Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot

Laminitis was the primary focus of the Second International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot, held Nov. 10-11 in West Palm Beach, Fla. This conference is held every other year and sponsored in large part by John K. and Marianne Castle, whose Appaloosa Spot had chronic laminitis secondary to Cushing's disease and died from colic years ago. There are several other private and corporate sponsors.

Course director James A. Orsini, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, associate professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, said teamwork among veterinarians, farriers, researchers, and owners to solve the mysteries of laminitis is needed.

For example, he said, "The more researchers understand about the work of veterinarians and farriers, the more researchers can develop research that these professionals can use."

He also discussed the importance of proper supportive care, noting, "As much as we advance in science and technology, we can never afford to ignore the value of compassionate care to maximize the horse's quality of life. When we work with our hearts along with our expanded knowledge, we provide better care.

"We need a long-term, systematic approach to solve the problem of laminitis. We must go at it from several different directions," he concluded.

Following his opening remarks, Orsini presented a "Top Ten List" of the most significant topics (selected via attendee feedback) from the first conference, held in 2001.

Top Ten Things We've Learned About Laminitis

  • Once laminitis has occurred, later episodes of laminitis can be caused by relatively minor stresses.
  • Mechanical forces on the hoof can lead to structural collapse of the hoof wall.
  • Not all cases of chronic laminitis are catastrophic or life-threatening.
  • "Obesity and laminitis syndrome" causes many cases of laminitis previously blamed on equine Cushing's disease or hypothyroidism.
  • Maintaining submural (under/below the hoof wall) blood supply during the
    developmental phase of laminitis with calcium channel blockers and/or rheologic agents (drugs that deform matter such as red blood cells and thus improve blood flow) may reduce laminitis severity.
  • Duration of laminitis is a risk factor for development of laminitis in the opposite limb.
  • The severity of laminar damage in the acutely laminitic horse equals the severity of clinical signs and prognosis.
  • Due to the compromised laminar interface, the horse with acute laminitis should not be walked or trailered.
  • Proper sole support and stall rest are two of the most important factors in successfully treating laminitis.
  • Appropriate treatment in the acute phase can make the difference between soundness and lameness, and life and death.

For more information on this presentation, see article #4776 online.

About the Author

Christy M. West

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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