LAMINITIS – Does my horse need pain relief?


It is very tempting to want to give your laminitic horse pain relief medication such as the non steroidal anti inflammatory phenylbutazone (bute). However these medications must be used with caution and preferably only in the first 3-5 days. It is well documented that a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) can interfere with bone and soft tissue healing in the long term.

It is also risky because the last thing you want your laminitic horse to do, is to move and weight bear on its already severely compromised hooves. If the horse can’t feel the pain it may be likely to run around and damage the laminae even further.

Dr Eleanor Kellon sums it up nicely in this statement:

“Remember, the goal of laminitis treatment is not to get rid of the pain, it’s to stop ongoing damage and heal the hoof. This takes time. Anti-inflammatories are given to prevent excessive inflammation which can cause even more damage. This does improve pain but that is not their primary benefit. While healing is going on, the tissues are weak. The horse is a large animal and can easily damage fragile laminae, especially if pain is being blocked. With acutely damaged feet, the best place for a horse to be is lying down on a soft comfortable surface. When he feels better, he’ll get up.” – Dr. Eleanor Kellon, VMD

More from Dr Kellon at

The best pain relief you can give your horse is going to be achieved with the correct hoof trim that realigns the hoof capsule with the internal structures. This coupled with some areas of soft footing such as pea gravel (5 – 9mm or less than a third of an inch in diameter) and the use of soft padded boots, rubber matting or foam taped to the bottom of the hooves, is the best way to find comfort for your horse.