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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Autumn Laminitis Warning: Restrict Grazing During Fall Months When Grass Risk is as High as Spring

(The following health alert was received from Spillers Feed/Waltham Trust and is not an original post.)

We all know that spring is a dangerous time for laminitis but it is important to remember that the second flush of grass in autumn can be just as risky. We get numerous calls during the autumn from worried owners wanting to know what they can safely feed laminitis prone ponies and how to manage those that have suffered a further attack.

Laminitis is second only to colic as the most common reason for presenting a horse for veterinary treatment. In a recent study in the UK it was found that over 1 in 10 horses were affected by laminitis with a greater prevalence during times of high grass growth. Work completed in the USA has also found that an overload of lush grass or cereals ("grain") is the cause of laminitis in more than 50% of the cases reported.

Recent research has identified a grass-storage carbohydrate called "fructan" as a possible trigger for laminitis; however, the level of fructan in pasture is difficult to estimate, as it varies because of the type of grass and the climatic conditions. Until further work is done to more accurately assess fructan concentrations in grassland and the exact mechanisms are identified as to how a hindgut disturbance can cause laminitis, the best way of reducing the risk is to follow these simple guidelines:

1. Restrict access to pasture at high risk times (spring and autumn) by strip grazing, grazing ponies with sheep and turning out in a bare paddock. In the case of known laminitics, avoid all grazing;
2. Turn your horse or pony out at night, as this is when the fructan concentrations are likely to be at their lowest;
3. Feed a high fibre, low starch diet. Choose a feed approved by The Laminitis Trust such as SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF® or High Fibre Cubes;
4. Put your pony on a diet to reduce bodyweight if he is overweight, but do not starve him;
5. Don’t feed high cereal (grain) mixes as these can increase the risk of another attack.

To learn more about insulin resistance in horses, visit

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