Is Cold Weather Hoof Pain Laminitis? Not Necessarily

Though cooler weather energizes most horses, dropping temperatures can be a pain—literally—for horses that develop hoof pain as temperatures drop. Though what is considered “too cold” can vary by horse, some horses become painful in temperatures just above freezing: 40 degrees F. Pain generally disappears as soon as the temperature rises above this threshold.

Though it’s sometimes called “winter laminitis,” there’s no evidence of inflammation and often no changes that can be discerned on an X-ray. The cause is a failure of the hoof to effectively respond to changes in circulation caused by the cold. This cold-induced pain is temporary, but can be significant.

In a healthy horse, cold temperatures will cause the blood flow to limbs and hooves to be reduced. Cold temperatures cause the arteriovenous shunts in the hooves to open and divert blood back to the horse’s core to preserve body heat. This mechanism will also periodically close the shunts and send blood to the tissues so that oxygen and nutrient levels don’t get too low.

This system doesn’t work in horses that have cold-induced hoof pain; the tissues don’t receive shunts open, but don’t occasionally send adequate blood flow to the hooves.

Horses with cold-induced hoof pain can be assisted by blanketing them to help conserve body heat. Wrapping their legs can also help; lined shipping boots work well as they cover the heels and coronary band, preventing rain and snow from getting into the boots. Adding Jiaogulan, a Chinese herb, to an affected horse’s diet may also help. Jiaogulan stimulates the production of nitric acid, which is turned into a potent vasodilator in the body.

Though painful, cold-weather hoof pain is temporary and can be managed to keep a horse more comfortable.

Read more at EquiMed.

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