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.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Australian University Researchers Launch International Study of Horses with 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.