Treating chronic laminitis basically comes down to aggressive dietary management and perfectionist-level hoof care. Veterinary treatment generally involves prescription medications that control inflammation and pain, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and, of course, ice-cold water during the acute phases.
Our February 2002 laminitis article discussed causes of laminitis and common therapies, but non-drug therapies for laminitis are hard to come by. In a perfect world, we would find a laminitis nutraceutical that works as well as glucosamine for arthritis. We may have.
Figuerola Laboratories’ advertising immediately caught our consumer eyes. The claims for LaminaSaver are incredible: It provides pain relief, controls inflammation, enhances growth of normal foot and, most amazingly, it will “derotate” coffin bones. While case reports on the website often report response within days to two weeks, the general product description cautions to allow at least a month. The company recommends a program of administration for 12 months, which would provide adequate time for a hoof to completely regrow.
Like many products, the exact mixture is proprietary, but basically it is a combination of anti-inflammatory/antioxidants, connective tissue precursors and protectants, and ingredients to promote vascular dilation and better circulation/oxygen delivery, e.g. nitric oxide promoters.
The recommended initial dosage is one scoop in the morning and one in the evening, preferably on an empty stomach. At $4 a day, the product is hardly inexpensive. After three to six months, the dose is reduced to one scoop a day. The price is $79.99/lb. for 40 scoops.
We had incredible results with LaminaSaver (see page 12). Our field-trial horses all had a history of laminitis, many being maintained on high-dose bute just to keep them walking. Several were rescue horses with additional physical difficulties beyond poor hoof condition.
All the horses showed improvement while on the supplement, most returning to a level of soundness the owners hadn’t seen in years. Most horses increased voluntary movement, even trotting and cantering, with positive changes in their “zest” for life as well.
Follow-up X-rays on the horses also showed improvements, although a description of the coffin bone “derotating” or reattaching may not be exactly what’s going on.
In the pre- and post-X-rays of our test horses, we did see improvements in the alignment of the coffin bone and the quality of bone in the coffin bone. However, alignment changes were only noted when the horse was regularly attended by a competent farrier who worked to both align the axis of the coffin bone with the hoof wall by removing excess toe and also the bottom of the coffin bone with the ground by not letting the heels get too high.
The difference with the LaminaSaver — and good foot care — is likely due to the new hoof growth having good laminar attachments to the coffin bone. As long as correct trimming was maintained, so that the hoof capsule wasn’t mechanically pulling the older and weaker laminae apart, the coffin bone could stay in a good alignment.
We did find some discrepancy in the product’s effective dose. With horses or ponies over 700 to 800 pounds, the loading dose of two full scoops was either ineffective or only minimally effective. When the dosage was doubled for larger animals, the results were rapid and dramatic.
Figuerola suggested we try a combination of their InflamaSaver with the LaminaSaver, rather than double-dosing the loading dose of LaminaSaver. This combination was effective as well, although either way the daily cost is high. At double dose, it’s $8/day initially, with $4/day for maintenance, compared to the label-recommended levels at $4/day loading dose and $2/day for maintenance.
Incredibly, despite the cost, everyone who used this product agreed it was worth it since nothing else had produced equivalent results.
Avoiding long-term NSAID use in a horse with laminitis can be a major issue. Devil’s claw-based products are often a good alternative (see June 2001), but we also had luck with a new herbal remedy.
Phyto-Quench combines a long list of potent antioxidants and herbal ingredients that reads like a who’s who in arthritis control and an emphasis on maintaining good circulation. It sounded to us like just the thing for laminitis as well.
In two acute and two chronic laminitis cases, the horses were taken off maintenance bute of from 1 to 3 grams per day but remained as comfortable on the Phyto-Quench. The dosage for a pony was one scoop per day (38 grams), and horses started on two scoops per day. All but one horse were able to drop down to one scoop.
One mare with chronic low-grade laminitis didn’t respond well to bute. She was somewhat better on Banamine, but would go off feed with continued use of either one. After four days of Phyto-Quench, she became sound with no loss of appetite. This horse had minimal rotation but poor hoof quality, white-line separation, plus sole tenderness. Although the ongoing pain suggested chronic active laminitis, her feet were never hot. In fact, they were cold.
Examination with the Raytek thermography gun (see June 2001) was abnormal. Instead of the usual warmer readings at the coronary band and upper foot, her front feet showed no difference between pastern and foot readings, while the hind feet showed a more likely three-degree difference. After four days on Phyto-Quench, the coronary band area and upper hoof wall registered two degrees warmer and the mare was sound.
Phyto-Quench is $56.95/4 lbs., which is 48 38-gram servings at $1.19/serving or $2.38/loading dose.
Easy Cold Therapy
You may hear critics of cold therapy argue that cold is only appropriate for the prodromal stages of laminitis, before the horse becomes obviously lame, at which point the cold would helps interrupt the production of inflammatory mediators that can cause vasospasm. They fear that cold after this point may worsen vascular shunting in the feet. However, it’s never been proven that the time-honored treatment of cooling the feet is harmful in any way.
While extreme cold could cause shunting in the hoof, most cooling methods don’t even come close to producing freezing temperatures, and when laminitic feet are obviously hot and inflamed, cooling does provide significant relief and is likely to help limit the inflammatory response. Getting it done easily is another story.
Running streams are great, if you have one. Otherwise you have to either stand the horse in tubs or hose the legs/feet. Both are limited by how willing the horse is to stand, are messy and are time consuming. Soaking is also often contraindicated as bacteria in the water can help seed abscesses. Oversoftening the feet also makes them more tender.
A cleaner option, which keeps the fe et dry and also allows the horse to lie down during treatment, is the new MacKinnon Ice Horse Big Black Boot ($85 per boot). A skid-resistant, plastic polymer, wide-web, oversized bar shoe is molded to the bottom of a durable padded synthetic upper boot that opens with flaps in the back.
Inside the boot is heavy-duty netting on the sides/front and bottom that hold cooling packs (water, propylene glycol and synethetic polymers). The packs remain pliable after freezing. The boot closes securely with hook-and-loop straps. The boots provide effective, but not excessive, cooling for up to two hours. The boot works great for horses with sole bruises and sore feet as well.
Without question, the regular help of an experienced farrier is crucial in treating chronic laminitis. In addition, we recommend investing in X-rays. Both your veterinarian and farrier will be better able to advise you when they can actually see what’s going on in the hoof.
While we lean toward the side of “barefoot is better,” the ultimate decision on shoes depends on your horse and your veterinarian’s and farrier’s recommendations.
The boots from MacKinnon are excellent, and we’ve not seen anything that makes cooling hooves simpler or more effective. In addition, they’re durable. We’d make them a tack-room basic, not just for laminitis episodes, but for pain relief with sole bruising and sore feet.
Without question, however, our most impressive results for chronic laminitis were with LaminaSaver. We believe it basically lived up to its claims and recommend it as worth the money.
Also With This Article
Click here to view “Chronic Laminitis.”
Click here to view “An Experienced, Skilled Farrier Is Necessary For Recovery.”
Click here to view “LaminaSaver Field-Trial Horses Case Histories.”
Contact Your Local Tack Store Or: LaminaSaver, Figuerola Laboratories, www.figuerola-laboratories.com or 800/219-1147; Phyto-Quench, Uckele Health and Nutrition, www.uckele.com or 800/248-0330; MacKinnon Ice Horse Big Black Boot www.mackinnonicehorse.com or 800/786-6633.