Feeding Laminitics – by Blue Chip’s Nutritional Specialist Sarah Butler BSc (Hons)


Feeding laminitis prone horses and ponies can be challenging as their diets need careful monitoring, especially if previous laminitis attacks were weight or nutritional related. Feeding a low calorie, low sugar, low starch feed balancer is the ideal way to ensure that your horse or pony gets all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need on a daily basis without worrying about excess sugar and starch levels, or encouraging weight gain.

A feed balancer that is whole-cereal and molasses free will be very low in sugar and starch making it ideal for laminitic horses and ponies, or those that are on a restricted diet.

Feeding the correct level of an EU approved probiotic will help to ensure your horse’s gut is working efficiently whilst not encouraging weight gain. Many cases of laminitis are thought to be caused by toxicity in the gut; the superior MOS prebiotic will help to remove any pathogenic ‘bad’ bacteria from the gut whilst ensuring a healthy environment for the beneficial bacteria to thrive in. Probiotics and prebiotics can be found in high quality feed balancers. Laminitis prone horses or ponies often have poor hoof quality, which is why feeding a complete hoof supplement that includes biotin, methionine and zinc can play an essential role in the recovery and continual health of the hoof. Feeding a high fibre diet is essential for gut health, even with laminitics, and soaking hay for 12 hours or more will significantly reduce the calorie content whilst still ensuring adequate levels of fibre can be fed.

Nucleotides are the building blocks of DNA and RNA and are especially beneficial to laminitics as they aid the repair of the laminae, which are often damaged by laminitis attacks. Nucleotides also help to aid nutrient absorption which is beneficial to horses or ponies on a restricted diet. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and the cells first line of defence, again especially beneficial to horses or ponies with laminitis. Feeding a fruit derived form of natural Vitamin E, which is 4-6 times more bioavailable than the synthetic form used in most other feeds, will help remove toxins that are released during a laminitis attack.

Many horses or ponies that have succumbed to laminitis will have the
associated ‘crest’ on their neck and ‘fatty pads’ on the top of their quarters. Feeding superior quality magnesium has been shown to help reduce these fatty deposits. With the expertise of your vet, farrier and the inclusion of a low calorie, low sugar and low starch feed balancer in your horse or pony’s diet you will be giving them the best chance of returning to a healthy working life.

Even horses or ponies that are prone to laminitis need ‘turning out’ for their mental and physical well-being; box rest can create behavioural issues such as crib-biting, weaving or box walking. Turning them out in a school or sand area where they can wander about is the most ideal way to ensure they have some ‘free’ time whilst being able to regulate their fibre intake. Allowing your horse or pony to have fibre to eat when they are out will ensure the gut remains functioning correctly, as horses are evolved to be trickle feeders they need an almost constant supply of fibre to ensure the gut keeps working and excess acid doesn’t build up. Saliva, which is produced when the horse chews, ‘buffers’ the acid in the stomach, hence the need for plenty of fibre in the diet to encourage saliva production. Hanging small haynets of well soaked hay at regular intervals along the fence will help to keep the horse occupied, whilst making them move around at the same time, which can aid weight loss. If you are turning your horse or pony out in a field there are many things that can be done to limit their grass intake, such as fitting a grazing muzzle or strip grazing the field with electric fencing.

To watch a video of how to fit a grazing muzzle go to http://tinyurl.com/
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