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.