The Four Stages of Laminitis

Preventing hoof diseases is a main component of hoof care by both the Hoofcare practitioner and the owner of the horse. While the primary job of the hoof care provider is to see that the hooves are in good form so they can function at peak performance, the owner has a responsibility to see that the rest of the whole horse is tended in a manner that is conducive to full health, including the health of the hooves. This series of posts will talk about the prevention of hoof diseases as well as how to recognize several of the more common diseases, Laminitis, Founder and Navicular discussing how to recognize such events and how to prevent as well as how to naturally deal with these conditions.

This will probably be a rather long series of articles ... so stick with me and, as always, any questions can be posted below in the comments section or you may directly contact me at

We ALL dread hearing the word "Laminitis" from our farrier or veterinarian. Some consider it the kiss of death. I am happy to share that the "kiss of death" is not usually a necessary result of Laminitis. We'll briefly go over the 4 stages of Laminitis here ... then continue on next week to what can we do to prevent Laminitis? What can we do to treat it as horse owners? And more ... 

Let's first DEFINE "Laminitis" ... it is, simply, the INFLAMMATION OF THE LAMINAE


MOST horses will go through a developmental stage of laminitis at some time during their lives totally unbeknown to their owners. The only clue that the horse had a bout with Laminitis will be rings on the hoof wall that will appear a few weeks AFTER the laminitis attack. Each ring signifies a lamina that has become inflamed for one reason or another. Lamina that is stretched out does not regain its shape or integrity. Horses that are allowed free movement who have had some laminitic insult will have been able to “walk through” the development stage thus arresting any further progression of the dis-ease.

Stage 1:  DEVELOPMENTAL STAGE. It is outlined as such:

--Starts with exposure to the cause and ends with the 1st signs of lameness or

Remediation through natural movement and care.

--Laminar separation is triggered however there are no outward clinical symptoms apparent.

--Lasts 24 – 60 hours.


Stage 2:  ACUTE LAMINITIS: This is the dreaded stage of which most horse owners are aware.  Acute Laminitis is apparent with the following clinical symptoms:

--Bounding Digital Pulse --Excessive heat in the hooves --Possible sensitivity to hoof testers --Lameness

--Camped out stance – relieving pressure on toes.

--Lasts 72 hours and ends with rotation or sinking of the Coffin Bone.


Stage 3: SUB-ACUTE stage: This stage is a milder period of time with less severe clinical signs and without mechanical failure of the foot. This stage often ends without permanent laminar or bone damage and is the most ideal result of the Acute stage. This Sub-acute stage can last 72 hrs. to a lifetime. (Chronic Laminitis)



Stage 4:  Laminitis is also known as the REFRACTORY PHASE when the horse does not respond or is minimally responsive to treatments within 7 to 10 days after Acute onset. Traditional treatments include cold soaking or ice therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, stall rest in deep, soft bedding and withdrawal of all grains. (This is traditional treatment which will be discussed further along with natural treatment in subsequent paragraphs.) This stage can last indefinitely with clinical signs ranging from continuous mild lameness to severe foot pain and degeneration of the laminar attachments, hoof wall deformation, loss of P3 and/or sloughing of the hoof capsules, themselves.

Next week we'll go through the possible CAUSES of Laminitis ... See you then!  

This post was excerpted from "10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves" ... 


Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications includingThe Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here:


Thank you for reading and acknowledging. :) I appreciate that.

Gwenyth Santagate September 20, 2016

Thanks so much for so generosly sharing your knowledge …I really appreciate it….

Lesley September 20, 2016

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