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Activated Charcoal for Laminitis

Laminitis is a disease of the sensitive laminae of the foot in a horse. The front hooves are most commonly affected, although the hind feet are sometimes affected. Laminitis means inflammation of the laminae, but other causes are common.

The most common causes of laminitis include: carbohydrate overload; nitrogen compound overload; hard ground; lush pastures; freezing or overheating of the feet; untreated infections; colic; lameness; Cushings disease; drug reactions; exposure to agro-chemicals.

Laminitis in most cases leads to founder.

Symptoms include:
    ▪     Increased temperature of hoof area.
    ▪     A pounding pulse in the digital palmar artery in a cold horse.
    ▪     Anxiety
    ▪     Visible trembling
    ▪     Increased vital signs and body temperature
    ▪     Sweating
    ▪     Flared Nostrils
    ▪     Walking very tenderly, as if walking on egg shells
    ▪     The horse standing in a "founder stance" in an attempt to decrease the load on the affected feet.

Activated charcoal has been found to be effective in certain cases of laminitis. Most triggers of laminitis involve the build-up of toxic conditions in the gut, which consequently affect blood circulation to the feet. This predisposes the horse to laminitis. Something like activated charcoal, that adsorbs and neutralizes toxins in the gut, makes perfect sense as a treatment for laminitis. In conjunction with rest and corrective hoof trimming/shoeing, activated charcoal has helped some horses to fully recover.


One commercial product that uses activated charcoal is Universal Animal Antidote Gel (UAA). One website that specializes in information on horse hoof trimming, promotes UAA Gel as “the best remedy for acute laminitis”. They recommend 2 tubes, the first given 45-60 minutes before the second, as the dose for an average horse. Depending on the size of the horse, sometimes one dose is all that is needed. They caution against over-dosing, as it can have a constipating effect. They also recommend it for small animals if "they get into anything toxic, and you are far from a vet, or it's late at night".

The average horse (1000 lbs.) would need one tube, 300 ml. (300 cc.), of UAA Gel for one dose. It has the consistency of black paint, can be messy, but washes off things readily. They find putting smaller amounts of the UAA Gel into a large syringe, and repeated several times is easier than trying to use the tube it comes in. Because the Gel has little taste, there is less resistance to giving it than other remedies. 

The author writes, “UAA Gel used in acute laminitis can eliminate the use of bute*. Long-term bute usage can result in stomach ulcers. The author reports the case of Chief, a pony that had foundered on lush grass. Chief “got so ulcerated from bute that he stopped eating, and was down all the time.” If the owner gave enough bute to control pain in his feet, it destroyed his stomach. If she withdrew bute, he was too sore to move. “This seemingly hopeless situation was turned around with UAA Gel, apple pectin to restore his stomach, some of the supplements I recommended, herd life, constant turnout, and better trimming.”

As long as Chief's feet were kept trimmed, he stayed out of trouble. However, because the owners were recovering from an accident, Chief went 10+ weeks without a new trim. He had a mild mechanical founder because of the lack of hoof mechanism and increased leverage on his overgrown hooves. But, “he began recovering quickly with another dose of UAA Gel and a trim.”

“I had another reader who could not seem to find UAA Gel available. She bought some activated charcoal from a chemical company that they normally sold to water filter manufacturers, and gave her horse some. While I admit being nervous about this approach (!), after some charcoal and a proper trim her horse was doing much, much better in record time. I have no idea what the proper dosage is.”

*Bute - Phenylbutazone is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. It also has analgesic (pain relief) and antipyretic (fever-reducing) activity. The drug acts directly on tissues and its most marked effects are on inflamed tissues.

Here is another website that recommends UAA for Laminitis.


Horse with Grass Founder
"She (Winne) was so bad my brother wanted to shoot her and she was down. I knew he was right she had lost so much weight but I got online and found where someone said give them (foundered horses) charcoal. I didn't wait till I could get a big batch ordered. I went to Walgreens and bought the capsules for people and gave her probably 14 (capsules) a day. Then I received the charcoal in the 
big container and put that on her oats.
It took awhile but my brother who is a horse owner, and takes his to the dentist and chiropractor, can't believe that Winnie runs like crazy now and you would never know anything was wrong. I still have to watch her in the spring and get her off the grass but she is great. 
I called the vet when she was down but they had no suggestions except for expensive pain meds."
Sent from my iPhone
December 2013

Last fall I purchased some activated charcoal because I have a friend’s horse at my house that she got because he was foundered and she wanted to help him recover. He had a real bad smell omitting from his body constantly because he is a severely foundered horse. His hooves were slowly recovering but his body wasn't. Within 3 days of giving him the activated charcoal, he smelt like a horse should smell like. Since then, swelling has gone down around his hooves and he has made tremendous improvements in his hooves and body condition. He is wanting to move around more and the growth in his hooves are looking great. Granted, I am feeding him vitamins & minerals, diatomaceous earth for natural deworming + the benefits from that product, probiotics and he gets trimmed every week or two. Definitely, the activated charcoal cleaning out his system has been the best for him. Buddy thanks you for such a great product. My friend and I are hoping we will be able to ride Buddy this summer.
February 2009