2012 Equine Endocrinology Summit: Laminitis Q & A

The Animal Health Foundation's (AHF) Don Walsh, DVM, has answered some questions about The 2012 Equine Endocrinology Summit and how the information presented relates to laminitis research. Some of the speakers at the Summit, held Sept. 7-8 in Boston, Mass., included AHF-funded researchers Melody de Laat, BVSc, PhD, a research associate at Oklahoma State University; Nicholas Frank, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, a professor of large animal internal medicine and chair of the department of clinical sciences at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University; and Philip J. Johnson, BVSc (Hons), MS, Dipl. ACVIM, Dipl. ECEIM, MRCVS, a professor of equine medicine and surgery at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine.

The first equine endocrinology summit was held in 2011 in Charleston, S.C., where attendees discussed equine pituitary pars intermedia disorder (PPID, or equine Cushing's disease).

What is The Equine Endocrinology Summit?

Walsh: Leading scientific researchers in the field of equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) gathered in Boston under the direction of Dr. Nicholas Frank. I had the privilege of attending this meeting, which was sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica's Equine Division.

Why, with all the other conferences, would this meeting be needed?

Walsh: We met to discuss the latest research findings and to shape opinion regarding the future research most needed to prevent horses from developing this type of ... laminitis. These gatherings allow for researchers who may have only known someone as a name on a manuscript to meet and interact with each other on a very informal basis. Ideas are exchanged, questions asked, friendships made, and collaborations often occur.

Did you talk only about metabolic problems? What about laminitis?

Walsh: Although EMS was the main subject, some time was delegated to hearing the latest information regarding pituitary pars intermedia disorder (PPID, or Cushing's disease). Both conditions are extremely relevant to laminitis since so many affected horses develop laminitis. To understand this type of laminitis, research is exploring endocrine (hormonal) processes that could initiate laminitis.

What does this group hope to achieve?

Walsh: The general direction and driving goal of the group is to find ways to diagnose both EMS and PPID earlier, before horses develop the crippling disease laminitis.

What was this meeting's most important new development relevant to the Animal Health Foundation's interest in laminitis research?

Walsh: One of the most widely agreed upon ideas, regarding a diagnosis of EMS, was the use of a test to reveal an abnormally large insulin and/or glucose response seen in the blood measured 75 minutes after an oral dose of sugar is given. Those horses and ponies that test positive are at high risk of developing laminitis and will require special husbandry practices and, in some cases, drugs to maintain normal levels of insulin and normal feet. AHF is integrally involved in this research project with Dr. Frank.

How does that relate to laminitis?

Walsh: We know that both EMS and PPID can result in laminitis. The changes start to occur when insulin levels are elevated for a prolonged time, causing alterations in the growth pattern of the foot. This results in abnormal rings on the external hoof capsule and a separation in the hoof wall at the toe, when seen from the bottom of the foot. Early recognition and correction of the insulin level is essential to prevent laminitis.

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