I’ve only seen a horse with laminitis once. We had a pony at the barn who looked uncomfortable. She kept shifting her weight. She had appeared slightly off. Her symptoms were suspicious, but when I suggested she could be foundering, her owners were reluctant to call the vet. By chance, we had a potential new border come by the barn the next day who happened to be a vet. She took one look at the pony, checked her digital pulse, and confirmed my suspicions. I called the vet right then.
Unfortunately, the pony did have laminitis. Waiting didn’t help. By the time the vet arrived, the coffin bones in her front hooves had rotated 12 and 14%. Given the severity of the founder, her symptoms seemed relatively minor. She did not show the classic “founder stance” She did recover, but the treatment was long and the episode could have been minimized with the proper diagnosis.
A new diagnostic tool shows real promise in treating laminitis: the venogram. A venogram is an x-ray procedure that uses an injection of contrast material to show how blood flows through the veins. According to an interview in the Paulick Report, Dr. Raul Bras, an equine podiatrist at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital explains:
It provides the first detectable evidence that confirms laminitis, clearly distinguishing it from other syndromes with similar clinical signs, and it reveals the damaging effects of laminitis earlier in the syndrome than radiographs. Previously, our only means of diagnosing laminitis at the time of onset was history and clinical signs. However, the venogram results are the only thing that distinguishes these symptoms as laminitis, rather than other syndromes.
Venograms may also clearly demonstrate extensive vascular damage that can be present in acute cases that exhibit subtle soreness, indicating pain level is not an accurate prognostic or response indicator. Comparative venograms are a more reliable means of assessing damage or actual response to therapy. Far too often cases that are considered clinically stable take a devastating turn for the worse four to six weeks post onset as the vascular supply continues on a downhill spiral despite a seemingly favorable improvement.
What an exciting development to help treat this disease before long lasting damage results. Of course, you do need to call the vet, too.