than leaving the hay in the same water for double the amount of time. This is because once the water becomes saturated (with potassium and sugars) there is no room for anymore - refreshing the water works better.

The Analysis in the picture below clearly illustrates the aspects of the forage that are lowered to an effective level by double-soaking.

The 500kg horse that was consuming this hay did not improve (obvious pulses and reluctance to move) while eating the un-soaked version, neither when it was soaked once for longer (over-night).

But within two days of double-soaking his pulses had markedly reduced and he was walking around of his own accord, not 100% but much better.

The aspects of this hay that reduced significantly after double-soaking are highlighted.

Note the soluble sugars weren’t excessively high in the unsoaked hay anyway. In theory they should not have perpetuated the laminitis.

Also note the Crude Protein is NOT reduced by soaking, the minerals with the exception of Potassium weren’t hardly affected either.

Significantly in our eyes, the Potassium:Sodium ratio was vastly reduced as was the DCAD (Dietary Cation Anion Difference). Many people only ever test for the sugars.

Starch levels were <0.5% in both un-soaked and double-soaked.

It is therefore worth double-soaking until the pulse is faint or undetectable, then you can go back to single soaks and carefully START to introduce a small hard feed as above.

This is where it is like walking a tight-rope – give too much too quickly and the pulse will return. In this case the introduction of small amounts of linseed/sun-flower seeds caused a marked improvement in his demeanour and energy levels.

Although more of a chore, double-soaking is a potentially better strategy than weighing their hay and having them go long hours without.

Expect that the horse/pony will lose weight/muscle over this time – this is secondary to getting them out of pain.

Also note that hay alone does not provide sufficient daily essential nutrients to maintain optimal health, it is essential to add quality Vitamins and Minerals.

This hay (un-soaked) delivers only 17mgs/kg of zinc: 5mgs/kg of copper so even if the horse consumed 10kgs/day he would only be getting 170mgs/day of zinc and 50mgs/day of copper – woefully inadequate for any horse. Minimum according to NRC to prevent deficiency is 400mgs/kg of Zinc: 100mgs/kg copper. They really need 2-3 x those levels (as supplied in our MVA products)

Providing Selenium is another no brainer as this is vital for thyroid function, is deficient in soils and therefore hay in many parts of the world, along with obvious minerals such as copper and zinc and amino acids necessary to promote growth of hoof wall with healthy new connection as rapidly as possible.

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