Conference For Laminitis Research

Treating laminitis is a frustrating assignment for a veterinarian, who must juggle the welfare of the horse, the emotions of the owner, and the skills of collaborating farriers and therapists, and keep up with the latest information on drug therapy and research. In December 2000, the Rochester Equine Clinic (REC) in Rochester, N.H., hosted New England's first conference on laminitis. Rochester Equine invited some of the top practitioners in the country to speak, then asked them to donate their speakers' fees to help the research of Chris Pollitt, BVSc, PhD, of the University of Queensland in Australia. All of the speakers agreed. The clinic then canvassed owners of laminitis cases treated at the clinic, and launched a fundraising appeal.

The conference opened on Dec. 7 to a sellout crowd. The Univer-sity of New Hampshire's New England Center conference complex bustled from a trade show, lectures, panel discussions, a silent auction, and a gala cocktail party. By midnight, more than $10,000 had been raised for the U.S.-based Animal Health Foundation's fund for the Australian Laminitis Research Unit.

On Dec. 8, the educational opportunities moved to the nearby Rochester Equine Clinic, and lectures were open only to practicing veterinarians and farriers. Rotating "wet labs" covered radiographic innovations with REC principle Grant Myrhe, DVM, shoeing of chronic cases by leading farriers Gene Ovnicek and David Ferguson, therapeutic options for laminitis rehabilitation with REC therapist Patricia Quirion, and dissection and anatomy of acute and chronic hooves with Pollitt and REC surgeon Michael Davis, DVM.

Conference topics centered on practical aspects of prevention and treatment of laminitis. Innovative ideas on ice therapy for acute laminitis were presented by Pollitt, along with new research on the role of pasture management and, in particular, fructan fluctuation in grass-related laminitis and founder.

A panel discussion on an increasingly common type of laminitis, called by some "Pre-Cushing's" or "Easy Keeper Chronic Founder," was the highlight of the conference. Pollitt described his recent research on glucose-induced laminitis and corroborated the clinical findings of many veterinarians and farriers present who are working with obese horses and experimenting with medications, nutrition, and management to control low-grade, recurrent laminitis. Pros and cons of drug therapy and the role of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and so-called "leaky gut syndrome" in laminitis also were covered.

About the Author

Fran Jurga

Fran Jurga is the publisher of Hoofcare & Lameness, The Journal of Equine Foot Science, based in Gloucester, Mass., and Hoofcare Online, an electronic newsletter accessible at Her work also includes promoting lameness-related research and information for practical use by farriers, veterinarians, and horse owners. Jurga authored Understanding The Equine Foot, published by Eclipse Press and available at or by calling 800/582-5604.

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