This is an inflammation of the tissues deep within/layers of the hoof (corium and germinal layer) resulting from reduced blood supply to the tissues that are responsible for producing new hoof material therefore causing a lot of discomfort to the animal. It is a term describing a common but poorly understood condition affecting many intensively managed animals. This condition affects a part of the claw called the lamellae and is recognized by a buckled toe. This is the reason the disorder is called laminitis. It affects mostly dairy cows in cattle where most of the damage is seen on the walking surface of the claw, the sole and white line region. It also affects horses mainly on the hooves as well as smallstock.


It has been considered as the cause of many herd lameness problems as it does play a role but there are various nutritional and management factors influencing the progression of laminitis. Nutrition plays an important role but housing conditions, breeding, body condition, overburdening of claws are also important factors.

Types of laminitis

Laminitis can be categorized into three forms: acute, sub-acute and chronic

Acute laminitis

Like the name suggests, it is an attack of laminitis that occurs on a very short term basis. The cause of this form is mainly by other diseases or conditions that went through the herd or the affected animal. Examples of this diseases are: mastitis, endotoxins released after ruminal acidosis, metritis and retained placenta, Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD), acidic silage and acidosis due to feeding high energy feeds to female animals. This form is recognized by a double sole, the signs of this form are very subtle.

· In the very early stages the sole is separated from the corium and this form often occurs as an individual case.

· It can cause severe four leg lameness as the tissues swell in the cramped region between the hoof wall and the bone in the hoof itself.

· Often the animal tries to stand with all feet in one spot or the front feet will be placed far out in front of the animal in an attempt to take weight off the toes. Sometimes the cows will stand up on their back legs and remain on their knees at the front. This severe form is not as common as the chronic form.

Sub-acute laminitis

This form is usually common during calving times in females. The lameness is usually recognized too late nearing the chronic state although stiff walking is often observed. The main damage seen during trimming is discoloration of the sole from yellow to red (hemorrhage) all over the sole. A sole ulcer is the common defect.


Chronic laminitis

This may be a result of acute or sub-acute laminitis and surfaces a few months after the laminitis attack. It is aggravates when animals are exposed to frequent nutritional and environmental stress. This form leads to the damage to the hoof that is deforming and can be recognized by a dent in the hoof wall (buckled toe).

· At this stage, once the toe is buckled it can never fully recover and the animal will have it for the rest of its life.

· The foot is deformed and may look solid.

· The wall of the sole cannot be differentiated

· Wear and growth will be affected after the damage leading to overgrowth that is referred to as “sledge runner foot”, necessitating frequent trimming to keep normal function of the claws.

Treatment and Control/Prevention

· Better feeding practices and all changes should be made slowly

· Reduce protein/high energy feed.

· Moderate exercise may also help as well as not standing too long

· Use non-steroidal drugs that stop inflammation

· Corticosteroid and antihistamine may be used in early stages of the case

· Hot fomentation works early in inflammation. Cold water cools down the foot and improves blood circulation

· Foot baths can be used to harden and disinfect the hoof. Formaldehyde or copper sulphate have been used once or twice weekly at 2-5% with some improvement to hoof health.

· Functional foot trimming around 2 months before calving can prevent/ minimize lameness after calving

– Foot trimming two to three times per year is advised

– Preventative trimming is much easier to do than curative trimming

– Curative trimming relieves the painful claw and normal behavior of the animal