Are Laminitis and Founder the Same Thing?

Posted by Stacey Venzel

What is the difference between laminitis and founder?

Laminitis and founder are often used interchangeably in the equine world, but they shouldn't be. Though similar, they are not the same thing. For example, a horse can have laminitis but this doesn't mean he has foundered.

Laminitis can be classified as acute or chronic. When it becomes chronic, it can synonymously be called founder. In other words, laminitis can lead to founder but this is not always the case. Both illnesses do not discriminate against equine age, sex or season.

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Swelling of the laminar bond between layers of the hoof lead to the initial phases of acute laminitis. As this swelling exacerbates, so do the problems for the equine. Inflammation of the laminar bond can result in a bone in the foot, called the coffin bone or pedal bone, separating from the hoof wall. When a horse's coffin bone rotates downward or sinks, the horse has entered a stage of chronic laminitis, or founder.

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Acute cases of laminitis are easier to treat than chronic cases, but acute laminitis can recur after symptoms have gone away. Once the laminar bond has been weakened, it can be difficult to regain strength. Because of this, the faster the horse can receive treatment, the better its chances of a full recovery.

Medical care is similar for both cases. Frog supports, anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), rest, and other medications as needed will help relieve the pain. Regarding pain levels, it is worth noting that a horse experiencing founder does not necessarily behave more painfully than a horse with acute laminitis. Symptoms might include hot feet, increased pulse in hooves, lameness, or circling or a change in gait.

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Maintaining good hygiene for your horse can help prevent laminitis and founder. Living conditions and proper care should include regular hoof trimming, feeding a nutritional diet without overfeeding, and providing an enclosure with softer substrate to avoid hoof concussion.

Are Laminitis and Founder the Same Thing?