Laminitis or founder or … ?

The terms laminitis and founder are often used as synonyms, however there is a difference between the two. 
The suffix –itis always refers to inflammation or infection. In this (etymological) case, an inflammation of the dermal lamellae during the acute phase of the disease.

In the chronic phase, once the connection of the lamellae becomes so damaged that the coffin bone starts to rotate or sink into the hoof capsule, the disease is called founder. Founder is an old shipping term used to describe a sinking ship. Some comments about this nomenclature:

  • In relation to the word laminitis it should be noted too much attention is drawn to the aspect of the inflammation. Nowadays the inflammation is regarded rather as a clinical sign or complication than as a cause.
  • In addition, it’s easy to lose sight of the rest of the hoof when we focus too much on the lamellar connection. In the case of hoof sloughing for example, the sole detaches from the coffin bone as well, while it is not connected by means of a lamellar structure.
  • The word founder focuses entirely on the position of the coffin bone and places the other characteristics of the chronic phase to the background.
  • By using two different terms it is easy to forget they indicate subsequent phases of the same systemic disease.
  • Both words emphasize entirely on the hoof, which is highly debatable in case of
 a systemic disease. Who knows, the aforementioned Apsyrtus might have been closer to the reality calling it barley disease. 

In absence of the ‘right’ terminology, in this book the term laminitis is used for the entire course of the disease. The different phases are identified as developmental, acute and chronic phase.