Dr. Tania Sundra

16 September 2018

7 Early Warning Signs of Laminitis



The lamellar tissue is an important part of the hoof. Laminitis occurs when the lamellar tissue becomes inflamed. It can tear and separate from the pedal bone and hoof wall, causing the pedal bone to rotate downwards. This is an extremely painful condition.

The earliest sign of laminitis most commonly recognised by owners is the classic ‘laminitic stance’ where the horse brings the hind feet under its body and stretches the front feet forwards. It is important to note, that once this is noticed, there has already been substantial damage to the underlying structures within the hoof.

Paying close attention to your horse, and recognising subtle changes in gait and vital signs can make a big impact on the outcome.


  1. Shortened stride : You may notice your horse having a short stride when turning in a tight circle at the walk. This may be more obvious on firm ground.
  2. Increased digital pulses : Digital pulses should be faint or absent. A strong pulse is an indicator of foot pain. Bounding pulses in both front feet is highly suspicious of laminitis.
  3. Shifting weight more frequently : Horses who shift weight from one foot to the other more frequently may be showing early signs of laminitis. Researchers showed that horses normally shift their weight between front feet at a rate of 2-3 times per minute. Horses with early stage laminitis shifted their weight at a rate of 3-5 times per minute.
  4. Heat in the feet : Normal hooves can be warm. However, an increase in temperature between the front feet compared to the hind feet can be an early sign of laminitis. Knowing what is normal for your horse, is very important.
  5. Increased heart rate : A normal resting heart rate of a horse is between 28-44 beats per minute. Pain will usually result in an elevated heart rate. Once again, knowing what is normal for your horse is important.
  6. Blood spots on the white line of the hoof : If you or your farrier notices slight bleeding from the white line, this could be an early indicator of laminitis. Blood is present due to haemorrhaging from the lamellar. Your farrier may recommend a Podiatry Exam.
  7. Reluctance to move : Pain in both front feet will make your horse reluctant to move. You may find them standing for extended periods of time in one place and reluctant to move with their paddock mates.


  • Call the vet. Prompt diagnosis and treatment is essential to ensure a favourable outcome.
  • Ice your horse’s feet. Stand your horse or pony in buckets of ice/water slurry up their knees/hocks and keep topping up the water with ice until the vet arrives. This cryotherapy has been shown to extremely useful in reducing the severity of laminitis.
  • Remove all grain and high starch feed from your horse. This includes high sugar hay like oaten or wheaten hay. If you do not have access to an alternative low-sugar hay option then soak the hay for 30-60mins in cold water prior to feeding it to your horse. A high fibre, low starch diet is recommended for laminitic horses.
  • Prepare a deep sand yard for your horse. Horses in the early stages of laminitis will be much more comfortable in deep sand bedding as it will provide some support and reduce pain.
  • Do not force the horse to walk until the vet has examined the horse. This will increase the strain on the already damaged laminae and potentially make the laminitis worse.

You can read more about this condition on our LAMINITIS FACTSHEET.

Download & Print our LAMINITIS INFOGRAPHIC for a Quick-Reference Guide.


Please contact us immediately if you are concerned about laminitis in your horse or pony.
We are available 24/7 – 0427 072 095.