Laminitis is a degenerative condition affecting an animal’s hooves.
It is commonly called founder, but founder specifically refers to the “sinking” of a bone and is one of the effects of severe laminitis. Bacterial infection, trauma, poor circulation or a change of diet resulting in chemical imbalance can cause or contribute to laminitis, and laminitis can cause founder.
During laminitis, the laminae, connective tissue holding the hard and soft structures of the hoof together, breaks down. In horses, the pedal bone rotates and, having nothing to hold it in place, begins to drop down (“founder”). In advanced cases, the bone protrudes through the bottom of the foot, in the worst cases, the hoof falls apart and the horse must be destroyed.
Laminitis is an extremely painful condition. An animal’s body can often overcome mild cases, but in domesticated animals, human intervention is often necessary to arrest and help reverse the symptoms while the underlying condition is treated.