Thursday, April 26, 2007

Laminitis and founder

In yesterday's entry, I wrote, "The vet, on his visit here last week, warned me that Blue might eat more, and get more benefit from his food, with his teeth fixed.  He suggested I watch closely for grass founder."

In response, this comment was left on that entry, and I figured I'd better address it:  "What do you mean the horse you had  foundered on the feed? Or grass?   Got sick?  I'm afraid I'm not familiar with terms you use sometimes. I'm sorry."

Internet friends who have known me since 1998 already know how hard it is to understand "founder".  I've had it explained to me by farriers and veterinarians, and I still haven't figured it out.  But what it amounts to is this:  Some horses, if they eat too much... even if they only eat grass... will founder.  And once foundered, the horse is never as good as new.

When I had Pleasure Boy, I went out to the pasture in one day in May and found him limping.  Cliff figured he was just a little foot-sore, and said, "He'll be all right in a couple of days."

Pleasure Boy kept eating and limping, and I finally called the vet, who knew instantly what was wrong:  Founder.  He pointed out how fat my horse's neck was, and told me, "Any time a horse starts getting a 'cresty' neck like that, you need to take him off pasture; it's the first sign that founder is imminent."

Now, don't ask me why a horse eating too much ruins his feet; I will never understand it.

Pleasure Boy, I was told, had to be kept on dry lot (no lush grass to eat) for the rest of his life, and fed only grass hay, no alfalfa.  He was to have no grain, ever again. 

If managed correctly, a horse that has foundered can still be ridden and enjoyed.

Pleasure Boy did get over the limping, and had no more problems, once he was kept on dry lot.

So why don't I still have him?

Because he was a somewhat more spirited horse than I like; he wouldn't let me set a child on his back to lead around; and he wouldn't cross railroad tracks, which kept me from riding in the river bottoms, my favorite place.  Oh, and I got a job, so I wasn't riding him as  much.

And now about Blue:  When I first bought Blue, the first thing I noticed was the "cresty" neck.  He was running in lush pasture with access to lots of good-quality hay, and I just assumed he had foundered.  But I had become a pro at dealing with a foundered horse, the price was right, and I bought him.

Although the vet who examined him shortly after I brought him home said he had not foundered, I treated him as though he had, because that's the safe thing to do.  I kept him in Pleasure Boy's old dry lot and turned him out to pasture a couple of times a day.  No matter what sort of diet I put Blue on, his neck stays thick and fat and "cresty".

Last year was so dry the pasture never really became lush, so I let him roam freely with the other horses.  The way this year is starting out, I'd say the risk factor increases.  So I'm keeping a close eye on Blue, especially since the vet's warning.  The thing is, there's nothing to cure founder once it happens; it can only be managed, the way a human manages diabetes.

I got this on a Bayer website:
  • Factors that seem to increase a horse's susceptibility to laminitis or increase the severity of the condition when it does occur include the following:
  • Heavy breeds, such as draft horses
  • Overweight or horses prone to be "easy keepers" with thick cresty necks and fat pads over the tail head.
  • High nutritional plane
  • Ponies
  • Unrestricted grain binges, such as when a horse breaks into the feed room (If this happens, do not wait until symptoms develop to call your veterinarian. Call immediately so corrective action can be taken before tissue damage progresses.)
  • Horses who have had previous episodes of laminitis


whitedove3622 said...

You are a wellspring of information. I find these things you share about your animals so interesting. I may never own a horse or a cow but somehow its a joy to learn about them in my old age LOL..................... Thanks

lanurseprn said...

This was very interesting. Thank you for answering my question.  

marainey1 said...

The first thing I thought of when you mentioned the limp was to compare it to gout in humans.  It is affected by food that is eaten and I've seen many limping because of it.  I know that because you care, your animals will all receive the best of care and diet.  Just like you take care of Cliff and yourself too !  'On Ya' - ma

magran42 said...

Good information!  I had wondered what "founder" meant.  Blue is so beautiful.  He is in good hands!  

magran42 said...

P.S.  The Tennassee Walking Horse is nice too, but Blue is "my boy".

madcobug said...

I wonder if it's just to much weight on their feet and and the feet can't handle all the weight to make them flounder. Pleasure Boy sure was a beaufiful horse. You were really lucky that you got gentle Blue. He sounds like the perfect horse for you and the grandgirls. Helen

fowfies said...

Pleasure Boy was beautiful, but Blue and you seem to have a close bond and he just knows what you are thinking and you know what he is thinking. I found out the hard way about founder.  Derby was a hundred pounds overweight when we got him, and I was told he had never foundered...I don't know if I believe that now. He has to be watched and monitered, and kept up almost always. He was just too heavy for those little feet. I watch him nervously, just hoping he can get the weight off before it happens again.  Derby recently broke into one of the chicken pens and ate and ate the feed out of the feeder. Maybe after reading the end of your post I should call the vet to check him. Sigh...the joys of owning a horse.  I think they are part pig sometimes. ;)

nhn2007 said...

Laminitis and Founder are quite complex it seems. I learn new things every day. But diet does play a large part. Insulin resistant horses need to be on low sugar diets.

I just posted an article on my forum about horses and weight.

csandhollow said...

I worry about that with Precious also.

deshelestraci said...

With most of the horses I worked with we had trouble keeping weight on them.  Most were geriatric!