Laminitis is the most serious disease of the equine foot and causes pathological changes in anatomy that lead to long lasting, crippling changes in function (chronic laminitis or founder). It is the second biggest killer of horses after colic. In the USA National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) report of the year 2000, 13% of all horse establishments (excluding racetracks) had a horse with laminitis in the previous year and 4.7% of these died or were euthanased.
Laminitis has a developmental phase during which lamellar separation is triggered. This precedes the appearance of the foot pain of laminitis. The developmental period lasts 40 – 48 h in the case of laminitis caused by excessive ingestion of soluble, non-structural carbohydrates, such as starch or fructan. Sometimes no developmental phase can be recognized; the horse or pony is discovered in the acute phase of laminitis with no apparent ill health or inciting problem occurring beforehand. This appears to be the case with grass founder (laminitis resulting from the ingestion of lush pasture).