Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Australian University Researchers Launch International Study of Horseswith Laminitis; Veterinarians and Horse Owners Invited to Submit Cases


Laminitis researcher Melody de Laat, PhD, BVSc, is the principal investigator and study coordinator of a new laminitis research project that will compare data from horses with the disease from Australia, New Zealand, North America and Europe. De Laat's past research with the Australian Equine Laminitis Research Unit has been supported by the Animal Health Foundation. Dr. Chris Pollitt holds a pony in the background of this photo. (QUT photo)
In a bid to counter the deadly effects of equine laminitis, Queensland University of Technology Science and Engineering Faculty is launching a worldwide study to understand what predisposes horses to repeatedly fall prey to this chronic disease. Cases from beyond Australia and New Zealand will be welcomed as of March 1, 2014. 

QUT researchers have asked the Animal Health Foundation to reach out to veterinarians and horse owners who could help by enrolling animals affected by laminitis in the study. 

The QUT Laminitis Study is trying to find out how frequently different forms of laminitis reoccur; once a horse develops the disease it is at greater risk of recurrence, according to Melody de Laat, PhD, BVSc, principal investigator and study coordinator of the research project. 

"It is the second most common cause of death in domestic horses, due to euthanasia, and one of the most common reasons horse owners seek veterinary advice." De Laat stated that the most widespread form of laminitis was linked to metabolic disease commonly associated with overweight ponies grazing on lush pastures. But she said all horses were at risk and the condition had affected many champion performance horses at the peaks of their careers. 

"We are looking for detailed information on cases so that we can try to determine what causes laminitis," she said. "We will then follow the horse for two years to see if the disease re-occurs. "While we now know what causes laminitis, there are differing theories on how the damage occurs, which makes effective treatment difficult.

Melody's research project, "Investigation of the regulation of glucose transport and insulin signaling pathways in the insulin-induction model of laminitis" in 2012 was funded by the Animal Health Foundation.
"Due to improvements in pasture quality and modern husbandry practices, overfeeding has become common and equine obesity is reaching record levels," she said. "If we can better understand the risk factors associated with laminitis, we can look at developing new prevention and treatment strategies. 

"Our ultimate aim is to make laminitis a manageable disease and improve horse welfare." 

De Laat said QUT researchers were seeking veterinarians and horse owners who could help by enrolling animals affected by laminitis in the study. The input of both the diagnosing veterinarian and the horse or pony owner will be essential in maximizing study outcomes. 

QUT passed along a special message for owners, farriers and other horse professionals: If you are aware of cases of laminitis, you are encouraged to promote the study to your animal’s veterinarian. All patients recruited to the study must have been diagnosed with laminitis by a veterinarian. 

The dates for case recruitment are: 
Australia and New Zealand: 1 January 2014 - 31 December 2014 
Europe, North America, United Kingdom: 1 March 2014 - 1 November 2014. 

Cases seen by a registered veterinarian during region-specific case recruitment periods are eligible for the study. The laminitis can be of any duration, severity and cause. A previous history of laminitis does not prevent an animal from being included in the study.

Once a potential case study is identified, the veterinarian will need the owner's consent to enroll the animal in the study. Information on sample collection, body condition, and radiographic assessment are explained on the QUT web page for the survey. 

Following enrollment in the study, each patient will be monitored for a minimum of 18 months for laminitis recurrence. If the animal enrolled in the study experiences any subsequent laminitis, the veterinarian will need to submit the case follow-up questionnaire. Each time the horse or pony gets laminitis within the follow-up period, the owner will need to complete the laminitis history questionnaire. 

To take part in the survey or learn more about the requirements, click here

Research Team 
Principal investigator and study coordinator Dr Melody de Laat is a veterinarian who specializes in the study of endocrine disorders and laminitis in horses.  Co-investigator Professor Martin Sillence has been dedicated to understanding how insulin causes damage to horses’ feet for the past ten years.  Dr James McGree will analyze the results of the surveys, and identify the best ways we can manage recurrent cases of laminitis. 

This study is made possible with the generous support of Boehringer Ingelheim.  The research team would like to thank the Australian Research Council, the Animal Health Foundation, and Waltham Pet Nutrition for research support. 

Note to AHF donors: Professor Sillence's research on incretins in insulin metabolism is currently funded by your support of AHF.

Click here for a full list of Melody de Laat's published laminitis research studies.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Equine Incretins in Laminitis Research: Animal Health Foundation Leads the Way in New Investigations into Equine Insulin Resistance



On September 24, the Animal Health Foundation Board of Directors announced a $70,000 grant to Professor Martin Sillence of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia to study a new phase of the insulin resistance process at the root of “metabolic” or endocrine-related laminitis in horses.

Remember this word: incretins. Pronounced “in-CREE-tinz”, this funny little word will be one that you will be hearing often in months to come. 

Professor Martin Sillence of
Queensland University of

Technology
Incretins are tiny peptides produced in the small intestine in response to eating sugar. They travel via the bloodstream to the pancreas to stimulate increased production of insulin. This is the basis for the Animal Health Foundation’s previous research to develop a simple “Oral Sugar Test”: horses that are prone to develop laminitis have a higher insulin response after a dose of oral sugar.

To understand this new direction in AHF research, Donald M. Walsh, DVM, president and founder of the organization, answered some questions about incretins and the possible benefits of funding research that does not, at first glance, seem to be about horses with laminitis.

1. AHF Question: What’s the overall direction for future laminitis research funding from the AHF?

Dr. Walsh: Endocrinopathic laminitis is responsible for the vast majority of laminitis in this country. As we follow the lead of human insulin research, AHF finds the field of incretin research very interesting and worth investment of research money. Very little is known about incretins in horses and what role they are playing in the control of insulin and in glucose metabolism.


When we hear “laminitis”, we think “feet”, but we have to consider how the damaging agents are reaching the feet, and what organs or body systems may be creating them.


2. AHF Question: Hang on a minute. What are incretins, again? 

Dr. Walsh: Incretins are small proteins that are produced by cells in the intestine in response to the consumption of carbohydrates (sugar). The incretins then travel by the blood to their target organ, the pancreas. At the pancreas, they enhance the production of insulin. Studying how this pathway controls insulin levels may lead to strategies that can prevent the common form of metabolic laminitis.


3. AHF Question: Laminitis research means researching the pancreas? That’s a long way from the hoof.

Dr. Walsh: We know that high levels of insulin can cause laminitis. The pancreas is the only location in the body that produces insulin. Insulin is a hormone, a substance produced by the body and excreted into the bloodstream to be delivered to its target tissue.

In the case of insulin, it affects the delivery of glucose into the cells; glucose, of course, provides the energy required to maintain normal health of the cell. In the horse, excess levels of insulin lead to damage to the lamina’s basement membrane, resulting in the loss of support of the coffin bone; this results in laminitis.




A model of human insulin shows six different colored proteins attached to a central zinc molecule via the amino acid histadine. Incretins have the power to charge the pancreas to create more of this insulin. Excess insulin increases the horse’s danger of developing laminitis as the outward symptom of its underlying metabolic disease. The Animal Health Foundation hopes to learn how the incretins work in a horse, and find a way to interrupt the pathway and thereby control an at-risk horse’s chances of developing laminitis. (image courtesy of Wellcome Images library)


4. AHF Question: Why not just study research on incretins in humans, that must have already been done?

Dr. Walsh: In human type 2 diabetes, the pancreas fails (finally) to produce insulin; this is not a problem for the horse. So in human medicine, they are developing drugs that act like incretins to cause the failing pancreas to produce more insulin. If incretins work the same way in the horse (something we don’t know presently), we will be trying to find ways to down-regulate incretin production to reduce insulin production by the pancreas, thereby lowering blood insulin levels and eliminating the negative effect of excess insulin on the laminae (laminitis)

Donald M. Walsh, DVM is
president and founder of the
Animal Health Foundation

So we do follow the lead of human research, but horses and people can be quite different. All mammals share some metabolic pathways but their regulation by hormones like incretins can be quite different and require species-specific research to understand their physiology.

A good example of this is the horse’s ability to continue to produce large amounts of insulin via the pancreas whereas the human pancreas becomes deficient and diabetes results, requiring insulin injections to maintain health.

5. Where is AHF’s equine incretin research going on? Who is/are the researcher(s)?


Dr. Walsh: AHF is funding some work presently being done by Dr. Nick Frank at Tufts University in Massachusetts, and also a larger study at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia. This is headed by Dr. Martin Sillence. Both of these men are accomplished laminitis researchers who have made significant contributions to our knowledge of laminitis.

6. What would be the ideal outcome of the AHF equine incretin research?
 

Dr. Walsh: After we understand how incretins are working in the horse, the ideal outcome would be to develop laminitis prevention strategies based on controlling the production of insulin by regulating the incretin response to eating carbohydrates. If we can control insulin levels in the horse, we can prevent this common form of laminitis.

-------------


About AHF: The Animal Health Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) all-volunteer non-profit organization dedicated solely to identifying and funding critical research into the disease of laminitis in horses. 


Until recent years, excess insulin was not considered a health problem in horses, and it has only been recently that insulin was found to play the key role in the common low-grade "metabolic" form of laminitis. The Animal Health Foundation has taken a leadership role in funding research on this form of laminitis, primarily at the Australian Equine Laminitis Research Unit at the University of Queensland.

AHF can only continue to function as the leader in laminitis research funding with your help. AHF puts together donations large and small from horse owners, veterinarians, farriers, and any individual who wants to make a difference in beating this terrible disease in horses.

Throughout this website, you will see sidebar “donation” buttons that will lead you to the AHF donor page where you can make a one-time or recurring pledge to be part of the AHF’s research efforts. The postal address is also given if you would prefer to send a check. 


Visit the “donate” page for full details or email info@ahf-laminitis.org for personal assistance with your donation.

Article, photos and website contents © Animal Health Foundation. All rights reserved. No reproduction in any form without permission.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Halloween Fundraiser and Trivia Night in St. Louis October 26th for AHF Laminitis Research


Enjoy the lighter side of laminitis with a special fundraiser on October 26 at the AKC Museum of the Dog in St, Louis, Missouri. Hosted by the Homestead Veterinary Hospital, this fun event will have one of our famous trivia contests and a superb silent auction--so you can begin your holiday shopping!

It's all to benefit laminitis research.

Single ticket: $30
Table of eight $200

A snack bowl, Halloween candy, and water bottles will be provided, but to keep expenses to a minimum, feel free to bring other food and drinks for yourself and/or others. Ice and cups will be supplied.

Reservations must be made in advance with payment mailed in with a reservation name and if for a full table of eight or single/double, etc.

Questions and reservations: homesteadvet@gmail.com or call 636-451-4655 (Homestead Veterinary Hospital) during business hours.

Donations are needed for the silent auction, as well. All kinds of horse and non-horse items are welcome but in order to be accepted, the donor must fill out a form. Please call or email Dawn Elswick before shipping anything: 636-451-4655 or homesteadvet@gmail.com.

Donations to the Animal Health Foundation are tax-deductible, although your deduction may vary according to your state's tax code and your personal tax status. AHF is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Laminitis Research: Animal Health Foundation Studies, Scientists at Core of International Laminitis Conference

The following information is a press release from the Animal Health Foundation. Please feel free to share it on your website or Facebook page or in any other media you may think would be interested in news about laminitis research and education:

When the world’s leading laminitis researchers, scholars, clinicians, and farriers present their newest findings at the International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot in West Palm Beach, Florida in November, the work of the Animal Health Foundation (AHF) will take center stage.

Dr. Don Walsh
The announcement of the conference program and speaker list shows that critical laminitis research funded by the Animal Health Foundation will be shared at the conference by presenters from the Australian Equine Laminitis Research Unit (AELRU), Tufts University and Cornell University.

In addition, Donald Walsh DVM, president and founder of the Animal Health Foundation, will speak on his personal research into the history of relationships between obesity, grass founder and chronic laminitis. He’ll also moderate a panel with researcher Dr Nick Frank and change-agent farrier Gene Ovnicek, in which the clinical management of “real life” cases of metabolic laminitis will be analyzed.

Dr. Chris Pollitt
Chris Pollitt, BVSc, PhD, Director of the Australian Equine Laminitis Research Unit, will join Dr. Walsh on the faculty at the conference; his work has been supported by the Animal Health Foundation for many years. Dr. Pollitt will review the accomplishments of his team’s analysis of the function of the suspensory apparatus of the distal phalanx (coffin bone) and also reveal progress in early investigation of the lymphatic system in the equine foot.

In addition, Dr. Pollitt will present a stunning 3D process for creating digitally-enhanced equine anatomy models of hooves from CT scans, using a 3D printer. Dr. Pollitt has been a featured speaker at the six previous laminitis conferences.

Dr. Andrew van Eps
Traveling with Dr. Pollitt from Australia will be Andrew van Eps, BVSc, PhD, MACVSc, DACVIM, who received his PhD at the University of Queensland by researching laminitis with Dr. Pollitt at the AELRU; his previous contributions have included the first studies of the use of cryotherapy (ice therapy) to prevent laminitis. At West Palm Beach this year, he will lecture on cryotherapy, support-limb laminitis, and the use of pain medication for horses with laminitis.

Dr. Nicholas Frank
The newest face on the AHF roster of researchers will also be a key speaker at the conference. Nicholas Frank, DVM, PhD, DACVIM is a professor of Large Animal Internal Medicine at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine of Tufts University, where he researches the endocrinopathic form of laminitis. His recent research to verify a new test to identify horses with insulin resistance was funded by the Animal Health Foundation.

Cornell University’s Samantha Brooks, PhD conducts laminitis studies funded by the Animal Health Foundation and submitted research that was accepted, but she is unable to present her lecture on the genetic mapping of susceptibility to endocrinopathy and laminitis.

To Learn More: The Laminitis Conference will be held November 1-3 at the Marriott Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida and will feature 60 lecturers and abstract presenters from five continents, a variety of educational formats, poster sessions, a trade show and social events. Visit http://www.laminitisconference.com to learn more.

About the Animal Health Foundation: The Animal Health Foundation funds research and education projects related to laminitis in the horse. That is all it does.

The Animal Health Foundation is an all-volunteer organization with an all-funds-to-research approach to finding both the cause and a cure for laminitis. Since 1984, the AHF has funneled $1.75 million dollars—most of it received in small donations from horse owners—directly into laminitis research. The grassroots-style organization is now known around the world as the critical driving force that is making a real difference in freeing horses of this terrible disease.

Appropriately, most donations are still written from the checkbooks of individual horse owners who have experienced the disease first-hand with their horses, and want to make a difference.

Donations to the AHF go directly to laminitis research and are fully tax-deductible. To learn more about the Animal Health Foundation: Animal Health Foundation, 3615 Bassett Road, Pacific, MO 63069; http://www.ahf-laminitis.org; info@ahf-laminitis.org or “like” AHF at http://www.facebook.com/laminitisresearch.

Photos for this article were kindly provided by Julie Plaster and Richard Booth.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Jump for Joy: Joe Fargis Jumping Clinic Will Benefit Animal Health Foundation's Laminitis Research Effort

Announcement



The Animal Health Foundation Jumping Clinic 
with Olympic Gold Medalist Joe Fargis 
Presented by Animal Health Foundation and Great Griffin Farm 
October 5-6, 2013 
at Great Griffin Farm, 903 Schwede Road, Wentzville, MO 63385 

Joe Fargis has written champions like
Touch of Class and Mill Pearl.
Olympic Gold Medalist Joe Fargis is coming to Great Griffin Farm! Joe Fargis, winner of two gold medals and one silver medal, is coming to Great Griffin Farm October 5 – 6, 2013. This is an amazing opportunity to learn from one of the great riders in our sport!

Session space will be limited to eight riders per group, so please register promptly.

Overnight stabling will be available on a limited basis. Please contact Griffin Farm directly to reserve stabling. 

Please note: Riders must submit the registration form and fee to be considered registered for the clinic, and spaces will be filled in a “first come first served” order. When the registration form with fee is received, you will be sent an email confirming that your are registered.

We are very excited about the high interest in the clinic, and we appreciate everyone’s cooperation and understanding.

Go to clinic registration web page 

Sponsored by: Homestead Veterinary Hospital, Griffin Farm, Zoetis, and Purina

Photo of Joe Fargis via Julia Seltz/Seltz Equine Media on Flickr.com

Sunday, June 30, 2013

AHF Laminitis Q & A: Should a horse with laminitis be on a “senior” feed?


Reader Question: Should Equine Senior (a complete feed) be fed to a horse with laminitis?

AHF Answer: The answer to your question regarding “Equine Senior” (a complete feed manufactured by Purina Mills) would depend on the cause of the horse's laminitis.

If the laminitis is being caused by elevated insulin levels, such as Equine Metabolic Syndrome (“EMS”), or Cushing's disease, then the dietary levels of carbohydrates becomes an important issue to stop the laminitis. Eating carbohydrates elevates insulin, perpetuating the laminitis.

For horses with this common problem, diets that are designed to be lower in carbohydrates than a “Senior” diet would be preferable.

Purina has a low-starch (“L/S”) diet that has been designed to have a lower insulin response to the carbohydrates in the diet. A new test called the Oral Sugar Test can be performed on your horse to see what the animals response to eating sugar (carbohydrates) by measuring the insulin level after giving an oral dose of light Karo syrup.

Do you know the cause of your horse’s laminitis?


I suggest you watch the Animal Health Foundation’s laminitis video series (one video is embedded above in this article; it explains chronic laminitis). It will help you understand more about how insulin causes laminitis and how to manage the diet.
Dr. Don Walsh
I hope this is helpful to you and good luck with your horse in managing the disease.

Donald Walsh, DVM
Animal Health Foundation

Note: There are "senior" feeds made by several feed companies. While we have mentioned the familiar and original Purina senior product, the same advice would hold for not only senior feeds but any feed for a horse with laminitis: find out if your horse's laminitis is related to a metabolic condition that would suggest a low-starch feed might be a better choice.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Laminitis Soundbite: Why do veterinarians say there are two kinds of ponies?



The Animal Health Foundation has been working quietly but steadily for the past 30 years to fund research around the world that will put an end to laminitis.

Some of this research has required looking more closely at the way horses' feet function. Other projects looked at the roles of enzymes, gut flora, hormones and grass types. We've funded research into causes, treatments, pathways and prevention. Researchers in the United States, Australia and Europe have collaborated under the AHF banner.

In fact, laminitis research is all we fund.

When we're done--and not until then--there will be three types of ponies that veterinarians can include in their quips. The third type will be the one that never has had laminitis, and never will, because of the dedicated support of people like you--people who want to see an end to the suffering and pain of laminitis in horses.

If anyone tells you that laminitis is all figured out, that they have the answers, or that your horse isn't in danger, don't believe it. We are close to understanding the disease, which has many forms, but we are not there yet.

With your help, we might accomplish our goal, and your horse will be able to live its life without the fear of this disease. Until we have all the answers, no horse is truly safe.

Things might not be as grim as the old veterinarians' joke, but there is still much we don't know or understand.

Please support the work of the Animal Health Foundation. We donate 100 percent of donations directly to research. We want the same answers you do, for your horses and ours.

Click to access AHF's laminitis research donation page