Pasture-associated Laminitis

An update from Dr. Annie King and the PVH equine department:

With all the fresh spring grass, we are unfortunately starting to see our first cases of laminitis this year. Many of our equine companions are at risk for developing pasture-associated laminitis. Although we have long-awaited the return of lush green grass, large amounts of fructan (a carbohydrate found in plant cells) can induce laminitis. 

Related: Laminitis – A Medical Emergency for Horses

Be careful in turning out horses on grass this time of year. Overweight horses and those affected by metabolic disease and/or Cushing’s disease are at the highest risk. However, all our equine companions can be affected … even the lean athlete. 

There are recommended management guidelines to minimize the chances of at-risk horses developing laminitis:

  • Select the best grazing time. Fructan levels are lowest from late night to early/mid-morning.
  • Consider a zero-grazing environment (e.g., dry lot, arena) for high-risk horses.
  • Turn horses out onto pastures regularly grazed and/or mowed. There are higher levels of fructans in mature, stemmy pasture grass.
  • Consider a grazing muzzle for your horse to restrict their grazing while on unlimited turnout.
  • Do not allow unrestricted grazing on a daily basis (unless using a grazing muzzle).

If you have questions regarding your horse’s risk of developing laminitis, our veterinarians are available for consultation. They can also help you to develop a management plan to suit your individual situation.

Call 360.568.3111 to reach our large-animal department. 

Article added 4.10.14.