Feeding a Laminitic Horse
Protocol for feeding a laminitic horse if the cause of the laminitis is unknown or known to be cause be sensitivity to sugar or insulin:
1) step down feeding to remove all supplements and concentrated feed from diet. At the same time add probiotics to the feed. Once all concentrated feed is gone, use 1 soaked alfalfa cube to mix with probiotic in place of concentrated feed. Horse should have free access to low starch hay like Bermuda grass (coastal hay). Check out the articles on http://www.safergrass.org for more information on other kinds of grass that maybe good if you have a horse that is allergic to Bermuda grass or it is not available in your area.
2) After giving the horse two weeks to re-establish the gut bacteria colony with the probiotic and evaluate if concentrated feed is necessary. Add the following only if needed to maintain a healthy body weight.
a) slowly Add alfalfa up to 10% of body weight as needed
b) if a) is not available or not sufficient for body weight
then added 2 tbls of rice bran, 2 tbls flax seed twice a day
c) If a) and b) are not sufficient to maintain or gain a healthy
body weight then add a manufactured feed that is specifically
made to have a low glycemic index or low NSC or low starch/sugar.
check ingredients on any feed and do not use it if it has molasses
or cane sugar in it at all, or if grain or grain by products is the
first ingredient. I use Purina's Ultium feed. It is a high calorie
Low carb feed. When feeding concentrated feed start with ¼ - ½ cup
Twice a day and only increase if the horse is losing weight or
Significantly under weight.
d) If combined concentrated feed exceeds 2 lbs, then split up the
Feeding into more times a day. I.E. if you are feeding 2 lbs twice a
Day and the horse still needs to gain weight, start adding in a 3rd
Or 4th feeding each day as needed.
3) Once correct feeding level is established, slowly add back in necessary supplements one at a time, give horse at least 2 weeks in between adding in new supplements to ensure the supplement itself is not causing problems. Also carefully check ingredients on supplements and do not use it if it has molasses or cane sugar in it at all, or if grain or grain by products is the first ingredient. In each two week period, watch for the appearance of stress rings in the horses hooves.
4) Options for giving treats or variety foods: small flakes off alfalfa cubes, specially made low carb treats for horses, or vegetables that you might eat that are leaves, stems, or flowers; celery, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower
5) Do not feed any of the items below:
b. anything with concentrated sugar in it, molasses, corn syrup, sugar cubes
c. mustard greens
d. nuts ( check pastures for nut or fruit producing trees and bushes)
Why should a laminitic horse be feed this way?
We know that any time you change a horse’s diet it should be done slowly and carefully. Outside the normally recommended process for switching to a different feed, there are very good reasons for these recommendations.
The most common cause of laminitis is sensitivity to the amount of sugar or simple carbohydrates in the diet. The gut bacteria that digest simple carbohydrates produce lactic acid as a by product of the process. If too much lactic acid is produced this can kill off other types of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Other possible causes can be poisoning of any kind including excessive selenium, fever, any illness of the intestinal tract like colitis, parasite damage to the intestinal wall, anything that significantly upsets the gut bacteria colony like changing feeds to quickly or a grain overload, antibiotics or anything else that kills off the gut bacteria in high numbers. Slightly elevated blood concentration of insulin over an extended period of time is also known to cause laminitis.
For these reasons, it is often easier to compare feeding a laminitic horse to feeding a diabetic human. You want to feed as little simple carbohydrates as possible. Fiber should be the primary calorie source for you horse. Anything fed in addition to hay should be fed in small quantities and with a focus on minimizing sugars and simple carbohydrates.