Winter Laminitis and cold climates

My very nice 19 year old CSH mare is PPID, and controlled with Prascend. Religious muzzling and medication keeps her comfortable normally, and she was in full work until this fall. I had never had more than mild foot sensitivity with her, a feeling of slapping her front feet down under saddle, and that disappeared with controlling her PPID about two years ago.

Come mid-October, we had a very wild swing in temperatures, from overly mild to very cold in about 24 hours. This lead to a nasty colic and laminitis flare up (we’re not sure which precipitated the other, to be perfectly honest). Careful management had her back doing light walking hacks under saddle by January.

Fall and winter had continued to be quite mild here in Southern Ontario, until we got blasted just before Christmas with a more wild temperature swings. We went from +10C to -30C and back to +14C over about a 10 days, and I have been dealing with a sore horse.

She’s not nearly as bad as when she flared up in October. She’s bright, alert, eating well, and wants to go out with the horse horses. She is short strided though, sits back on her hocks when turning, and exhibits many other classic signs of laminitis. Feet are cold though, no bounding pulse is present. I have been keeping her in with deep bedding, and did give her banamine on her worst days when she initially got sore.

Not one thing has changed with her management to cause this recent flare up, and Googling has taken me down the path of winter laminitis, which sounds similar to Reynaud’s in people? Microvascular changes in the hooves due to prior laminitis making the foot extremely susceptible to cold, and therefore quite painful. Anyways, they suggest managing the horse by keeping the feet and legs warm - how on earth would you accomplish this in Canadian winters?? Even boots and bandages aren’t going to help much past about the first 10 or 15 minutes of turnout. Short of putting hot pockets in hoof boots and bandages…

Has anyone else dealt with this? Is it a recognized thing now? It’s the first I’ve heard of it, but I am also lucky enough to have never had to learn the ins and outs of laminitis management until now. I have Googled my little heart out, and it’s a weird combination of some reputable sources, a lot of herbal supplement companies pushing their products to “treat” winter laminitis, and some absolute whack-a-doo websites with questionable write ups.

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I wondered this, too. My donkey can get a little footsore in the summer, never anything major, no formal diagnosis. It’s managed with a muzzle and a few days of bute if she shows soreness. Vet and I have casually chatted about prascend, but are in agreement that with a companion donkey things are well enough under control. I plan to get a dry lot up one of these days.

The green grass persisted this winter, so I’ve been extra careful with her.

Then we had an unseasonable cold snap and she became more painful than ever with a true laminitic episode. Nothing helped the pain. I was worried I made a grave mistake in management.

Yet the temps then swung to unseasonably warm and she was back to sound as quickly as it began. :woman_shrugging:

Right now keeping her inside in deep bedding when the temps are colder has prevented any further problems.

My story doesn’t help you up in Canada, but I hope I can offer a little support and commiseration.

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Yes. I had a case. I acquired her in the spring, about 7 years old, feral bred pony, had been used as a pack horse, but I felt she had potential and was cute enough to be a hunter pony. Her feet were in horrific shape, long and infected, but the seller had her “trimmed” (right to the bone), when I bought her. It took her several months to come sound from the trim, which had indeed removed all the infection and rot in her feet. Winter was horrific with her, it gets cold here, like -35C. A friend who had been experiencing “winter lamenitis” suggested that this may be the issue with her, when she went sore the day after the first frost, after being sound all summer. There was no feed change, or care change. I tried to keep her feet (and the rest of her) as warm as I could, and got her through it. It was the first winter I had her, but I suspect that it had happened several times previously. I had her x-rayed in the spring, and she had no rotation, though some damage was evident on the lamenae…that grew out and re-attached. She was sound again in summer, I rode her a bit, but figured that she could NOT stay here for another winter. So I leased her to a friend (retired veterinarian, horse vet) in the south, with warm winters. First frost there, like -2C, pony went footsore. X-ray showed rotation this time. They put her down.
This was several years ago now, and it really did seem at the time that the veterinarians I consulted at the time did not believe that “winter laminitis” was a THING. This may be changing now I think, just like it changed about horses having ulcers a few decades ago. Veterinary science learns new things. But yes, all you can do is keep those feet and lower legs warm and painkillers as required. Hoof boots, and trailering bandages. And lots of winter blankets. And hope that veterinary science comes up with something better in time. Good luck.

I give my laminitic horse extra copper and zinc. I have no idea if it actually helps but he’s not been footsore.

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Cold-induced laminitis can be a BEAST to manage, because it’s not about the diet or grass or hay or anything other than something you can’t control - temperature.

Wrapping legs for warmth is all I’ve ever seen to try to help manage it, and even then, many horses just can’t be managed.

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I wrap my pony in Back on Track boots when temps drop and blanket heavy.
Last winter we dealt with possible cold weather laminitis. So hard to manage.

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I’m in Ottawa and have a mini who would go dead lame every winter for 4-6 weeks. This went on for about 3 heart-breaking winters. I worked with the vets constantly but nobody ever mentioned winter laminitis. Then sometime before winter 2021 I found info about winter laminitis. The research I found went as far back as about 2015. Last winter I started the protocol below, and my mini has not foundered at all (not even in the summer on a few hours of grass per day).

  • Once it gets to be about -5C she wears hoof boots and the back on track wrist braces for humans on her legs (they also fit perfectly on a large pony). She is also blanketed at this point to make sure her whole body stays warm to encourage good circulation. She is a wooly mammoth, but she is also a senior.

  • once it gets to be about -10C she wears fleece socks that cover her hoof under the boots, but over the wrist braces. If there is snow on the ground, she wears polo wrap covers (custom made on Etsy) over the socks.

If the ground is hard at all during the winter, she wears the hoof boots. I periodically pull the boots and everything off to dry them all and make sure there’s no rubbing. We’re on the second winter of doing this and she is in great shape. This mare has lots of attitude and always tries to bite and kick me when I blanket her. At first she would try to bite me when I was putting all this stuff on her legs, but she doesn’t anymore, so I think she understands that it helps. A friend has started doing the same protocol for her large pony and it’s working for him too.

My mare is also on pracend but I give her previcox all winter as a preventative for inflammation (vet supports this). I also gave her that J herb from Mad Barn that helps with circulation. She tolerated it for a few months and then went off her feed until I removed it. But I would keep up with that if she’d eat it.

PM me if you’d like to talk more about this as I have spent countless hours on this to find a protocol that works. My vet and my farrier are both thrilled with the results, and I am so glad that I didn’t euthanize my mare when we were at a loss on this for a few years. I know my farrier has a few clients trying the same with their horses this winter. The key is to start before it gets cold, but in your area it’s not consistently as cold as it is here, so it may be easier for you.

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I think you’re right that until recently vets didn’t really know that winter laminitis was a thing. When I finally found information about it on a blog somewhere, I went digging for scientific papers. Then when I mentioned it to my vet, she said “oh yeah, maybe it’s that”. My head just about exploded when I thought of all the time my mare spent in agony, and all the money I spent on vet bills. I realize vets can’t know everything and they don’t spend as much time tending to our animals as we do, so she wasn’t really to blame. But in the moment, I was really frustrated with her response.

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Hey, at least you GOT a response. All I got was vets looking at me like I was crazy and making it all up.

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My vet tends to be pretty progressive and even she seemed very skeptical when I mentioned the cold snap possibly causing the problem. :woman_shrugging:

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That’s interesting. Over the 4 or 5 years that I have been dealing with this, I have tried every other variable and only addressing the cold solved the problem for us. It was a last resort so I threw everything at it.

My mare is prone to laminitis in the summer as well and I have managed that well for several years, with maybe one flare up per summer. I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence that last summer was the first summer in about 10 years that she hasn’t had a flare up, or if it’s related to stabilizing her feet over the winter. It will be interesting to see how she gets through this second winter with her feet wrapped up. Historically, her winter laminitis gets really bad toward the end of January so we should see in a few weeks.

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I can’t say that I have heard of this. However, if humans can get Reynaud’s, why couldn’t the same happen to horses? Seems logical.

Ditto to the suggestion of Back-on-Track wraps. Build up the wear time slowly but it might help to keep what circulation you have going as good as possible.

Could also do PEMF in the appropriate setting (higher hertz) to open blood vessels and increase circulation.

How much turnout does horse have? More turnout = more movement = improved circulation.

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Except not always in the OP’s location. Eat hay. Get Drink. And alternatively stand at gate looking miserable or hide out in shelter as appropriate. Once they’ve done their initial run about, horses that are cold will huddle and NOT move.

They tend to move more around their fields when they are comfortable because no wind, not extremely cold, no precipitation. They truly are the best engineered self destructive creatures on the planet. Just when you think you’ve got them all worked out, “BOOM! Sorry, human, you forgot THIS bad part of our design. Try again!” lol

@Small_Change I haven’t had to deal with winter laminitis (yet) but I have had to boot during a Southern Ontario winter for the mother of all abscesses that needed time to drain and then a boatload of time to callous over. Booted feet (I tend to boot in pairs) were definitely warmer than the non-booted feet. FWIW, I used Easyboot Gloves.

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What is the diet specifically?? Are you giving tested low sugar hay? Or soaked hay ? Has any recent metabolic bloodwork been done (insulin glucose acth) recent X-rays of feet ?? I would consider following the ECIR group and referring to Dr Kellon …I recommend the Emergency Diet …soft ride boots …stabled at night ideally when it’s coldest …can use Back On Track wraps to help increase circulation as well as giving Jiagulon or Uckele Laminox and Phytoquench

I’ve found that giving Acetaminophen and Gabapentin along with Pentoxifylline was most effective for strong pain relief during a flare up

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Maybe most vets don’t know about this, but I have a friend who, when she lived in GA and had access to university vets, had a horse who developed cold-induced laminitis and was eventually pts due to it, and that was upwards of 20 years ago. That was actually the first I’d heard of it, but her vets knew what it was. They didn’t know why, I don’t think anyone then new about warmth improvements, but they knew it was caused by cold.

Thank you very much everyone. I feel better knowing that I’m not crazy chasing a crack pot idea. My mare has had diet, feet and labs all worked up by excellent people in the requisite areas, so I do feel confident that I have all of the “regular” PPID/laminitis/metabolic issues controlled as best I can. I would love to allow her to have more turnout, but when it is as cold as it is and I can’t keep her feet warm, it simply isn’t an option that would do her any good.

I am having trouble believing that boots, wraps and bandages would do enough to keep her warm and comfortable outdoors in an Ontario winter… As it is, our normal routine is to have them out about 8 hours in the winter during daylight, and keep them in if it is bitter (for the sake of the horses AND the water pipes!). I own the barn, so luckily have say over management decisions. It is just a matter of what is logistically, financially and ethically feasible… I really do appreciate all the ideas, and especially the sharing of similar situations. Fingers crossed I can get her comfy.

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I’ve got a large pony at my barn with Equine Metabolic Syndrome. She’s negative for Cushings. Her condition had been managed with a dry lot, steamed hay, a sprinkle of Safe Choice feed with Remission and spirulina tablets, and then a few Februarys ago she became footsore. The farrier reported stretching of the laminae and bruising and her hooves lost concavity. We were very worried for this pony, who is much loved by a boarder.

Our barn is in New York State - very cold in the winter.

The pony did not like to be shut in, so I doubled her bedding and let her keep her 24/7 access to her paddock. It took several months of pain meds before the episode ended, meanwhile my wife and I scoured laminitis pages on Facebook and the Internet to see if there was anything we could try for the pony.

We started adding the herb jiaogulan to the pony’s small feedings that spring. We’ll use a combination of medicine and herbal remedies if we think something could help, and adding the jiaogulan was worth a try. It is recommended not to feed the herb during the acute stage of laminitis.

The difference in this pony has been remarkable. All former aspects of her care remain the same, and only the jiaogulan was added. She’s not had a further winter episode and has regained concavity in her hooves and had no hoof bruising or stretching of the laminae and no further laminitis episodes.

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If it’s a matter of circulation, could isoxuprene or pentoxyfylline help as well has wrapping? They are vasodilators.

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From what I’ve been reading, neither seem to increase laminellar flow via oral administration? Great thought though.

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do you leave the BOT on for more than 12 hours at a time? Thought I remember that was the longest BOT was recommended?