Laminitis After WNV Vaccination


Dear Dr. Tom:

My horse is eight years old (bay mare named River) and has been barefoot the last 3 1/2 years. Yesterday a barefoot trimmer trimmed River's feet (this woman has been trimming River's feet the past several months with no problems whatsoever), a conservative trim. River gets her feet trimmed every 4-6 weeks. I then vaccinated River with her follow-up West Nile booster shot right after the trim, around 12:30 p.m. In fact, the trimmer helped me. (My trimmer is 'L. A.' who gave me this website information to contact you.) River had her initial first time traditional Fort Dodge vax three weeks ago. Up until then, I have been vaccinating River with a homeopathic nosode the past two years. Against my better judgment, I caved in to fear and let the vet vaccinate her with the Ft. Dodge vax.

This morning my horse can barely walk. She is very hot on the front left and rear right feet. A vet finally called me back and said to give her bute, 2 grams today and then tomorrow. River had some discharge from her left eye and her left neck area, where I vaccinated her, is sore. I believe my horse has developed laminitis due to the vaccination, not the trim. I am sick about it and furious with myself for caving in to the pressure of vaccinating traditionally. Any suggestions to help my horse? Will she be okay, do you think?

Thank you.

Elizabeth Stanton
Minden, NV


October 24, 2004

There have been lots of examples over the past few seasons of laminitis in horses given the West Nile Vaccine. Though any vaccine can potentially cause disturbance and reaction enough in horses to lead to laminitis, the West Nile vaccine seems to have caused more than its share of problems in this regard--this may just be a statistically predictable situation due to increasing numbers of people vaccinating their horses with this vaccine. Some trimmers have reported orange-colored soles and separation of the entire white line...even the white line along the edges of the bars. This is indicative of metabolic and toxic insult rather than mechanical disruption of laminae leading to laminitis. Horses vaccinated in the neck muscle have been more severely affected than ones vaccinated in the rear leg.

It's pretty evident that we need to take a critical look at how this whole scenario works. I suspect that when some horses are given the vaccine they have an awful reaction (swelling, bruising, inflammation at the site of injection...immune system comes in very aggressively...cell death...abscessing of damaged tissues). These damaged tissue are toxin and the body has to clean up all of this reaction and it can take several days to weeks. These reactions are often very painful at the site of injection and often end up draining externally, which is just fine...otherwise all of the abscess and damaged tissue has to be absorbed and internalized by the horse. No doubt these horses are under some stress and their stress hormone levels increase to try and help deal with the insult. This hormone is a natural steroid/cortisone called cortisol and is produced by the adrenal glands near the kidneys. The problem is these horses don't feel like moving around a whole lot, often don't eat well and end up with poor gut motility. Thus, we end up with metabolic toxins increasing in the body from the vaccination site and endotoxin being absorbed in to the bloodstream from the slow-moving gut. Combine these toxins with the increase in steroid stress hormone and we have the ingredients for producing laminitis. There is a specific reaction that occurs in the laminae of horses when steroid and endotoxin are combined. This is why it is disastrous when lame horses are given steroids. If they were lame from laminitis, the steroid treatment causes a devastating increase in the disease process and severe loss of laminar connection/founder can result.

I would recommend horses such as this be seen right away by the veterinarian for documentation purposes, even if their recommendation is for Bute and special orthopedic shoes and stall rest. Of course any of the above treatments are completely inappropriate given what we know about the hoof and how it functions and survives. Horses should be left out to move around with another horse that won't be TOO aggressive towards them. Their feet should be balanced appropriately front to back with no excess heel height whatsoever. Toes should be collected back and kept with a rolled edge to prevent excess upward pressure at the toe. (In other words they should have a natural trim and be barefoot). Shoeing horses in this state is disastrous, forcing the sole in to a vaulted position, inhibiting critical circulation, damaging hoof wall with nails, compressing solar corium in to a necrotic pulp, raising heels to "alleviate deep digital flexor tendon tension"...essentially, doing all the things to make the hoof worse. Raising heels in a laminitic horse is, amazingly, quite common in conventional circles, but is one of the most devastating things you can do to a laminitic horse. Horses in this situation we're talking about often survive despite our best attempts to make them worse when we use ignorant, conventional treatment methods. Heavy use of Bute can further harm circulation, so I would rather see the more natural remedies of devil's claw, yucca, topical and oral arnica and hoof boots used. Also, if separation is so severe that we have "loose" hoof capsules, the horse does not need to be walking around a whole lot--horses need to know if their feet are in this bad of shape so that they don't go galloping around, further stressing their hooves. Compressible foam pads are available for this severe kind of pain...they are taped on or placed inside boots. Most horses are NOT this severe, however, and walking movement on firm, non-rocky, non-concussive ground is exactly what they need to be doing. Often they walk better after just a few steps or a minute or two of painful walking, as the stagnant blood that causes pressure inside the hoof capsule gets pumped out, relieving the pressure and bringing fresh blood in to the feet to aid healing. Horses in this situation that are shod are especially difficult to manage and often end up with severe founder, whereas horses with naturally shaped bare hooves often just end up with minor white line separation that grows out in one hoof cycle. Using hoof boots is often very helpful. These horses can have them on most of the time if necessary...just take them off and on frequently to check for rubbing and to clean them out. I like the hoof wings because they are very light, have a firm platform for good hoof mechanism and they don't pinch the hoof or lower leg anywhere. You can see what they look like at 

These horses should only be fed grass forage, preferably not lush, green grass, but dried grasses. Some whole oats or barley (a cup or two) is OK especially if it helps get some arnica and or the buteless solution in to them...unless the horse is overweight and needs to lose pounds...then just syringe the remedies directly in to their mouth. If a horse is overweight and laminitic, let them lose the weight as it is difficult to treat the condition when the horse weighs so much. We don't want to feed bacteria with lots of starches which will worsen toxic insults coming from the gut. I would give horses in this situation oral charcoal to help absorb and reduce the amount of toxin in their gastrointestinal tracts. Three tablespoons of the charcoal twice a day is a good start. The charcoal won't reduce the toxin at the injection site, but a reduction in the bacterial toxin building up the gut due to possible poor appetite and slow gut motility can be achieved with the charcoal...thus the horse will have less of a total load of toxin that the liver and kidneys and entire body has to deal with.

Topical DMSO at the injection site, with arnica topically can provide anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects. Massaging the injection site as it is tolerated will bring circulation to the area and offer some relief as well.

Horses often lay down to totally get off of their sore feet, which is fine, but after a half-hour or so I like to get them up and make them walk a little ways to get that new blood flowing in to their feet. Then they can eat some bermuda grass hay or visit with their neighbor horse and lay back down later on. Natural lifestyle really pays big dividends for these horses, as they think about other things besides their aching feet through the course of a day. They should walk to water or be driven to the water, not have it brought to them.

A good hoof care provider is a great asset in these situations, and they should be checking the hooves every two to three days to start with, then every week until the horse is moving better.

Horses have great abilities to heal--that ability is inside of them, and we can do some of these things to help them along that path.


If you were wanting to try to Homeopathically counteract this grave insult you can give your horse some "Thuja Occidentalis". I would use the 10M strength for this - just ONE time. This is a well-known homeopathic remedy for "Vaccinosis". It will help to stimulate the body into healing itself and decrease the time of repair. If you cannot find the 10M strength you can easily get the 30C strength in mostly any health-food store. With the 30C you would give once dose daily for 2 weeks. More information on Homeopathics can be found here:

:)  --Gwen