Monday, October 5, 2015

Celebrate 30 Years of Laminitis Research and Education with the Animal Health Foundation on October 24

30th Anniversay Celebration of Animal Health Foundation
Saturday, October 24
5:30pm - 10pm
The Sheldon Concert Hall

Recognize the gallant efforts of this organization with a celebratory awards dinner, silent auction and enjoy excellent entertainment by internationally-recognized jazz singer, Denise Thimes! Sponsorships are available for individuals, as well as companies.

Sponsorships are available for individuals and companies. Tickets are available for individuals and couples.

Ladue News Article

What is Laminitis?

Laminitis is a painful, inflammatory condition affecting horses. The laminae begin to deteriotate and this results in the destruction of the normal blood supply, causing severe pain to the horse.
To compound this issue, a common result of laminitis, known as Founder, causes the coffin bone within the foot to "rotate" downward, putting pressure on the sole of the foot, sometimes even puncturing it.

Who is AHF?

AHF is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit organization, located in the St. Louis, MO area. Our primary goal is to find a way to prevent laminitis and founder complications in horses.
To that end, we donate funds to major researchers in the field of laminitis. Because the organization’s board of directors personally pays all administrative costs, all other donations received from the public go directly to fund work on laminitis.
The damage to their feet prevents them from running and moving in herds, grazing, fleeing from threats or competing. When horses lose their physical abilities, they also lose their spirits to live.
Laminitis doesn't discriminate. A top-level performance horse can be as easily affected as a beloved backyard pony. Laminitis is responsible for the premature loss of the legendary and seemingly invincible Secretariat.
To learn more about registration or sponsorship please contact Jane Unger @

Please use the "register" button in the website sidebar to go directly to the ticket purchase site or click the "party" tab in the top menu to read about entertainment, sponsorship, ticket prices, and many more details!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Can you tell which horse will get laminitis?

Maybe one of these horses will develop laminitis. Maybe all of them will. All horses are at risk for laminitis yet only a small percentage actually becomes lame from the disease.  (Aline Sagrebelny photo)

Can you tell which of the horses in the photo will get laminitis? You might think this is a trick question, and you’re right: it is. That’s because any of these horses might develop laminitis.

The point is: all horses are at risk for laminitis.

The Animal Health Foundation is 
interested in how the hormone insulin is
regulated and utlized in the horse.
We are funding extensive research
in Australia in this area and welcome
you to join us in supporting this
project. Your large and small donations
are welcome.
Here at Homestead Veterinary Hospital, where the Animal Health Foundation began, many horses have been nursed through laminitis. And when they arrived, there were very few similarities between them, other than they were all in severe pain. While it is true that horses who become lame with laminitis sometimes display physical signs of Equine Metabolic Syndrome (cresty neck, swollen sheath, irregular fat deposits) or Equine Cushing’s Disease (long, late-shedding hair coat, fat deposits over the eyes, muscle wasting), there are just as many horses that show no exaggerated outward signs. But these horses do tend to have elevated hormone levels.

Other horses develop laminitis after giving birth or undergoing colic surgery, eating too much grain, galloping on pavement, bearing weight unequally after an injury, or reacting badly to drugs or stress. So, no horse is ever 100 percent exempt from the risk of laminitis.

What can a horse owner do? Over the years, we have closely followed all the veterinary research related to laminitis prevention, and the Animal Health Foundation funded a fair share of it. Risk factors do exist, and some simple blood tests performed annually and evaluated by consistent laboratory standards will provide benchmarks to track changes in your horse's metabolism. This will help with the endocrine forms of laminitis, which are the most common types: Equine Metabolic Syndrome (insulin resistance) and PPID (Cushing's Disease) account for as many as 80 to 90 percent (1) of laminitis cases, depending on which studies you read.

The telltale signs of pre-existing laminitis, typically seen in horses with insulin resistance, can be seen in hoof tissue when it is trimmed. The white line is stretched and may be flecked with red, as seen quite vividly in the trimmings of this pony treated at the Homestead Veterinary Hospital. (Donald M. Walsh file photo)

With all types of laminitis, it is critical that horses be kept on a regular trimming or shoeing schedule with an informed farrier who knows the early warning signs of hoof problems and will keep you updated on any changes he or she sees in your horse's feet. This will give you a chance to get your vet involved sooner instead of later.

Your farrier should be watching for telltale signs of stretching in the white line or discoloration and bruising in the wall and sole and flecks of dried blood in the white line. Rings in the hoof wall are a common sign, but can be caused by other problems, as well.

Some early signs can be seen in how a horse handles turning, even in the barn aisle on the leadline. Watch for a horse that throws its head and uses its body to make the turn. Under saddle, a horse may suddenly resist lead changes, not want to canter at all, or throw its head and pins its ears when you come to the end of the long side of the ring. These behaviors may indicate many different types of lameness, but laminitis is certainly one to consider.

Notice how your horse stands, and watch for any changes of where he places his feet in relation to his body. You may see some changes as you are cleaning your horse's hooves. Pay attention when and if your horse starts to resist lifting one or more feet. Some horses with long pasterns will back their feet up under their front limbs so their pasterns look shorter and the knee wants to buckle forward; this is their way of relieving tension on the deep digital flexor tendon. These horses will lift one foot and then the other to relieve pain. They rock back and forth, but won't want you to pick up either one.

Dr. Walsh is the veterinarian
who started the Animal Health 
Other horses will stretch their pasterns so their weight is on their heels, and their feet will look like they are out in front of the leg. They look uncomfortable, as if they are nailed to the spot, and won't want to lift either foot.

With all of these signs, you may feel a strong pulse at the back of the pastern of one or both front feet and the hoof wall may feel warmer than normal. It won't hurt to soak your horse's feet in ice while you call your vet, describe the symptoms, make sure the person on the other end knows you are describing a possible emergency, and that you need immediate advice.

Laminitis can make us all feel challenged, but when we have the advantage of an early start and a good medical history, we have a much better chance of a successful outcome. You can help your horse avoid laminitis or catch it early if you know what to look for and what to do.

Thanks for supporting the Animal Health Foundation. Many of the little management tips we share with our clients and with audiences at lectures are the result of studies performed at Homestead Veterinary Hospital and by research funded by donors to the Animal Health Foundation. It all adds up to progress that will help your horses, and ours.

--Don Walsh, DVM
Animal Health Foundation


(1) Karikoski NP, Horn I, McGowan TW, McGowan CM. The prevalence of endocrinopathic laminitis among horses presented for laminitis at a first-opinion/referral equine hospital. Domest Anim Endocrinol. 2011;41(3):111-117.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Animal Health Foundation's Laminitis Research Grant Anchors Australian Project Expansion

Australian laminitis research grant via Animal Health Foundation

Summary: The Animal Health Foundation, a leading non-profit organization in the United States dedicated solely to laminitis research, has partnered with private and government research organizations in Australia to mastermind a collaborative laminitis research grant through the Australian Research Council (ARC). The grant, begun with three years of funding pledged by AHF, will investigate a new treatment for acute laminitis.

Last week the Australian Research Council (ARC) officially announced the award of a major research grant to investigate a new treatment of equine laminitis. By partnering with Queensland University of Technology (QUT), The University of Melbourne, The University of Queensland and Nexvet Biopharma Pty Ltd, the Animal Health Foundation has turned a pledge of $36,000US over three years into a project with a total cash value of $479,500AUD and a total cash and in-kind value of $1,015,000AUD through a special ARC program.

Professor Sillence
ARC’s Industry Linkage Scheme supports research partnerships between Australian universities and industry partners worldwide. The scheme plan is highly competitive and the laminitis grant represents one of only a handful awarded for equine research over the past 10 years.

Professor Martin Sillence, PhD at QUT will lead the project, which will commence in the fall of 2016.


Eight years ago, when Sillence and his team were investigating pasture-induced laminitis, they discovered that the disease can be triggered by excessively high insulin levels. Since then, the team has been able to accurately identify ponies at risk and advance understanding of the cause of equine hyperinsulinaemia.

Sillence and his team are even on the verge of developing a preventative treatment. However, once the insulin levels pass a certain threshold value and laminitis sets in, there is little that can be done to arrest the condition.

New research and treatment

The ARC grant will explore a new treatment for acute laminitis that will utilize antibodies to block the receptors that are over-stimulated by insulin. The key to success will be to make the antibodies specific for the correct target receptors, and to make them 'friendly' to the horse's immune system so that these large proteins are not recognized as foreign, triggering adverse reactions or a counter-immune response.

This is where Nexvet Biopharma will lend expertise. Nexvet Biopharma is an Australian-based global company dedicated to the development of species-specific therapeutic proteins for animals. Through its patented PETization™ process, Nexvet transforms human therapeutic proteins into veterinary medications that can be administered safely to a target animal, such as the horse. Nexvet Biopharma is the only stand-alone veterinary company in the world dedicated to this approach.

The research project will run for three years and will involve active participation by the Animal Health Foundation.

About the Animal Health Foundation: AHF is an all-volunteer US charity begun by Missouri veterinarian Donald M. Walsh 30 years ago for his clients who lost horses to laminitis. Since then, it has grown to fund laminitis education and research projects worldwide. Many advances in laminitis prevention, diagnosis and treatment are linked to AHF grant assistance, which is now approaching a total of $2 million. AHF receives most of its donations from horse owners or from veterinarians and farriers in memory of horses with laminitis they've tried to help; AHF funnels 100% of all donations directly to research. In 2014, AHF launched a Laminitis Memorial Wall on the Foundation's website; it is slated for permanent development as a remembrance site for horses who fought the disease. Large and small donations to AHF are fully tax deductible, and always welcome.

Click here to donate.
Click here to contact AHF.
Visit AHF on Facebook.
Follow AHF on Twitter.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Animal Health Foundation's 30th Year Anniversary Celebration to Benefit Laminitis Research

Planning is underway for the Animal Health Foundation's 30th Anniversary Celebration event on October 24, 2015 at the Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis, Missouri.  The event includes an award dinner and premier entertainment in an intimate setting. Funds raised by the event will directly support leading laminitis research; sponsorships are available for companies and individuals.  

Many people have generously contributed to the AHF mission in the past that has supported leading-edge research and discoveries. Continuing the 30-year legacy of the Animal Health Foundation's founder, Donald Walsh, DVM is critical.  Animal Health Foundation donors have traditionally been horse owners who have first-hand experience with the disease and want to make a difference by directly supporting cutting-edge research at leading universities. Many other donors are veterinarians, equine hospitals, equine product and pharmaceutical manufacturers, farriers and hoof trimmers.  Due to research findings, equine practitioners have successfully intervened more often to save horses' lives, yet they want research to advance so that more can be done to prevent and cure laminitis. In 2015, Animal Health Foundation funds are supporting pioneering research on the role of incretins in equine insulin production and regulation at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia as well as ongoing research projects in the United States. 

For more information about sponsorships or early event registration, please contact Jane Unger at 314-367-8118 or

Friday, January 2, 2015

Remember horses who fought laminitis: AHF's Memorial Wall rises to honor past pain with future research

©Sarah K. Andrew Secretariat's Grave Laminitis Memorial Wall
Laminitis is equally painful to every horse, whether a champion racehorse or a child's pony. The Memorial Wall will unite the names of horses from all time periods, and from all parts of the world who have suffered the pain of laminitis. With the help of research and education, future horses may be spared the fear of laminitis and the knowledge of its pain.
Ponies like Flash and Casey are right up there with Secretariat and Barbaro. Beloved trail and amateur show horses Little Dixie, Chief, and Midnight are not far behind.
The Animal Health Foundation (AHF), a US charity dedicated exclusively to funding laminitis research, has set a new goal: to make sure that no horse with laminitis is ever forgotten. Thanks to a new website page just for them, the most famous racehorse and the most unknown pony will share their own special place on the web and in search engine results, in memory of their struggle with the painful disease of laminitis.
A fledgling “memorial wall” list was launched at Christmas on the Animal Health Foundation (AHF) website ( Donors to the AHF in 2015 may personalize a monetary gift by attaching a horse’s name and a human’s name. The names will appear on the web page, alongside others from all over the world and beneath a stunning photograph by New Jersey racing photographer Sarah K. Andrew, showing red roses draped over Secretariat’s grave at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky.
Secretariat may be the most famous horse to have had laminitis; 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was instrumental in bringing the disease to more public attention. Laminitis was listed as the cause of euthanasia for both horses.
Among the successful horses reported to have died from complications of laminitis in 2014 were Kentucky Thoroughbred sire Noble Causeway in May, 2014 Kentucky Derby starter Intense Holiday in June, California Thoroughbred stallion Thorn Song in August, Saudi show jumping stallion Presley Boy, Australian champion Standardbred filly Mindarie Priddy and Australian Thoroughbred sire Sequalo in September, and New York Thoroughbred sire Disco Rico in December.
While famous horses will be welcome on the "wall", all names are listed in the same size type, and by the order in which their donations were received. Beloved children’s ponies will mix in with champion racehorses; retired roping horses will mingle with pedigreed warmbloods.
Laminitis Memorial Wall invitation Animal Health Foundation
Every donation to the Animal Health Foundation qualifies one horse to be added to the wall.
Many donors to the Animal Health Foundation have traditionally been horse owners who have first-hand experience with the disease and want to make a difference by directly supporting cutting-edge research at leading universities. Many have made donations in the memory of special horses in the past but no ongoing list was compiled. Now the list will be maintained and amended with the names of more horses and donors as they are received.
Many other donors are veterinarians, equine hospitals, farriers and hoof trimmers who struggle with the disease and want to see research advance. They may now make a donation in the memory of a horse they worked on, and the bereaved owners who hired them.
In 2014, the Animal Health Foundation celebrated ongoing research on the role of insulin in the metabolic form of the disease from the Australian Equine Laminitis Research Unit at the University of Queensland, as well as results of an AHF-funded study at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine verifying a simple new “Oral Sugar Test”:  horses likely to develop the metabolic form of laminitis have a higher insulin response after a direct dose of oral sugar.
In 2015, AHF funds are supporting pioneering research on the role of incretins in equine insulin production and regulation at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, as well as ongoing research projects.
laminitis research and education Animal Health Foundation

The Animal Health Foundation continues to uphold its unbroken 30-year promise to donors: One hundred percent of all public donations to the organization are used only for funding laminitis research.
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. Donations are fully tax-deductible.
Since 1985, AHF has made certain that any individual who wants to make a difference in beating this terrible disease can see his or her money put directly to work to benefit all horses.
To add your support to AHF efforts, visit the AHF donation website page:
To add a horse and owner/sponsor name to the new memorial page, send an email after submitting your online donation or enclose a note with your check.

Thank you for helping the Animal Health Foundation free the horse of this terrible disease.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Laminitis: What Horse Introduced You to the Disease? Meet Dr. Walsh's "Sugar Bear"

Homestead Animal Hospital Walsh family Christmas card
Do you remember the first horse you knew with laminitis?  Dr. Don Walsh, founder of the Animal Health Foundation, remembers his. Will you support the Foundation's laminitis research this holiday season? Send a horse or pony's name with your PayPal online or check by mail donation and we'll add it to our memorial list on the AHF website.
Isn't it funny how an old Christmas card brings back memories? This is my family's holiday photo back in my early vet days. It reminded me how one pony got this whole laminitis research foundation started.
I bet you have a story to tell, too. It seems we all do.
Donald M Walsh DVM Animal Health Foundation
Donald M. Walsh, DVM,
Founder of the Animal
Health Foundation

Here's mine: Forty-five years ago, when I was a third-year vet student, I was assigned my first case of equine laminitis. Things were different then.

This pony, named Sugar Bear, happened to belong to a good friend who had helped me write an essay four years earlier on "Why I Want to be a Veterinarian" for my vet school application.

After the examination and x-rays of the feet were studied, the vet school clinician in charge told us there was simply no hope of recovery and that the pony should be euthanized.

You can imagine how sad I felt for my friend and her six-year old daughter about losing their pony, and how frustrated I was that we were unable to do anything in this case.

Eventually, frustration like this over laminitis cases led to the establishment of the Animal Health Foundation (AHF). AHF has now funded equine laminitis research for 30 years.

As a result of AHF-driven initiatives, it is unlikely that a case like Sugar Bear would be put down today. Today, we understand that there are three different pathways that lead to laminitis, and we have management tools that can control and prevent some forms of this crippling disease.

Of course, we now know Sugar Bear's laminitis was probably caused by high levels of insulin. But we didn't know that 45 years ago. This "endocrine pathway" form of the disease was only recently discovered, partly through AHF research. There is also the inflammatory pathway and the supportive limb pathway.

New methods to treat and control the disease are being developed through our research. The Animal Health Foundation's great track record of funding excellent research and making discoveries is not finished yet--there is still elusive information needed to finally be able to reliably prevent equine laminitis.

With AHF past successes in mind, please consider a donation, whether large or small. As you know, our research depends on the support of people who know the pain that this disease brings to horses (and people).

Do you remember an unfortunate pony like Sugar Bear or is there another equine friend you know now or knew in the past? I am asking you to consider making a donation and be part of a concerted effort to free the horse of this disease.  

One hundred percent of all public donations to the Animal Health Foundation are used only for funding laminitis research.

I would also like to thank you for your past support and wish you all the best this holiday season.

Thank you for all you do to help fight laminitis,

Donald M. Walsh, DVM

Animal Health Foundation Laminitis Research fundraiser

1. Online: use the "donate" button in the sidebar to the right or on the AHF website donation page for direct and instant transfers with major credit cards or a PayPal account. If you'd like to add a horse to the laminitis memorial list on the AHF website, send an email with the horse's and your name to after completing the PayPal transaction. 

2. By mail: Send checks payable in US dollars drawn on US banks to Animal Health Foundation, 3615 Bassett Road, Pacific, MO 63069.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Laminitis Research: Your horse can help make laminitis history!

Please assist laminitis research by documenting cases in your care this year...whether you are a veterinarian, farrier, horseowner, or student, you can get involved in research and help put an end to laminitis. Read on to find out how!

You (and your laminitis cases) are invited to be part of the 


What is it? 
worldwide survey of laminitis cases and recurrence 

How does it work? 
It's easy!
Veterinarians: Follow the simple directions below.
 Horseowners: Urge veterinarians to enroll horses with laminitis.

Steps for veterinarians:
1. Identify a case of laminitis, with any cause.
2. Gain the owner's consent to enter the horse in the study.
3. Complete a short online survey.
4. Take blood samples and submit for FREE insulin 
and ACTH analysis at US lab.
5. Encourage the owner to complete his/her own online survey.


For more information, contact Dr. Melody de Laat directly: 

Thank you for being part of this important effort to understand recurrent laminitis.