First Equine Endocrinology Summit Held

Equine endocrine disorders--namely pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID, or equine Cushing's disease) and equine metabolic syndrome-- represent an area of horse health that researchers are still working to fully understand. The collective understanding of these conditions was aided recently by the first-ever Equine Endocrinology Summit, held March 4-5 in Charleston, S.C.

Nicholas Frank, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, associate professor of large animal internal medicine at the University of Tennessee, organized the summit, which was sponsored by pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, after the idea was presented in 2010.

"We discussed the need for clinicians, universities, and practitioners that are dealing with endocrine problems in horses to get together in discussions that would improve the science involved in the research that we're doing in this area," he said.

Frank explained that the focus of the inaugural summit was on PPID, and the veterinarians in attendance audited two keynote lectures on the topic: Pathophysiology of PPID in 2011, presented by Dianne McFarlane, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, from Oklahoma State University's Center for Veterinary Health Sciences; and Diagnosis of PPID in 2011, presented by Jill Beech, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, of the University of Pennsylvania. Following each lecture was a series of round-table discussions on related topics.

"We used this format so the lectures could get us up to speed on new research and developments," Frank explained. "Then, in the round-table discussions we were able to determine what we know a lot about and what we know very little about. A lot of the round-table discussions were identifying areas where we need further research."

Additionally, the summit featured short presentations by attendees of abstracts related to equine endocrine disorders.

Frank said that he was pleased with the outcome of the first summit and that he thought there was a lot of "excellent discussion" among attendees about the present and future states of equine endocrine disorders.

"I would absolutely consider this first summit a success," he added.

Frank explained the three main outcomes of the summit:

  • A group of researchers is planning to meet again soon to continue to work on diagnostic testing recommendations;
  • Another group of researchers is beginning a project this summer that will evaluate the different stages of PPID in older horses; and
  • The possible development of a tissue bank to allow samples collected by one researcher to be available to others ("To be able to have a situation where one person can benefit from the samples collected in another person's study will exponentially increase the amount of information we can get from the research studies that are being performed," Frank explained).

Finally, Frank believes that horse owners will benefit from this endocrinology summit along with future meetings: "It's a reflection of the veterinary and scientific communities recognizing the importance of equine endocrine diseases. I think that's something that the horse owner will recognize as we're on the job, we're working on it now, we're really actively engaged in research to try to help the horse owner out as they're trying to manage their older horse with Cushing's or a horse that's developing laminitis as a result of equine endocrine disorders."

Frank noted the 2012 Equine Endocrinology Summit is already being planned and next year's meeting will focus on equine metabolic syndrome.

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More